Breastfeeding positively affects both mom and baby’s physical and mental health. But learning to breastfeed can be a challenge. Read on for tips and tricks that may help relieve the stress of breastfeeding, pumping, and storing your breastmilk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends most women:
- Breastfeed or nurse exclusively for the first six months.
- Begin introducing new foods at about six months.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast milk provides all the calories and nutrients most infants need for the first six months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding may increase an infant’s overall health and protect from some common childhood illnesses, including:
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Childhood leukemia
- Diabetes mellitus
- Atopic dermatitis
For mothers, breastfeeding may lower your risk of:
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers
Breastfeeding tips and tricks
Avoid pacifiers and bottle nipples until your infant has learned to latch on to your breast.
There are many tips and tricks to hold your baby to nurse them. Try different holds until you find one that works for you and your baby.
- Support your baby’s neck and shoulders with one hand and hips with the other.
- Guide their mouth onto your nipple. When they latch on, it should be comfortable. But if it hurts, you may not have a good latch.
- When properly latched on, your baby’s mouth will be full of the breast. You should see very little areola, the dark part of your breast surrounding the nipple. Also, your baby’s lips should be turned out like a fish, not inward.
- Hold your baby close. The baby’s head should not be turned, and their chin should touch your breast.
- Keep the baby’s head tilted back slightly to help them suck and swallow more easily.
Most babies will nurse for 10-15 minutes on each breast. If they want to eat for an extended period on each breast, such as 30 minutes on each side, they may not be getting enough milk.
Talk to a pediatrician or a lactation specialist if you think your baby is not getting enough milk during a breastfeeding session.
Risks associated with breastfeeding
- Are taking any medications, supplements, or vitamins. Most are safe for your baby, but others can be harmful.
- Are having radiation treatments.
- Notice a reaction to your breastmilk, such as excessive crying, diarrhea, or excessive sleepiness.
- Have an infection such as HIV/AIDs or untreated, active tuberculosis.
- Are using illegal drugs or marijuana.
- Drink alcohol.
- Have a bacterial or viral infection.
- Have open or draining sores on your breasts.
If you have the flu or another contagious infection, avoid being near your baby to prevent passing it to them. You may want to express (squeeze milk out of your breast into a container) or pump your breastmilk so someone else can feed it to your baby from a bottle. Wear a mask and wash your hands frequently while caring for your baby.
Your doctor may also advise you to be extra cautious while breastfeeding if you have certain medical conditions, such as:
- Thyroid diseases
- Some bowel diseases
Avoid smoking while breastfeeding. It may decrease milk production and increase the risks of other health conditions in your baby, such as asthma or SIDS.
Tips and tricks to overcoming challenges while breastfeeding
For the most part, your baby can get all the nutrients they need from your milk. But in some situations, your doctor may recommend supplements.
If you have trouble producing milk, a lactation specialist can give you tips and tricks to increase your milk supply. Breastfeed as often as possible in order to reduce the chances of your milk supplies dropping. If your baby is not getting enough milk from nursing, allow the baby to finish up with a bottle of formula. If someone else is helping you feed your baby, you can mix your pumped breast milk into a bottle and supplement it with formula.
Tips and tricks to pumping and storing your breastmilk
For various reasons, a mother may be unable to nurse her baby, such as when returning to work. You may be able to pump and feed your baby from a bottle. You can give it to them right after pumping or store it for later.
Your doctor or a lactation specialist may recommend these breastfeeding tips and tricks for proper pumping and breastmilk storage:
- Pump extra after your baby is full to help keep your milk supply up.
- Start using a bottle with your baby before you return to work so they become accustomed to it.
- Buy a pump and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
- Pump as often as you would breastfeed to maintain your milk supply.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before using a breast pump and always clean it thoroughly after each use.
- Store breastmilk in bags designed specifically for breast milk or clean food-grade storage containers with tight-fitting lids.
- Always label your breastmilk and write the date you pumped it on the label. Put your child’s name on the label if they will be in daycare.
- Keep the milk cold and as sterile as possible.
- Store your milk in the refrigerator or freezer at home. If pumping at work, store it in a refrigerator or insulated cooler until you can bring it home.
- You can keep breast milk at room temperature (no warmer than 77°) for up to four hours, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, and in the freezer for up to 12 months.
- If you freeze your breastmilk, leave about one inch of space at the top of the container to allow the milk to expand as it freezes.
- When thawing, use the oldest milk first.
- To thaw, place it in a refrigerator overnight, or you can set it in a container of warm or lukewarm water or hold it under lukewarm running water. Do not use a microwave.
- Use thawed milk within 24 hours. Use room temperature or warmed milk within two hours.
- You can feed your baby room temperature or warm milk, but not cold.
- Never refreeze thawed breastmilk.
Talk to your doctor or a lactation specialist if you have any questions about breastfeeding, pumping, or storing breast milk.
Track your baby’s feeding sessions
New moms may need help keeping up with their baby’s feeding and pumping schedules. The Baby Daybook app can help you stay organized and informed during your feeding journey. The app allows you to track various aspects of your baby’s feeding with just a tap on your phone screen or smartwatch. Easily track your baby’s feeding routine, including breastfeeding or bottle-feeding and pumping sessions, as well as time and duration. You can also set reminders for feeding times, monitor your baby’s weight and growth progress, and even sync data across multiple devices to stay informed on feeding schedules, patterns, and progress.
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Meek JY, Nobel L. Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. publications.aap.org
Micronutrient in breast milk boosts brain development in newborns. News-Medical.Net. www.news-medical.net
Rabinovich HM, Thompson LA. What Parents Should Know About Returning to Work While Breastfeeding. JAMA Pediat. 2023;177(7):742-742. jamanetwork.com/journals
Spatz DL, Froh EB, Schwarz J, et al. Pump Early, Pump Often: A Continuous Quality Improvement Project. J Perinat Educ. 2015;24(3):160-170. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov