Breastfeeding Tips: What I’ve Learned So Far

15 breastfeeding tips I’ve picked up in the 7 months I’ve been feeding my daughter Sage. From increasing your milk supply to transitioning to solids, here’s an idea of what to expect.

woman sitting cross legged on the bed breastfeeding her baby

I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve had a (mostly) good experience breastfeeding Sage. In today’s video, I’m sharing all of the changes I experienced while breastfeeding, issues I ran into with milk supply and what I did, and some breastfeeding tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way. If you’re a new mama or mama to be and you have no idea about breastfeeding or pumping, I really hope this helps you!

Breastfeeding Tips: 0-6 Months

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)! I’m talking about that moment when you look down at your precious little newborn and think… What the heck? My boobs are now a food source!

The beginning stage can be super frustrating. You’re learning what to do and your poor nipples have never been sucked on before like that! Your baby is also learning what to do too, so like everything in those early days of motherhood, you need to lower your expectations and try to just go with the flow. One of the most important things to get right at the beginning in the latch. If you can get the latch right, your breastfeeding experience will be so much better!

If you’re interested in seeing what a typical day looked like for me while I was breastfeeding a newborn, you can watch that video out right here:

Breastfeeding Latch

Within a few minutes of giving birth (if you haven’t seen my birth video you can check it out here) the midwife asked me if I wanted to try getting her latched onto the boob. It might sound crazy to try that early, but the instincts of a newborn are seriously incredible! Sage taught me to breastfeed, not the other way around. I was lucky in that she had a pretty good latch straight away, but the one tip I got from midwives, my doula and the nurses at the hospital was that the more boob in the mouth the better. You don’t want them just sucking on the nipple. They need a good mouthful of the areola and even some of the boob! Not only will this give them better suction, but it will reduce pain on the nips! This video really helped me out – it gives a nice visual reminder of how to get that perfect latch.

A good way to ensure your baby is latched on properly is to get them at the right height and angle. This is the breastfeeding pillow I use and I love it. It’s super comfortable and puts Sage at the perfect height to latch on correctly, while providing me with support for my back and shoulders. 

split photo showing a woman having just given birth, and breastfeeding for the first time

Cluster Feeding

Something not everyone realizes, is your milk doesn’t actually come in straight away. First, you produce something called Colostrum which is a thick, creamy, yellowy liquid which doesn’t look at all like milk, but is packed full of amazing nutrients like probiotics for immune support. That’s why a lot of health professionals say that even if you can’t breastfeed longterm, if you can at least feed for those first few days while the colostrum is there it’s SO good for baby (aka liquid gold!). Now, what a lot of moms don’t get warned about, is to get past the colostrum stage and actually start to produce proper breastmilk your little one will cluster feed. 

O… M… G…

Your baby will basically never stop feeding! They’ll feed for 45 minutes, take a break for maybe 10-20 minutes and then want to feed again. It’s nonstop, and you may feel like you’re just not producing enough milk for your baby and that’s why they’re always hungry. That’s not the case at all. Breastfeeding works on supply and demand. The more your baby sucks and tries to get the milk out of your breasts, the more milk your body will produce. A good tip to know if your baby is getting enough milk is to listen for them swallowing while they feed, and also keeping an eye on their diapers. For diapers, our midwives gave us the following rule of thumb:

1st Day: 1 pee, 1 poop

2nd Day: 2 pees, 2 poops

3rd Day: 3 pees, 3 poops

And so on until day 7

a woman sat on the bed with her baby, wearing a nursing bra

When Does Your Milk Come In?

Despite being convinced that my body just didn’t know how to make milk, my milk did come in around day 3. Three words… instant boob job! It felt like every gland in my breasts was full of milk. They were so engorged, so hard and it was so uncomfortable. Rest assured, they don’t stay like that! It does settle down after a while.

One thing that really helped was using cold cabbage leaves on my boobs to reduce some of the swelling. Be warned, this does reduce your milk supply, so if you’re breastfeeding and your milk supply is good I wouldn’t recommend this. But if, like me, your milk comes in hard and fast and you need to level things out, cold cabbage leaves are great.

an overhead shot of a woman breastfeeding her baby on a nursing pillow

Pain When Breastfeeding

A lot of people ask me if breastfeeding is painful. Those first couple of weeks are definitely the hardest (in my experience). Here are some tips that really helped me and set us on our way to a more comfortable and enjoyable breastfeeding journey:

  • Getting that good latch!
  • Using this organic nipple butter cream religiously to prevent dry, cracked nipples
  • Making sure they’re dry after feeding (moisture breeds bacteria)
  • I also used a medicated antibiotic steroid cream that I got from the hospital for the first 2 weeks on and off (you can’t get it over the counter). I weighed up the pros and cons with this. Though I didn’t really want to use it, I was told that it was totally safe for both me and Sage, so I just made sure to apply it after she was done feeding and wiped my nipples before feeding.

