Ultimate Breastfeeding Guide | How To Breastfeed

mom holding baby breastfeeding by the ocean on a rock

No matter how much you read, nothing will completely prepare you to successfully breastfeed your baby. Every baby is different, and the best way to learn how to breastfeed is through experience. I share with you everything I’ve learned through research and practice in the past 18 months breastfeeding. I hope that this will be a valuable resource for new and experienced mothers.

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Exclusively Breastfeeding

According to the WHO, the best form of nutrition you can give your baby for the first six months is breastmilk. With a lot of determination, support, and hard work, I was able to do this. We waited to start solid foods until after my baby turned six months and met all the signs of readiness for baby led weaning. My toddler still loves his milk to this day.

Colostrum

The first thing you should know is that for the first few days after giving birth, your body produces an essential superfood specifically made for your newborn. Mama natural talks all about colostrum and its many benefits. When I first tried breastfeeding, I couldn’t see any of this when I tried hand expressing. I even ended up trying to pump and got nothing. Your baby will be a lot more efficient at expression than any other form.

Milk Production

mom smiling holding newborn baby

When my milk came in my boobs were so sore and full. It’s crazy how breastfeeding can drastically change the size of them. Once your milk regulates you probably won’t have as much soreness or leaking. I wouldn’t suggest expressing any more than what your baby needs if at all possible to allow your production to match your baby’s demands.

Resources

  • IBCLC- Find an international board certified lactation consultant. There was one available at the hospital, but unfortunately she missed something that was super crucial to our breastfeeding success. I even asked her if she thought my son had a lip/tongue tie that was causing latch issues. I will discuss my experience with this later along with another lactation consultant that was at our pediatrician’s office.
  • Facebook groups- My friend told me about the Milky Mamas group, and it was such a great resource as a new first time mom trying to learn to breastfeed. When my newborn was cluster feeding through the night I scrolled through and learned from others’ experiences in the group. I also was able to ask questions about concerns and issues I was having to get other breastfeeding mothers’ advice. A lot of times I could search a topic and find lots of valuable information and first hand experiences about what I was looking for.
  • Support groups- We lived an hour from the birthing center where I delivered my baby, but they had a group of moms whose babies were born around the same time as mine. This group met weekly where everyone could socialize. I think it would have been nice to have others to relate to that were going through similar experiences.
  • Classes- My hospital had a breastfeeding class that was super helpful. I was able to go less than 24 hours after my son was born. They talked all about what to expect with breastfeeding, gave us resources, and checked my latch.
  • Kelly mom- This is seriously the best website you will find. It shares research on everything breastfeeding related.
  • La Leche League– I love how this support group spreads breastfeeding education and awareness. They share lots of good information.

Books

Here is a great list of breastfeeding books. Bestfeeding was a very helpful book that I read. I feel like it prepared me really well for learning how to properly latch my baby. I love the illustrations that make it easy to see and understand how to position your baby.

Menstruation

Many women who nurse their babies do not have a period for the first six months until you introduce solid foods. Other women like myself do not get their cycle back during the duration of breastfeeding (so far at least). This can have everything to do with how your body reacts to the hormones being produced and how frequently your child nurses. Some women report that when their period returns they see a drop in their milk supply.

Scary Mommy shares everything to expect when your period returns during breastfeeding. You should know that you can still get pregnant even if you haven’t got your period back. Kelly Mom discusses how breastfeeding can be a natural form of birth control. I love how she always provides studies to back up the information she shares.

Exercise

mom wearing newborn baby by the lake

Getting exercise is beneficial in many ways. There have been no studies that have shown exercise to effect milk supply. I get a workout every day just from baby wearing and carrying or chasing after my toddler. There are baby and me classes that you can join or look up exercises you can do with your child online.

Tandem Nursing

La Leche League provides comprehensive information on all of the different things to expect when tandem nursing. Mama Natural shares the history and benefits of tandem nursing. She also discusses common concerns and solutions to those issues. Tandem nursing is natural and can be a great bonding experience for siblings.

Nursing While Pregnant

Kelly Mom has an entire list of resources available that pertain to this topic. There are multiple experts who endorse the safety of breastfeeding when pregnant. These experts ensure moms that your body will continue to be able to discern what is natural for you to do to provide for all of your children. Research shows that you and your children should be healthy should you choose to nurse while pregnant.

Re-Lactation

Sometimes for whatever reason you may have to stop breastfeeding for a time. Whether its for physical or mental health, you may wish to be able to breastfeed your baby again in the future. Some adoptive moms are even able to breastfeed. Here is everything you need to know about re-lactation.

Cluster Feeding

When I first started breastfeeding I had never heard of cluster feeding. I knew newborns nursed a lot, but I didn’t expect it to be nonstop. Babies love to nurse for multiple reasons including for comfort. My toddler still likes to use me as a paci when he’s teething or going through a leap.

Pumping

dad holding bottle of breastmilk feeding newborn

I never thought I would pump unless I wanted to build a milk stash when my baby was older if I ever needed to leave or wanted someone else to watch him for a while. I always heard that its best to avoid pumping in the newborn stage when your milk is regulating. Also, you hear a lot of people saying to nurse as often as possible so you and your newborn can get practice with latching.

Having your baby nurse is best, because your breast interacts with your babies saliva to provide the best nutrients that they need at the moment. So, even with all of our breastfeeding struggles, I still prioritized putting my baby to the boob so we could practice and my body would know what milk to produce to keep him healthy.

The first time I had to pump I used the hospital grade medela double electric pump that the hospital let me borrow. I tried hand expressing and nursing and didn’t seem to show any colostrum. Even when I pumped I didn’t see any. We checked and I was latching properly, but I suspected that my son may have a lip or tongue tie

After going home and nursing round the clock for a day or two, I still felt like my baby was hungry. We scheduled a pediatrician appointment with a lactation consultant who suggested that I pump and feed our son with a syringe. We did weighted nursing sessions where we would weigh my son, then nurse, and weigh again to see how many ounces he was getting.

After doing this for a week or so, and pumping every day I knew I was producing enough for my baby. I had other help me pace feed him with these bottles, along with nursing first. When we returned, the lactation consultant diagnosed him with a lip and tongue tie. She provided us with a referral to a children’s dental specialist to get them released so he could nurse effectively.

Pumping with a newborn that wants to be held all the time can be so hard. With the lip and tongue tie exercises, pumping, and nursing I would fall asleep pumping throughout the night. A bra like this came in handy, because it allowed me to use my hands to snack or do other things while pumping.

When you pump it is super important that you make sure you have the correct flange size. If you don’t have the settings just right on your pump it can also cause a lot of pain. That’s why I loved the spectra s2 double electric pump. It is hospital grade, and allows you to adjust the suction to mimic your babies natural feeding patterns. I also loved the night light function, so I could see to adjust the settings and pump at night. If you have health insurance your pump should be covered.

Here are some helpful tips for cleaning your pump and its parts. If you don’t want to have to clean them between each pump session, just rinse and store in the fridge. If you need a pump last minute, you can look into renting a pump. Another hand pump that people rave about is this haaka. There is even a cordless pump that you can put in your bra!

This hand pump came in handy when I needed to pump on the go. I felt so tied down to my pump with how long it would take to pump. We used this car charger to pump with my spectra. I could get the same number of ounces of milk with the hand pump as I would with the electric pump in less than half the time.

The amount of milk you pump is not directly correlated with how much milk you produce. Your baby is much more effective at expressing milk. Some women can’t even pump, but are successful at nursing. Also, keep in mind that one boob may produce more milk than another, and your milk may change colors based on diet and your babies needs. Kelly Mom shares what you can do if you aren’t pumping enough milk in this article. If you aren’t able to pump with your baby around, many moms find it helpful to pump while looking at a picture of their baby.

Milk Storage

Since I was having to pump so much, I got these bags to store milk in the freezer. Here is a helpful article that tells you everything you need to know about safe milk storage. When we had to bring a bottle to feed him on the go I loved this bag. For middle of the night feedings when we wanted to use milk I had already pumped, we loved this bottle warmer.

Make sure you write the number of ounces you pumped on the bag along with the date and time you pumped. A lot of times when the milk freezes the number of ounces shown on the bag isn’t accurate. You want to make sure you know when the milk was pumped so you don’t give your baby spoiled milk. Here are some helpful tips for milk storage.

Bottle Feeding

Some breastfed babies will refuse all bottles. I was sad that I had to introduce a bottle so early. I hadn’t planned to introduce the bottle until we had a strong breastfeeding relationship, because I worried that with the ease of the bottle flow my baby wouldn’t want to nurse. Here are some tips for offering a bottle to a breastfed baby. Here is a list of the best bottles for breastfed babies.

Lip/Tongue Ties

When we went to the specialist they said he had the worst tongue tie possible and a mild lip tie. We got them corrected with a laser and had to do exercises for a few months after to make sure they healed properly. Before this procedure my baby couldn’t even move his tongue, so it was preventing him from being able to latch properly to get the milk he needed. Lip and tongue ties can also cause a lot of problems with speech and dental health in the future.

Benefits

newborn baby holding dads finger

I couldn’t create an ultimate guide to breastfeeding without mentioning the many health benefits for both mom and baby. It’s the natural way to feed your child. If you have trouble with breastfeeding there are groups like human milk for human babies that will provide donated breastmilk to you. Here are just a few of the benefits of breastfeeding.

