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Breastfeeding tips for the first 6 weeks are aplenty. I’m sharing some of the items and tips which have helped me out in my nursing journey.
The first 6 weeks of breastfeeding are the most crucial. They set you up for either triumph or failure. Take it from someone who didn’t make it out of the hospital breastfeeding with her first. It can be done. Obviously, every baby, birth and circumstance are different, but education is very important and the thing many of us lack. But that’s okay! Because there are millions of us out there doing this, you’re not alone!
Don’t have time to read this all? I’ve made a Podcast episode on it!
Some may seem strange, some obvious, and some you may never have read about before!
Obviously what works for one woman won’t work for every woman so I wanted to keep this as generic must haves and top tips that anyone can relate to. I’ll get into specifics in some upcoming posts.Breastfeeding tips for the first 6 weeks! Click To Tweet
BREASTFEEDING TIPS FOR THE FIRST 6 WEEKS
H2O IS KEY
When they say that you need a lot of hydration to breastfeed they are not joking.
Some drinks are better than others though for instance coconut water is full of natural electrolytes which are awesome for keeping up your energy, hydration and just overall really good for your body. A lot of mamas will drink blue Gatorade as well which is extremely popular and oddly enough it really helps with milk production. Now, I don’t know if it’s just because of the electrolytes in the sports drink or because you’re drinking something. I’m not a lactation specialist but if I drink Gatorade and coconut water it certainly helps!
Fun fact, when it comes to a blue Gatorade if you’re pumping, and you drink a lot of it the blue colour actually translates to your breastmilk. You end up with milk tinted blue from the dye in the drink. Don’t worry this isn’t bad for your baby. With that said, drinks with colors can tint your milk in general.
NOTE: Coffee and hydration
It’s important to mention coffee and caffeinated drinks because well, parenthood is exhausting. In our home, our toddler calls mom and dad’s morning coffee “go-go juice” and he couldn’t be more right! A big thing people don’t realize as well is that if you are drinking coffee then you’re actually depleting fluids in your body. Coffee is a diuretic. It will deplete your fluid intake by 2 times the amount of fluid that’s in the coffee so for instance if you have a 250ml cup of coffee you need to offset that with 500mls (half a liter) of actual hydration be that water, Gatorade, coconut water, whatever.
How much water intake should you have? Try for 3 liters of water per day. Why? Because you are losing a lot from feeding alone and you need to replace that.
My tip to drink more water: Get a thermal or insulated bottle that has a straw. Or one that isn’t open-mouthed. You’re more likely to sip often than open a wide mouth bottle. Plus you can’t spill all over yourself with a straw. Just saying. I suggest something like a HydroFlask.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
Supply and demand is exactly as it sounds. It’s very important. You literally have to make sure that you’re putting baby to the boob as much as possible. Their saliva and them suckling is what really makes your milk start to come in within the first few days, and sets you up for success, or failure.
A lot of people think that just because they’re not super engorged or leaking milk right away that they’re not making enough. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A good indicator of if your baby is getting enough is lots of wet and dirty diapers, and they are gaining weight.
Feed your baby as much as possible. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get them to your breast frequently. Rule of thumb, when in doubt, whip the boob out. Especially in the early weeks.
Recognize early hunger cues, the biggest one being rooting. Rooting is when your baby starts turning their head side to side, looking for the breast. Also whining, or putting their hands in their mouth.
When it comes to supply and demand yet again the biggest thing is trust in your body and trust in your baby. When I say trust in your baby it’s that your baby will eat when they are hungry. Much like you will eat when you’re hungry.
Much of this is covered in the Ultimate Breastfeeding Class in much more detail so be sure to check it out!
In the first days and weeks of your breastfeeding journey, your nipples are going to be sore. There is no getting around that. But there are things you can do to help with the pain or to heal your nips.
Nipple cream is such a godsend. Honestly.
The important thing when getting a nipple cream is to check to see that it is safe for your baby to ingest. That’s right, some of them aren’t. Which is so weird to me, like why is that even a thing… But I digress.
