Becoming a mom for the first time is as scary as it is exciting. Chances are you’ve heard a mix of opinions on all things baby – some helpful and some…well, not so much. There are a lot of misconceptions about breastfeeding in particular that certainly don’t help to ease anxiety about feeding (we debunked some of these myths in a previous blog post!), but we’re here to clear up a few things and put your mama-mind at ease.
Aside from learning how to breastfeed, chances are as a new mama you’re also learning about weaning, managing fussiness, and how to make sure you’re supplying enough for your little one. Through all of this, the best takeaway is to be patient. Some days will be better than others, but you and your baby will eventually get the hang of it!
1. The first thing you will learn how to do is to get baby to latch to you in order to feed. As straightforward as it may seem, it can be tricky to get the hang of, so let’s break it down! First, you should position yourself for success. This means having your baby’s head, neck, and spine aligned and their chin tilted up. You should also be comfortable, so grab some pillows or a cushion to support your back, arms, and baby!
2. Next, try to encourage your baby to open their mouth. Hold your baby so that their nose is level with your nipple. Then gently touch your nipple to their upper lip to prompt them to open their mouth wide – wider mouth equals an easier and better latch! Once their mouth is opened enough, bring them on to the breast while aiming your nipple towards the top of their mouth. Most of your areola should be covered by the baby’s bottom lip and jaw but everyone’s areola is different so if you see some, that’s okay! A helpful tip from other moms is to gently shape the breast as you bring the baby on to feed. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit to find what works for you and your baby.
3. Not every latch will be seamless, so go easy on yourself as you learn. Once baby is latched, keep them as close to you as possible with their chin in contact with your breast. As your baby feeds, you will feel a sort of tugging sensation – this should not feel uncomfortable. You’ll also notice that at first your baby will do shorter, rapid sucks to initiate milk flow, then they’ll slow down with intermittent pauses—this is a good sign! You should see jaw movement and hear sucking and swallowing if your baby is sufficiently taking in milk.
1. Slowly reduce breastfeeding. At this point, you should have a schedule with your baby. Pay attention to which feedings seem the least important or don’t last as long. Typically, night feedings are the most important to babies so that may be the last to eliminate.
2. Hold your baby close. When trying to introduce the bottle, hold your baby near you to soothe them.
3. Use motion. Sometimes babies refuse bottles when weaning from the breast. Walking around, rocking, or sitting on a birthing ball can help with this obstacle.
4. Give your baby plenty of attention. Breastfeeding fulfills a number of baby’s needs like feeding, cuddling, sucking, eye contact, etc. Since you are breaking away from breastfeeding it is important to make sure your baby is still getting what they need. So make sure to give lots of affection, eye contact, and skin-to-skin touch. This goes for bottle weaning as well!
Managing Fussy Newborns
1. Create movement for your baby. Some ideas to try: rocking your baby, getting a baby swing, taking a drive, or recruiting your significant other to step in and give it a shot!
2. Make your baby comfortable. Your baby is still getting used to life outside of the womb. Recreating a warm, cozy environment can help soothe them. Swaddling, slings, or trying a kangaroo style approach might be the answer!
3. Make some noise. This might sound like fighting fire with fire, but consider all of the noise they experienced in your tummy: your beating heart, rush of blood, and stomach gurgling… So try turning on a fan or some variation of white noise to calm them.
4. Last-ditch efforts. After trying all of the above and any other tactics, your baby might still be fussy. Here are some last resort options for when you’re just not sure what to do!
Offer a pacifier! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says there is no issue fulfilling a child’s strong urge to suck with a binky. Most children give up binkies on their own around seven months but if they don’t, no worries! It won’t harm their development.
Check the temperature in your house. Your baby may be unable to relax because he’s too cold or hot!
Go outside. A change of scenery may be a welcomed distraction for you and for the baby!
With the help of these tips and the support of friends and family, you are well on your way to helping your baby every way you can. For a little extra help, check out our list of products that can help you with breastfeeding. You got this, mama!