Nursing Gear

Nursing tanks are so comfortable and convenient. I have yet to find a bra that I love, and your preference may change as your nursing journey grows. Lately, I prefer to wear sleep bras. In the beginning, I wanted to wear nursing tops to make it more accessible with breastfeeding so frequently. But, now I just wear my regular shirts and pull it up when my toddler wants milk.

My Breastfeeding Essentials

  • A nursing pillow was a must have for us! My husband used it when he was holding our baby. I used it along with other pillows, because holding a newborn round the clock can tire your arms out. We continued to use the pillow for tummy time and to give our baby practice sitting as he got older.
  • Water– It’s so important to make sure you’re staying hydrated. Make sure you drink lots of water to stay healthy and keep your milk production up. Keep a water bottle nearby filled up at all times.
  • Snacks– Have quick, easy to eat snacks readily accessible so when you nurse you can eat as well. For middle of the night nursing sessions if you feel hungry you don’t want to have to go to the kitchen and try to whip something up. Here are some great meal ideas from a mom I love, The Friendly Fig. Don’t forget to brush your teeth after eating to keep your teeth healthy, too!
  • Personally, I didn’t really leak much or need nursing pads. But, I know they come in handy for a lot of moms.
  • I never used a nursing cover either. But, some women feel more comfortable covering up when nursing in public. I love Belle and Baby, because they provide you with a cover that is multi-use. You can use it as a high chair or shopping cart cover even if you don’t use it to cover up while breastfeeding.
  • My baby didn’t spit up much, but he tended to spill a lot of milk because of how quick my let down was. This can be a common issue with newborns as they are still learning how to nurse and adjust to your milk flow. A great thing to have on hand to help with this is burp cloths. These were my favorite, because they were thick and long to absorb all of the milk.
  • When I was still pumping for the first month, we always liked to keep a bottle of breastmilk handy in case our baby got hungry. This bag was great for keeping the milk cool with an ice pack. It is also nice to have one if you’re pumping on the go and don’t want the milk to go bad.

Breastfeeding in Public

Woman sitting in beach chair breastfeeding baby
  • Sometimes it can be hard to find nursing rooms. I’m all for nursing wherever and whenever your baby is hungry. But, I also know that some babies like mine won’t nurse with distractions around as they get older. This is why I usually nurse in the car or somewhere private so my toddler can focus and get his milk. I have used nursing pods and rooms at different airports. These are nice, because they usually have seating and outlets for if you need to pump. Also, they typically have a changing table for diaper changes.
  • Another convenient way to nurse in public is babywearing. I shared my favorite baby carrier with you in my amazon favorites post under the baby heading. Most of the time if you nurse when babywearing no one even knows. This is nice, because you can continue shopping or doing whatever you’re doing while your baby nurses.
seat and table inside airport nursing pod

Issues

  • Clogged ducts: I’ve had this happen a couple times, and it can be pretty painful. It feels like a tight knot in your boob. A few things that helped me are dangle nursing and taking a warm shower while massaging the clogged duct. Dangle nursing is when you hang your boob above your baby to try and get the milk to flow out of the clogged duct. Kelly Mom shares some important information about clogged ducts and mastitis.
  • Cracked and Bleeding Nipples: This balm is great for sore nipples. These were also a life saver when I was bleeding. The best thing that helped my nipples heal the most once my babies’ lip and tongue ties were corrected and he could latch properly was actually having my baby nurse. I heard that you shouldn’t use a pacifier or a nipple shield, because it can cause nipple confusion. But, as a last resort when i was in too much pain and wanted to continue nursing the nipple shield was a life saver. It was a hassle to have to use though, so I stopped using it as soon as I could. I didn’t want my baby to become reliant on it.
  • Oversupply: I don’t consider myself to have struggled with either of these. I did however have a forceful letdown that would cause my baby to become frustrated and choke sometimes before he got used to it. Now he loves to chug his milk. Kelly Mom shares some ways you can cope with forceful letdown and oversupply.
  • Reflux: Once again, Kelly Mom seriously has the best advice on how to deal with reflux and spitting up in breastfed babies. Of course always consult your doctor, because you can share your individualized concerns with them.

Keepsakes

  • Made with love keepsakes has the most beautiful, special options for you to commemorate your nursing experience and relationship. I’ve been wanting a milk ring for so long! They also have awesome ornaments, necklaces, and more. This would make the perfect gift for a nursing mom in your life.
  • I’ve seen moms get professional nursing photos taken to remember the special bond they have built with their baby. Breastfeeding moms should be proud of the accomplishment. For many it does not come without hard work and struggles.
  • You can create a tree of life image of your baby breastfeeding.