The best way to use nipple cream is on dry nipples. Which is something I didn’t know right away. If you are able, let your nipples air dry completely, before putting on your nipple cream. Do this is for a couple of reasons, one, you probably still have breastmilk on them which helps heal them, and two, air drying is really hygienic. Once air-dried, put on your nipple cream and then either your breast pad or breast shell, more on those later.
My favorite nipple cream is this one from Earth Mama Organic. You can even use it as a lip balm! It’s shea butter based and goes on so nicely, not sticky like the leading competitor.
If you have broken, and very damaged nipples, there is a cream that can be prescribed to you, you can reach out to a lactation consultant for help with this.
BUY A HAAKAA
Whether you’ve seen it, or not or heard of it yet there’s this magical little item called the Haakaa. It’s a little silicone bulb-like pump. It attaches onto your boob and basically collects the letdown from the side that you’re not nursing from. Which is a really good way to build up a freezer stash with no effort at all. Before you know it you’ve got a few ounces to put away in your refrigerator or freezer and that adds up really quick. Especially in those first weeks when your milk supply is just crazy big.
They’re relatively inexpensive, usually under $30 on Amazon. I highly recommend them. I actually have two because it’s nice to have one for each side!
Haakaa also really helps out when you are in those first weeks of breastfeeding and are engorged. It will help alleviate the pressure without overstimulating. You don’t want to be using your electric pump too much in the beginning because it can overstimulate and can also make you overproduce. The first 6 weeks of breastfeeding are when your body is learning to regulate so that’s why it’s recommended not to use a pump yet. Why? Because of the fact that you’re going to be removing more milk than what your baby actually is asking of you.
Haaka help: There are tons of YouTube videos that show you how to properly attach your Haakaa.
GET SOME BREAST SHELLS
Breast shells are really awesome. They are something that I feel is not commonly mentioned.
I really like breast shells for a couple of reasons. One is that they will collect anything that leaks between feedings. Which in those first weeks, those little drops, and ounces really count and add up.
I remember a few days where I saved over a bag worth of milk just from what leaked into my breast shells alone. All while doing stuff around the house. It was super impressive. You don’t even notice how much you leak which would normally be lost into nursing pads. It’s a great way to save milk and also save laundry.
Another good thing about breast shells is they help with the friction that you’ve got going on. In the beginning weeks of breastfeeding your nipples are going to be sore, there’s no way around that. You can put on nipple cream and then put the breast shells on if you need them to heal. This was my initial reason for buying them, to be honest!
Breast shell tip: Make sure to empty them each feeding, don’t let it go more than 4 hours before refrigerating. 4 hours at room temp is the maximum time breastmilk can be out.
YOU NEED BREAST PADS
Like I said before, I used my breast shells a lot in the beginning. However, breast pads you’ll use for much longer because you won’t always be dripping enough to collect.
The breast pads that I really like I’ve purchased two batches of, I’ll link them below. They are really soft cotton and the perfect size. With the ones I recommend, you get 10 pairs for just the cost of shipping. Which is a pretty damn good deal. They last a long time and the fact that they’re reusable you’re saving the environment. I don’t suggest getting disposable ones because of the environmental impact and frankly, it’s a waste of money, not to mention, they don’t feel very nice.
Click here to get 10 free sets of breast pads, just pay shipping!
Use code WINEANDMOMMYTIME to get your discount.
NURSING TANK TOPS
I have to say I use nursing tank tops a lot more than anything else in my wardrobe. Nursing bras are great if you’re going out and such. However, around the house, it’s much easier just wear a nursing tank top with breast pads/shells in it. I wear a cardigan over top of mine. That way I don’t have a bunch of layers to deal with when I have to just feed a hungry baby. I highly suggest going that route. Especially if you don’t know how long you’ll be breastfeeding for, tank tops are relatively inexpensive compared to bras, nursing tops, and sweaters.
I mentioned bras being one of the more expensive things, I do recommend getting one or sleep nursing bras. Sleep bras are usually really soft, with no underwire. They’re basically almost like a sports bra. You want sleep bras because during regulation, those first six weeks you are going to leak so much in your sleep. Your bed is going to be soaked and so are you. What if your baby sleeps a little bit longer than what you’re used to and next thing you know you have a boob-splosion all over the bed? Not so nice…
Sleep bra tip: I suggest doubling up on breast pads in sleep bras to prevent soaking yourself/the bed.