After the first couple of weeks, rest assured that it does get better and it does get easier. Your nipples and breasts will get used to it. You’ve just got to persevere and keep on top of that nipple aftercare. Breastfeeding can be and is a very enjoyable, bonding experience for you and your baby and this is all just part of the journey.

Clogged Ducts and Milk Blebs (AKA milk blisters)

I had never heard of milk blebs. I got one on my right nipple within the first week and it was a little white mark. It’s basically where milk backs up in the duct and hardens, which can be really painful. Some things that helped it go away after a couple of weeks (and these tips also help for clogged ducts) were…

  • Massaging the affected breast in a hot shower with a little bit of oil
  • Exfoliating (very, very lightly!) with a washcloth (for milk blebs)
  • Popping a cotton round with caster oil on it underneath my bra (for milk blebs)
  • Stay hydrated!
  • Nurse in different positions and even try dangle feeding
  • Sunflower Lecithin (helps decrease stickiness in milk)

Leaking

I always assumed that if you breastfeed, you will leak. This hasn’t been the case for me (thank you milk gods!). I mentioned in my newborn must haves and essentials post that I got reusable breast pads, assuming I’d leak, and I never used them. It’s really surprising considering I had such a fast flow, especially at the beginning, but it just never happened for me. If this is the case just remember to keep the area clean and dry in between feeds to reduce infection or clogs. 

split photo of a pregnant woman and a woman having just given birth

Nursing Bras

Most of the nursing bras I purchased were pretty inexpensive. I got these and these from H&M, which are super comfortable. This one here is my fancy one that is made by a Canadian company and feels super luxurious and sexy while still being practical for a nursing mama. I get asked about these a lot, which aren’t actually nursing bras but they’re so comfortable and great for lounging, working out and nursing. I wore them throughout my pregnancy and still wear them now all the time. 

Then I got these criss-cross bras, which are super comfortable and don’t even look like nursing bras! 

Breast Pumping

I use this double electric breast pump. I love it because not only is it super comfortable, but it’s actually portable. You can charge it, and it has a strap that you wrap around your waist so that you can carry it around the house with you. It’s also helpful having two pumps because it just means you get done so much quicker. I usually pump 1-2 times a day for around 20 minutes a session. Sage doesn’t take a bottle super well, so really I only pump for emergencies,increasing my milk supply and adding to her food. Obviously if you’re relying on bottles more you’ll need to pump more.

One thing I didn’t realise is if you’re using a portable breast pump, you need special bras to pump with. They basically hold the pumps to your breast so that you don’t have to physically hold them. I use both this black one here and this one here which attaches to this bra, which I like because you can either use them as a normal nursing bra, or if you want to use it with your pump you can too.

woman holding her baby and a breast pump

How To Increase Milk Supply

One of the things I noticed was once Sage started sleeping more at night and starting solids, my milk supply went down because she was feeding less frequently. I mentioned before about pumping to increase my milk supply (remember how I said your milk production works on a supply and demand system?) and then I’d keep the pumped milk as an emergency supply in the freezer. Even though she’s not great at taking a bottle, it’s come in handy because I can use the milk from the freezer in her baby food now that she’s eating solids.

The other thing I get asked about a lot is food and diet when breastfeeding. There are tons of teas, cookies and supplements you can take, but honestly, I haven’t taken much of them. The main things I’ve been doing are…

  • Adding things like flaxseed and oats to my diet – they’re great for milk production!
  • Drinking a ton of water
  • Getting sleep (when you can!)
  • Taking my supplements and prenatals 
  • Trying to get those healthy, wholesome foods into my diet

One thing that really shocked me when I learned it was that breastfeeding actually takes up more calories than growing the baby! How crazy is that? When you’re breastfeeding you’ll be burning 200-500 extra calories a day, and if you don’t make up those calories then your body will make less milk. So now is not the time to be thinking about diets to lose the baby weight – fill up your body with the nutrients it needs! Remember if you’re breastfeeding you are still eating for two. You can take a look at this What I Eat In A Day video to see the sorts of things I’ve been eating while breastfeeding Sage. 

