Are you looking for some breastfeeding tips for the first year? You’re in the right place.
Breastfeeding is natural… but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy!
It’s certainly a journey, full of ups and downs and unpredictable moments.
During those difficult times, a breastfeeding tip here or there can help the journey go smoother!
Keep reading to find out what the most important breastfeeding tips are for the first year.
Tip #1: Establish a Deep Latch
This is one of the MOST IMPORTANT aspects of breastfeeding!
It ensures your baby will transfer milk appropriately, it helps keep your supply up, and a deep latch reduces nipple pain. Often when a mommy comes to me with nipple pain, it’s because their baby isn’t latched deep enough.
In order to achieve a good latch:
Line your nipple up with your baby’s nose.
It might look like your baby is too low to feed, but trust me this is the place to start. Gently stroke your baby’s nose ans upper lip with your nipple.
You can also express some milk so your baby will smell and taste it.
Be patient- patience is key!
Your baby will open their mouth wide. The moment baby opens wide, move your baby to your breast.
It will look like your nipple is aimed towards the roof of your baby’s mouth- it’s supposed to be! With the nipple in the upper part of baby’s mouth, their tongue will be able to compress enough of the breast tissue to transfer your milk.
It sounds simple, but this is one of the hardest parts to get right! Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful. If it is, working on a deep latch might help.
Tip #2: Establish Milk Supply
The first few
days weeks of your baby’s life are EXHAUSTING. It can be hard to make a routine and stay consistent.
Try not to stress! You are doing your best and your baby loves you.
Because of all the new changes (diapers, crying, feeding, no sleep…), milk supply might be low on the priority list. However one MAJOR priority during the first weeks of baby’s life is… feeding your baby! That’s why this breastfeeding tip for the first year is so important.
It’s VERY important to feed your newborn every 2 – 3 hours for the first 4 – 6 weeks of their life.
Feeding this often not only gives your baby the calories they need, but it tells your body to make and establish a milk supply.
If you’re supplementing with formula or expressing milk and giving a bottle please remember…
You need to pump as often as it’s recommended to breastfeed or your supply will be affected.
Bottom line: milk must be expressed (either by breastfeeding or pumping) every 2 – 3 hours in order to have an adequate supply in the first 6 weeks.
I know, I know. When you’re tired this is A LOT to ask. If you find that you need more sleep through the night, try not to go longer than 4-5 hours without expressing milk. I recommend sticking closer to the 4 hour mark if possible.
Your milk supply is VERY sensitive in the first 6 weeks after your baby’s birth so it’s a crucial time to establish supply.
Breast milk production is a supply-demand process so feeding frequently = increased supply.
Tip #3: Hunger cues
Your baby is born knowing how to ask for food… these are called hunger cues!
Hunger cues are so important for a new mom to be aware of and will make breastfeeding in the first year much easier.
So… what are they?
Your baby will start to show signs they’re hungry. It generally starts when they’re sleeping.
Your baby’s eyes will start to move more under their eyelids and your baby will begin to rouse.
This subtle sign is the first hunger cue! It’s sometimes hard to catch, but don’t worry. The hunger cues that follow are more obvious.
After rousing, your baby will start moving their tongue, smacking their lips, moving their head from side to side, and sucking on their fingers and hands.
This is the PERFECT time to feed your baby!
Lastly, there is a hunger sign that indicates your baby went too long without eating.
Crying is the late sign of hunger.
If your baby starts crying from hunger they may not latch on to your breast as easily.
Sometimes the early hunger cues are missed, especially in a premature or extra-sleepy baby.
If you feel like your baby just starts crying in hunger without warning, don’t worry! Just try to spend more skin-to-skin time with your baby.
More skin-to-skin time allows you to be closer to your baby, helping you recognize when they show subtle hunger cues. A baby carrier can be especially helpful to keep baby close enough and catch early hunger cues!
Remember to feed your baby every 2-3 hours in the first 6 weeks of their life!
Tip #4: Sanitize
If you are pumping, giving formula, or using a nipple shield- listen up!
Young babies have underdeveloped immune systems and are susceptible to infection and sickness.
Any parts that touch breast milk regularly should be cleaned. Pump and bottle parts should be cleaned after each use. They should also be sterilized once per day.
Once your baby is a little older (around 3 months their immune system is more developed, you can place your pump parts in the refrigerator in between pumping sessions. Make sure you still sterilize them at least once per day though!
How do you sterilize your pump parts and bottles?
That’s easy! Grab a big pot, put all the pump parts that contact milk inside it, and fill it with water. Place it on your stove and let it boil for 5 – 10 minutes. Wa-laa! Sterilized.
Tip #5: Pumping
If you plan to return to work, it’s wise to start a pumping routing between weeks 4 and 6. Most insurance plans cover a breast pump so it’s worth taking a look into because electric pumps are much easier than hand pumps.
Double breast pumps are the best.
If both breasts are expressed at the same time there’s more milk production.
I can’t stress the importance of cleaning your pump parts on a regular basis and sterilizing them at least once per day.
Try to pump the amount of milk that baby eats, and don’t turn the pump off until you see the flow of milk stop.
I recommend pumping for an additional 5-10 minutes after the flow of milk ceases to keep your supply up (even if you don’t see any milk flowing!)
Stimulating your nipples with the breast pump will tell your body to make more milk.
Kealy Hawk, BSN, RN, CLC
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own baby feeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their feeding journey. She specializes in breastfeeding support and evidence-based formula recommendations. To talk with Kealy or take one of her breastfeeding or formula classes, visit https://littlebearcare.com.