GET A NURSING MOOMOO
Get a nursing moo moo’s, in other words, a nursing nightgown. They are great because when you’re postpartum and you’re dealing with the whole bleeding situation it’s nice to have a nightgown. Something that you can quickly go to the bathroom and there’s no pulling at anything to do your business.
Usually, nursing pajamas are ones that open from the side or they clip down like the tank tops. I still wear my moo moo quite often because it’s so dang comfy. I would suggest getting two, in the beginning, to see what kind of style you like. Start with each style and see which one you like more. I personally don’t like the clip ones for night time because I don’t like anything potentially hard being on me at night. I prefer the soft feeling of the one that opens up on the side it’s just pleated so it covers the opening when you’re not nursing and then when you need to you just pull it to the side.
DON’T SLEEP ON YOUR STOMACH
I know, you’ve probably been missing sleeping on your stomach your whole pregnancy. However, when you’re breastfeeding, you want to try to avoid sleeping on your stomach, or rather, your boobs. Why? Because it can cause pressure on your milk ducts which can potentially lead to clogged ducts, or even worse, mastitis. Also, with how engorged you will be in the beginning, you’re risking waking up in massive puddles. All that wasted milk!
Co-sleeping is a super hot topic. I can understand why because there is a lot of research behind it saying that it can be dangerous, but it’s all in how you do it, to be honest.
No, I’m not telling you that you have to co-sleep, I just found for me that it was the best way for me to get as much sleep as possible. Especially in those first few months, because you just slide over, latch, y’all both go back to sleep.
Also side-lying nursing is awesome once you get the hang of it. It’s so darn easy if you just need a quick little rest from holding the baby to nurse them side-lying. Getting the right position is so much easier than using props and pillows or any of those things. Your baby is just laying on their side you’re laying on your side boob is there, good to go.Co-sleeping can help breastfeeding success! Click To Tweet
NOTE: Safety is key
The main thing with co-sleeping is that your baby should never be in the middle of you and your partner. The baby should be on one side of you, not in the middle and that is it this is the common reason for smothering. People put their baby in the middle and one or both people rollover. You also do not want a blanket over the top of your baby especially when you’re co-sleeping because if you move it might end up moving up over their head.
There are a lot of things that you can get to make co-sleeping safe. For instance baby loungers or a co-sleeping bassinet. Some babies don’t like bassinets and they prefer soft loungers. You can see what one works better for you. Our little guy didn’t sleep in his co-sleeping bassinet until he was about a month-and-a-half old. Maybe a bit more but he didn’t sleep in it for very long.
Co-sleeping bassinet tip: Don’t spend a ton, they don’t use it for long at all. Some won’t even use it!
We moved him to the crib just shy of four months. His crib was in our room so that way it’s just easy for me to get up at night grab him nurse and put him back. He’s at the point now that he doesn’t wake up as frequently through the night unless he’s in a regression so with that said we don’t need to co-sleep anymore. That and I don’t like to prolong co-sleeping personally.
My bed is my place for me and my husband so getting it back is a personal need. Some people co-sleep longer, some people bed share longer that’s totally up to you. I personally just did it for the point in time when he was frantically waking up every hour and a half, every 2 hours at night. And for my sanity I just needed it. Especially for cluster feeding oh my God cluster feeding.
YOU NEED A NURSING PILLOW
Nursing pillows are important for not only positioning your baby but for taking the strain off of your arms, shoulders, and back. I can’t say it enough how much mine has helped me. Not only will it help you, but you can use it as a tummy time aid for your baby as well. Multiuse, heck yeah!
Nursing pillow tip: I would suggest getting a few covers for it because things can get messy.
If you’re not sure how long your journey will go for, this free pillow is great to start out, just cover shipping! I got one and I loved all the patterns and colors to choose from. Just use code WINEANDMOMMYTIME to get the deal!
YOU CAN’T OVERFEED A BREASTFED BABY
Contrary to what your older relatives might tell you, babies who are breastfed cannot be overfed. Babies who are formula-fed can be overfed because what they are ingesting is simulated.
Breastmilk breaks down in the body much quicker than formula does which is why formula-fed babies tend to be lethargic or gassy faster.