Breastmilk Uses

breastmilk soaps in glass container
  • Whenever milk from our stash was left out or expired we loved to use it for milk baths. Breastmilk is so beneficial for your baby and can heal them in many ways.
  • My baby had eczema that was flared up all the time, and his skin is so sensitive that even many natural products we tried on him irritated his skin. I decided to create these DIY breastmilk soap bars and lotion to use during bath time. It was such a fun process, and great that I could add oils, oats, and customize the soap to cater to his needs. If you enjoy DIYs make sure you check out Kaylee’s guest post on how to make soap.

Boost Milk Supply

  • My mom made me delicious lactation cookies with oats and chocolate chips. I ate half the box when she brought them. I didn’t do much to boost my milk supply, since luckily I didn’t seem to have any issues with milk production.
  • Multiple people in my breastfeeding group on Facebook talked about how the pink drink helps boost milk supply. It is a drink on the secret menu at starbucks that is basically the strawberry acai refresher with coconut milk. I’m not sure how much it actually boosts milk supply, but it tastes delicious!
  • Kelly Mom shares her best tips for increasing low milk supply that you may want to look into if you’re struggling.

Breastfeeding Rights

You are legally allowed to breastfeed wherever you need to. Also, if you’re a working mom you have legal rights to time to pump when you need to in a private place. You do not have to cover up when you’re in public. If you choose to cover up for your own comfort and privacy you can.

Teething

woman laying down breastfeeding baby

When my son started teething, I was worried that he was going to bite me. He has bit a few times, but that just tells me that he’s not nursing. If your baby is breastfeeding, they can’t bite while latched on and actively drinking. La Leche League has some valuable information on what to expect when breastfeeding while teething.

Vitamins

My pediatrician recommended that we give Vitamin D to our baby since its a common deficiency for breastfed babies. Kelly Mom talks about important vitamins and supplements for breastfeeding mothers and babies. For almost the first year I continued to take my prenatal, but I eat a well balanced diet, so I chose to stop. To give my son vitamin D we get a lot of sunshine outdoors.

Nursing Strikes

At some point it may seem like your baby is weaning or rejecting breastfeeding. Here are some tips for what to do if your baby doesn’t want to nurse. La Leche League shares reasons why your baby may throw a nursing strike. There were a couple times where this happened, and I was so nervous and frustrated, but it passed.

Cosleeping

We ended up bedsharing with our baby from early on. We bought a halo bassinet for him and planned on trying to swaddle him and get him to sleep in there. He refused to sleep anywhere if he wasn’t on our chests and hated to be swaddled. It can be a lot easier to breastfeed in the middle of the night when you side lie nurse. This is not for everyone, but it can be done safely.

Weaning

The AAP recommends that you breastfeed your child for at least two years. Here is a link that discusses some of the benefits of extended breastfeeding. Kelly mom shares all the facts about breastfeeding past infancy. I personally plan to breastfeed until my toddler weans himself.

Ultimate Breastfeeding Guide Woman Breastfeeding baby

If this was helpful or you learned something new, please share with other moms! Leave a comment below if you have any breastfeeding tips to add. Subscribe so you don’t miss when I post content in the future. Check out my guest posts on activities for infants and toddlers and the best baby and toddler gift ideas.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. This is great information for anyone breastfeeding. Interesting you link to Kelly Mom because back 13 years ago that is the site I would go to. When my second daughter was born the doctor didn’t think her frenulum needed released but I should have gotten the clue when for the whole 18 months I nursed I had to do it laying down!! Now, 11 years later she is getting her frenulum released! The frenulum release is important for breastfeeding but they are finding out it is equaling important for their breathing and to help their teeth come in straight! She actually had it done once when she was 8 but we didn’t know to do the exercises to keep from re adhering so it needs to be done again. Thankfully the laser is an easy procedure. Which I’m glad because I just learned from my new dentist that my frenulum is short! Hmm, could that be the reason I needed speech therapy and braces?

    We just have to do our best with the information we have at the time and be grateful to bloggers who share their experiences so we can learn from them.

    • Thanks so much! That’s awesome that her site has been around so long. I’m sure that’s why she has such a wealth of information accumulated and up to date. It’s amazing how much things like tongue ties can make a huge difference short and long term for health. Thank God we have such ease with which to share information and knowledge and the technology to do procedures with little to no pain involved. I’m so glad I am able to share in hopes that it will help someone.

  2. Great post! I breastfed both of my kids and had totally different experiences! I’m also an ex-NICU nurse and now a Pediatric NP so I have lots of breastfeeding knowledge but still struggled with different aspects of breastfeeding. This is a great resource for those who may need some tips!

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