Breastfeeding In Public

I always thought I was going to be a lot more conservative when it came to breastfeeding, but honestly, I’ve found I just don’t care if someone sees a flash of a nip. When you’re feeding around the clock, the last thing on your mind is that your boob is out. The concept of it being a sexual thing just goes out the window. You become very desensitised to it (even more so since we’ve been in lockdown). 

The good thing about breastfeeding when out and about is that you don’t have to take anything with you, other than appropriate clothes and a burp cloth. You’re not messing around with bottles, getting them sterilized, making up your feeds and worrying about whether you’ve got enough for while you’re out. Wherever you go, baby’s food is on tap!

My Overall Breastfeeding Experience

I’ve truly loved breastfeeding. I think the fact that Sage has always been a really good breastfeeder has made my experience so much easier, so like I said in those early days you want to make sure your latch is good. It will make all the difference, I swear!

Breastfeeding Tips: 6 months onwards

Having said what a good breastfeeder Sage is, recently things have become a little trickier. She’s now 7 months old and this last month I’ve definitely noticed some changes. As babies get older they become more aware of the outside world, and therefore are much more easily distracted! They no longer want to just focus on feeding, they want to look around and see what’s going on! 

Whereas before I could feed Sage pretty much anywhere, now I need to go to a quiet spot where there are minimal interruptions and noise. It did get a little easier again after about 3-4 weeks, but she’s still very easily distracted. She’s also got really fussy lately. She’ll yell at me to switch to the other side, then will want to switch back. I think she’s going through a growth spurt so that might be why! *update at 8 months she still is distracted easily but is calmer on the breast now. 

a baby breastfeeding

Breastfeeding With Solid Foods

The other thing to remember is once your baby gets to this age they’ll probably have started solids, so that’s obviously going to make a difference to their breastfeeding habits. Sage is now eating 3 meals a day, but I still breastfeed her about 6 times a day. She’s a super hungry, growing girl! You can take a look at this recent 24 hours with a 6 month old post to see what kind of schedule we’ve been on with breastfeeding before feeding her solids. 

The good thing about starting solids is I’ve got a little bit of a break. Sage has never really taken to ‘fake nipples’ of any kind, whether they be bottles or pacifiers, so as a working mama I’ve had to manage breastfeeding around the clock. Now that she’s eating solids, the pressure is off me a little and others can join in to help like Daddy. 

a 6 month old baby eating purees while wearing a blue bib

Physical Changes After 6 Months of Breastfeeding

People don’t talk about this enough, and I wish someone had told me. Let’s be honest, your boobs (much like the rest of you after growing a baby) may never be the same again. Certain parts of your body will always look a little different. For me, it’s been totally worth it because I’ve loved breastfeeding and the thought of eventually stopping actually makes me really sad. That being said, here are some of the changes I’ve noticed…

  • Nipples – They get bigger and darker, and there’s actually a really cool reason for it. It’s so your baby can find them easier! 
  • Sagging – I’m not going to lie, I have noticed a little bit of sagging. Remember how many changes your breasts are going through within a 24 hour period. Every day they’re being filled up with milk and then drained. I’ve heard they can perk up a little bit after time, but I’m not really bothered. I pop a bra on and it’s fine, and honestly I’m even still comfortable walking around without a bra.
  • Skin – The skin on my breasts seems a little more thin/stretchy and elastic. It could be where Sage grips onto my skin like handlebars!
  • Stretch marks – I had some stretch marks under my boobs at the beginning, but I feel like they’ve faded. You can use this DIY belly oil for stretch marks on your belly, your boobs, your thighs, anywhere you get them!
  • Sensitivity – My breasts are definitely more sensitive, but not in a painful way and not in a sexual way either. It’s hard to explain, but the nipples are just more sensitive and permanent hard-ish from all that milk sucking. 
  • Heaviness – They’re so heavy, probably because they’ve got milk in them!

 

woman taking a photo of her postpartum body in the mirror

A Word of Encouragement for Mamas To Be

I just want to finish off by encouraging any mamas-to-be out there to breastfeed if you can. It’s not something to be scared about. Yes, issues can crop up. Yes, it can be uncomfortable. And yes, your boobs do change. But it is such a wonderful bonding experience and I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world. Obviously some women simply can’t breastfeed, and for others it’s just not something they want to do, which is totally fine. As long as your baby is fed you’re doing a good job! But I would definitely encourage you to at least try it. I certainly have no regrets!

Do you have any top breastfeeding tips? Leave them in the comments below to help out other moms-to-be!

If you’re preparing to have a baby, check out my Top 11 Things You Should Know About Babies and my Top 11 Tips & Hacks for Postpartum.

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