Your baby will probably be latched what feels like constantly for the first few weeks. But that’s just because they’re practicing a new skill that they didn’t need to do in the womb because they were being fed by their umbilical cord. You’re not alone when it comes to your baby being constantly on your boob. All other breastfeeding moms have gone through the same thing. Don’t let relatives who haven’t breastfed try to tell you that your baby is constantly on you because they’re not getting enough from you. You are enough! Your baby is learning you are learning it’s not always going to be like this.
Sign up for Milkology, the Ultimate Breastfeeding Course which will give you more in-depth tips and knowledge like this.
IT SHOULDN’T HURT
If it hurts, evaluate the latch. Most people think that breastfeeding has to hurt but it doesn’t have to as long as you have a proper latch. Getting the proper latch is probably the most tricky thing about the whole situation. There are lots of tutorials but I highly suggest purchasing the course Milkology. I started watching it before little N was born and it definitely opened my eyes to prepare myself for when he would get here and what I should do, and expect.
Typically at the beginning of a session, it’s not uncommon for a latch to be slightly sore for the first 10 to 30 seconds of a feeding. But it should not continue for an entire feeding if it does, unlatch and relax and try again. If it’s persistent seek the help of the professionals. Don’t be afraid to say you need help with this, even though it’s natural, it’s new to you and that’s okay.
There are also a lot of resources like lactation consultants and La Leche League which are very easy to find.
Tip: To find your local La Leche League, type La Leche League (your city) into the Facebook search bar and bam!
One thing to know is that not all doctors are breastfeeding friendly and may not give you proper advice so please seek out people who are certified to help you with lactation and breastfeeding issues.
REST UP & STRESS LESS
I know it’s easier said than done but getting as much rest as possible really helps with not only your milk supply but making you feel better physically and mentally.
If this is your first baby it’s going to be easier to get rest because you can nap when they nap if you don’t have other things that you need to be doing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when it comes to needing a rest. If your baby just simply needs to be held and there are people around and you want some sleep hand off the baby as long as you feel safe with them and go for a nap.
Asking for help is going to be the hardest thing that you’re going to do with the most gratifying thing that you’re going to do because you need it. Remember, just because we’re in the 2020s doesn’t mean that the statement “it takes a village” doesn’t still ring true because it does!
Along with getting rest is to stress less. Being stressed out can really tank your supply and then you get into a vicious circle. While yes, it’s hard with a newborn at home, don’t feel bad to ask for help. I’m not saying that you need to be totally zen, that’s not realistic. But, little things like taking a shower, listening to a podcast, taking a walk, reading a book, or even just going for a drive are easy things you can do.
Golden hour is the hour after your baby is born. Some hospitals have what’s called a protected golden hour which means they will not go outside of golden hour standards.
Golden hour means is that the baby is placed on the mom is left there for the first hour at least. The main purpose of the golden hour is skin to skin. This helps with bonding, to calm the baby and the mother as well. Also regulating their body temperature, helping your milk, and helping them cognitively. This is also when your baby will try to crawl for their first latch. It’s not crawling in the sense that you think of an older baby doing later on but it’s kind of like a head-butting until they get to the nipple to start feeding.
Ask your health provider if golden hour is something that is honored at the hospital or birth center you’re going to be delivering at. If not, definitely add it to your birth plan.
Golden hour tip: As mentioned before, a large part of golden hour is skin to skin, which is something you should continue at home. Keep in mind, skin to skin isn’t just for mom, it’s also for your partner as well!
Making sure your partner understands how important it is to you to breastfeed is crucial. You’ll have enough outside comments, ignorance and unsolicited advice as it is. Explain to them why you want to breastfeed, educate them as best you can, and if need be, have your prenatal care provider talk to them about it.
There is nothing more difficult than differing in how y’all choose to parent and it starts with feeding. Maybe your partner wants you to pump so that they can share in the bonding that comes with feeding. That’s a conversation that is certainly worth having!
Sign up for Milkology, the Ultimate Breastfeeding Course to give you the best start you can have going into this amazing journey!
I’d love to know what your top breastfeeding tips for the first 6 weeks are. As would other new mommas, or moms-to-be! Share your knowledge to help our village grow stronger together.