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“Top 20” Tips To Take Stress Out Of Breastfeeding

You’ve heard it before: breastfeeding is “personal” and “special”. Everyone has an opinion of how it should be done postpartum.  There is a laundry list of breastfeeding benefits. We all know them and want what is best for our baby. Realistically, we live in a modern world. There are many options for those who try as they might, have low milk supply. It isn’t fair that these women are made to feel like there is something “wrong” with them. It is well documented that as early as Ancient Egyptian times, there were women who did not have a good milk supply; in those cases, other women (wet nurses) breastfed those babies. This was the solution until the feeding bottle was introduced in the 19th century–this isn’t new.  So let’s take a deep breath and throw the stress and anxiety out of breastfeeding.  


For those who desire to give it a go, here are my top 20 tips to pragmatic and stress-free breastfeeding:

  1. Keep a journal of the time, length, and breast of each feed along with sleep and dirty diapers. Or use an app that tracks these items. You will notice a pattern emerge quickly.  Use the data to work backwards when your baby is cranky or answer the pediatrician’s questions.
  2. Be mindful of what you are eating.  A clue to food sensitivities as a cause of fussy, colicky behavior is a pattern called twenty-four-hour colic – a definite episode of hurting that occurs within twenty-four hours after the breastfeeding mother eats a suspect colic causing food(s) but that does not recur until the next time she eats the same food.”  Refer to #1 in this case.
  3. Drink lots of water.  A glass at each feed and more in between. Hydration alone can boost milk supply.
  4. Wait until your milk comes in before using supply “enhancing” herbs and tonics. You may have more milk than expected and can save those for a “rainy day”.
  5. Contact your medical insurance and get a free breastpump.
  6. In the first few (1-3) months only use the pump to build supply (i.e. pumping after you finish a feed to tell your body to make more) OR to skip a feed. Sporadic use can cause supply issues.  
  7. Contact a lactation consultant IMMEDIATELY if you have ANY doubt your child is feeding well. They will help with everything from your latch and managing supply, to moral support. Inquire about breastfeeding groups through your consultant.
  8. Keep cracked nipples dry (not moist), they will heal faster.  I like to use a saline soak:
    1. Mix one cup (8 oz) warm (sterile) water with ¼-½ teaspoon of salt. Start a new fresh solution each time.. You could use individual-use packets of sterile saline solution.
    2. After each feed (or as often as you have time to do so – 2-3x a day max) soak nipple(s) in a small bowl of the warm for a minute or so.  You can also put the solution into a squeeze bottle and squirt it on gently.  Make sure to get the saline onto all areas of broken skin.
    3. Don’t soak longer than a few minutes as it can have the reverse effect.  
    4. Pat dry very gently with a clean paper towel.
    5. If you see that the baby objects to the taste the saline rinse, rinse directly before nursing by dipping nipple(s) into a bowl of plain water. Pat dry gently.
  9. Find nipple shell to help allow those cracked nipples to breathe. here is an example from medela
  10. Try breastfeeding with a nipple shield if it is really painful again by medela
  11. Buy a book or 2-3 with some schedules to follow.  A schedule will help your baby sleep well and give structure to your day (yay!). There is a reason these books about sleep habits exist. Use them as a guide and experiment to see what works for your baby.  Some books I love are:
    1. Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Baby Great to read even before the baby comes for philosophical ideas about sleep that are essential to understand;
    2. 12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks Old – It can be done!
    3. The New Contented Little Baby Book – Also nice to review for schedule help!
    4. Babywise – more scheduling ideas.
  12. Consult your doctor immediately if you suspect your child has acid reflux.  Also refer to item #4 to track if it relates to an offensive food.  And #11: feeding too frequently can cause acid reflux.
  13. Mastitis: Try frozen cabbage leaves on your breasts for mastitis pain relief.  Instead, warm compresses will help with circulation and help the flow of milk.  Continuing to feed your baby from the infected breast is best.  Even if it hurts.
  14. Search how to burp your baby on Youtube.  There’s more than one way – who knew? This will help breastfeeding because burping between feeds is a great way to keep your baby happy and get a good feed.
  15. Try the occasional pump in the middle of the night while you let your partner do the middle of the night feed. You skip the burp and diaper change to get more real sleep.  Also your baby will learn to take a bottle which is GREAT. I did this with my children starting immediately and neither ever refused the breast.
  16. Get a modesty cover and breastfeed in public. It is liberating. No planning ahead.  Feel the joy.   
  17. Shop for European formula if you your baby needs it and want the best. You can get it online:
    1. try ordering here or here
    2. article for parents nervous about importing formula
  18. Listen and reflect on your own mom’s advice. Really. What would it hurt to consider what she said? After all, she has done this at least once before.
  19. If breastfeeding still isn’t working:
    1. Get skin to skin contact anyway with your baby – this is a great way to feel the bond while bottle feeding or just snuggling;
    2. Be gentle with yourself and forgive;
    3. Research breast milk banks;
    4. Reach out and open up to those closest to you who are understanding;
    5. Seek out a therapist.
  20. Don’t make breastfeeding at all costs some kind mission of self destruction. If you are so exhausted you your milk supply is dropping, sleep. Get someone you trust to give the baby a bottle while you rest. If you are becoming a monster, get some help for a break  like a shower or a manicure. Breastfeeding is a short snapshot in time, and it will be over in a flash. If it works out, great. If it does not happen as planned, love and forgive yourself. You will glow and radiate as the best mother, because you are!