I’ve been breastfeeding my 2-year-old daughter, Sage, for two years, and I’m sharing ten breastfeeding hacks I wish I knew before becoming a mom. Trust me, these will save you pain and time!
Dry and cracked nipples were something that I was unfamiliar with when I first started breastfeeding. My Midwife told me to hand express some breast milk after breastfeeding and rub it around my nipple and let it fully air dry before putting my bra or shirt back on. You want to ensure your skin is fully dry before wearing any clothing. Damp breasts open up the opportunity for bacteria and other germs. Number one tip: keep the nips dry!
I’ve talked about this before, but I will say it again if you’re looking for ways to extend your baby’s sleeping schedule during the night. Try dream feeding, dream feeding is when you sneak into your baby’s room (mommy ninja style) during a time at night when they normally wake up, but before you go to sleep. Once you’ve made it into their room, you pick them up (while they’re still sleeping), put them on your breast, top them off, and put them back to sleep. The goal is to make them full and not wake them up. Dream feeding normally allows you a longer stretch of sleep at night, which every parent needs.
Now, when it comes to getting a good latch, you want to make sure that you have enough breast in their mouth and not just your nipple. A trick I learned was when you latch your baby on, go from their bottom lip first then to the top of their lip. Obviously, I’m not an expert, I’m sharing with you what worked best for me. But this really helped me get a better latch and minimize pain. If you’re having issues breastfeeding your baby, I suggest talking with a lactation consultant.
This method keeps track of which side you fed on last. When breastfeeding, it’s important to switch sides to ensure that both breasts are drained equally. Each time you start a new breastfeeding session, you want to ensure that you start the next session on the breast you left off on. It can be hard to remember when you have a lot going on with a newborn. I remember pressing down on my breasts, trying to remember which breast I left off on, you can sometimes tell which one feels fuller. Instead of guessing, using the elastic method will make your life much easier.
When I started breastfeeding, I had no idea that you could breastfeed in multiple positions. The most common position is the cradle position. When I was pregnant, I thought the cradle position was the only position that you could breastfeed from. It wasn’t until my Doula told me about other positions like football and my favourite, side lying that I was mind blown. The side-lying position has quickly become my favourite position to breastfeed. We nurse every morning in the side-lying position, this position is so much easier on your back and you can relax while your baby is nursing. Fun fact: Sometimes, when they’re really little, they will just pop off on their own and fall asleep.
This is the topic that most breastfeeding moms think about the most. It can be stressful to make sure that you are producing enough milk for your baby. I learned at around 6 months in my breastfeeding journey that power pumping is something that you can do with a breast pump to help stimulate your breasts to help produce more milk. Below you will find a schedule that I followed. When you follow this schedule, you are “tricking” your body into thinking that your body needs to produce more milk for your baby. Power pumping was my go-to anytime I started to panic and think that my body was not producing enough milk. I would only do it once a day and usually at night or in the morning after I fed my daughter first.
This was something that I accidentally discovered one time, and then I realized this was a thing. There are so many different types of baby carriers (structured vs. wrapped fabric, etc.). I found that babywearing and breastfeeding were easiest in a cloth wrap baby carrier. My favourite baby carrier was Solly Baby Wrap Carrier. Solly has so many fun designs, but the fabric is so soft, and although the wrap can be a little intimidating at first, you can find many tutorials on how to use it. The fabric wrap was just a lot easier to move Sage’s head into a good position and latch her on easily.
It’s so important to stay hydrated when you’re breastfeeding. I recommend having a large water bottle beside you, preferably with a straw, so you don’t have to worry about knocking it over and can sip it with one hand. Staying hydrated will be much easier if you start making this a habit every time you breastfeed.
When your milk comes in, it catches you by surprise. The engorgement that happens is mind-blowing! They felt so big, so hard, and so uncomfortable. Yes, breastfeeding helps relieve it, but sometimes you get so much milk so fast that you can’t breastfeed enough. My Midwife told me to place cool cabbage leaves on my breasts, the cabbage leaves help to absorb some of the fluid from the glands within the breast area, reducing the fullness in the tissue.
Did you know you can reuse your used breast pump parts within a 24-hour period as long as they’ve been properly stored in the fridge in an airtight container or bag? Yup! It’s a thing, and it saved me (cough cough Matt) many hours of washing, sanitizing, and drying pump parts. After 24 hours, I would wash and sanitize all the pump parts to be ready for use. This pumping hack saved me so much time.
It is so scary to think about Mastitis. You can start to tell if you have a clogged milk duct because it’s normally hard on one side and red. It can also be a little sensitive to the touch. One thing to note about your nipple is that there’s not just one hole, your nipple has multiple holes. (Think water sprinkler). When your milk comes out, it comes out spraying and not in a straight line. All those different glands can get clogged, and that’s what you want to unclog and avoid.
The few things I did that helped me were to massage my breasts every day; this helped to keep things moving as a preventative method. If you feel a clog, you can try dangle feeding. You lay the baby on the floor or the bed, and you hang your breast over their face (from above or looking down on them). You then feed them with your breast dangling over them in this position. This can help do wonders to get things moving again (thank you, gravity- sometimes).
Okay, now we’re really getting into things! I was told by a friend that there’s something called a lactation vibrator; this breast vibrator has 3-speed options (are you laughing with me?).The breast vibrator is shaped in a specific way to help reach locations where clogs are likely to develop. Highly recommend a breast vibrator for emergencies or just to keep things moving.
People always ask me if you’re allowed to breastfeed in public, to which I reply, “If you are allowed to be there, you are allowed to breastfeed.” I just want everyone to know this! You are feeding your baby, not putting on a strip show. If you want to or need to feed in public but want some extra privacy, this trick is for you. The way that you use the two-shirt method is you wear a tank top under a loose shirt so when you’re ready to nurse, you pull up your top shirt and then pull down on the tank top underneath (You’re now made a small hole with your two shirts), latch your baby and you’re now using the two shirt method, that will give you a little extra privacy.
If you’re after more breastfeeding tips, be sure to check out my Breastfeeding Tips: What I’ve Learned So Far post. If you’re looking for different healthy food to eat while breastfeeding, check out my What I Eat In A Day While Breastfeeding.
There you have it! The 10 breastfeeding hacks that you’ll wish you knew sooner! I hope this helps you or anyone you know that is currently or preparing to breastfeed.
What has been your biggest struggle with breastfeeding? If you have any tips/ tricks I didn’t share above that you think are a must-know, make sure to share them in the comments below.