Breastfeeding 101

One of the most intense parts of motherhood so far has been breast feeding. It has given me the most beautiful moments and the most difficult over the last few weeks. While it is the most natural thing in the world, it’s something that has to be learned by both mama and baby, and it’s definitely not always easy.

Today I’m sharing some tips that I’ve learned along the way and the essentials that have helped us over the past four weeks. I’m obviously no expert, but the learning curve is quick and I know more about it now than I ever thought possible. I’m sure I’ll learn so much more over the coming months. In the meantime, I hope this helps any new moms and mamas-to-be!

Tips from a breastfeeding mom

Stay calm: The most important piece of the puzzle in getting Amalia to get a full feed without getting frustrated is for me to stay calm.  Calm mama = calmer baby in my experience. I try to let go of any outside stress while feeding her, and

Try music: Even if you’re as chill as the Dalai Lama, sometimes babies are fussy, and that’s ok! I’ve found a few tricks that have helped us. One is to sing or play calming music. The second I put on James Taylor, Amalia calms right down. I listened to him a lot while pregnant and I think she must have hear it. It’s pretty cute.

Swaddle: We try to keep her unswaddled while she’s having “awake time” during the day, but sometimes she won’t calm down unless she’s swaddled. We love these swaddles and have four of them. It’s all we use! She never liked stage 1 so we went right to stage 2 (in small/medium) FYI. The one time she had trouble latching (more on that below), Anel had the idea to swaddle her for her feeding and it worked within a matter of seconds.

Take a break: Sometimes when she gets stressed out, she just needs a break for a few minutes. I’ll hold her up and burp her or just sit with her until she calms down. It works most of the time.

Always get a burp: I burp her between breasts and after each feeding. Sometimes nothing comes out, but most of the time we get a good one. If she goes down for a nap without a burp, she’s more likely to spit up and be fussy later. It’s worth it to be patient and burp her for 5-10 minutes after each feeding.

Stay hydrated: You need to be extra hydrated while breastfeeding, so I aim to drink 8-10 oz during every feed and then another big glass in between each feed.

Check your posture: It’s really easy to hunch your shoulders and look down at your sweet baby for an entire hour while she eats, but you’ll kick yourself later when your neck and shoulders start to hurt! Anel always tells me to sit up as straight possible and look straight ahead for at least a portion of the feed. It’s impossible to do for the whole time because she’s so stinkin’ cute and I have to stare.

Stick to a schedule: I’m going to talk more about this in a full dedicated post, but we’ve been using On Becoming Babywise for Amalia’s eating and sleeping schedule and it’s worked so well for us. I realize this isn’t for every family, but it has given a little bit of structure to an otherwise chaotic time which keeps everyone calm, and it’s also gotten her to eat and sleep really well! I truly cannot recommend this book enough. Whenever something new happens (like cluster feeding or gas), I reference it for answers from two doctors who really know their stuff.

Ask for help: The first week was really hard for us. I was in a ton of pain, to the point where I would cry every time I fed her. We finally called a lactation consultant and after only a few minutes of her being with us and fixing Amalia’s latch, I was pain free. I couldn’t believe it!

Pump: As soon as I was able to pump (at around day 9 when I started getting less sore), I did after most feedings. It helped with my milk supply and also allowed me to have some freedom if I wanted a longer nap during the day or if I needed to leave the house for longer than an hour. Pumping is super annoying but it has been worth it for me in the long run.

Breastfeeding Essentials

Boppy: For the first few days, it was hard to hold the baby up and feed her comfortably. The whole situation was new and awkward and the Boppy pillow was a big help. I still use it most of the time, but can nurse like a pro without it now if I need to. We have this cute cover that has polka dots on one side and stripes on the other.

Nipple Butter: Whenever I used to see this on my friends’ registries, I’d giggle. Like WTF is nipple butter anyway? Trust, you need it. Especially at the very beginning. I use the Earth Mama Angel Baby one and it saves me from pain on a daily basis. My recommendation is to apply it after every feeding. Added bonus? It’s baby safe don’t need to wipe it off before you feed.

Burp Cloths: I had no idea how important burp cloths were and how many we’d need until after we had the baby. Amalia doesn’t have bad reflux, but she does spit up from time to time and you want something there to clean it up and to cover your clothes for when it happens. We like the Burt’s Bees organic cotton ones and this one from Monica & Andy.

Pump: We chose the Spectra S2 pump but I don’t love it for a few reasons… 1. We use Medela storage so I have to pump into Spectra bottles then move to Medela bottles, then we feed her with Chicco bottles. It’s too many steps! 2. It has to be plugged in. If you go with a Spectra pump, spend a little more on the S1. I’m kicking myself for not doing that. That being said, it’s hospital grade so does a great job at getting a lot of milk out, and it’s easy to use.  I’ve never used another pump so I really have nothing to compare it to. Sorry that’s not much help!

Pumping Bra: When I realized I could get a bra that held the pump in place, I did a little victory dance. Now I can write blog posts (Am I doing it right now? You’ll never know!) or look at Instagram while I’m pumping. Hand freedom makes a world of difference. I bought this one and I like it because it’s comfortable and attaches to all of my nursing bras.

Nursing Bras: Speaking of bras, I live in nursing bras… There is no point in putting on a regular one because it’s always half off anyway these days, ha! I like this one by Bravado (recommended by our lactaction consultant) and this sports bra by Boob Designs is my most comfortable one. I have five total because they get kind of gross (lactating is a thing) and I have to wash them after a day of wearing every time. Those two are far and away the most comfortable though.

Tumbler with Straw: This one might seem kind of random but having a glass of water with a straw is helpful. You need to be super hydrated to breast feed and the amount of thirst you feel while feeding is insane. Because you don’t have free hands, the straw is a life saver. I bought this Kate Spade monogrammed tumbler and it never leaves my side.

Organic Formula: For the times when Amalia has cluster fed (four nights so far), and I haven’t been able to produce enough milk, we’ve supplemented with this organic formula recommended by our doctor (It says it’s for toddlers, but it’s safe for infants. Obviously ask your doctor first before using it.) The first time we did it, I cried because I felt like I had failed her. But after that, I realized that her getting the nutrients and calories she needed was more important than anything else. Since then we’ve used it a few times and, as my pediatrician said, it doesn’t take away from the nutrients she’s getting from my breast milk so I try not to feel any guilt about it.

Bottles: Whether you use them for pumped milk or formula, the type of bottle you choose can make all the difference. We learned the best ones for us by trying a few. She really didn’t like the Medela bottles but drinks really well from these anti-colic Chicco bottles that have an angled slow flow nipple… There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write! But seriously, these bottles help her drink at the right pace with the least amount of gas afterwards.

Tummy Relief Drops: Sometimes I accidentally eat garlic or something that doesn’t sit well with the baby via my milk. We give her a dose of Little Remedies Tummy Relief Drops whenever she has an upset stomach, and they definitely help.

Gripe Water Drops: Amalia is an Olympian hiccuper… She has had them for over an hour on multiple occasions! We discovered gripe water and it’s been a game changer. She often stops hiccuping after one dose of this herbal remedy, it’s like magic. As always, ask your doctor about it before you give it to your baby.

Bottle Warmer: When we first got a bottle warmer, it seemed like an extra thing taking up valuable counter space in the kitchen, but it saves time in those moments when she’s starving or you need to move quickly. We have this Avent Bottle Warmer which is fast and efficient. It’s definitely not something that you need, but it’s helpful.

Bottle Sterilizer: This is another one of those random products that I thought was a waste of space and money, but it’s not that expensive and makes sterilizing our bottles, which we do every 2-3 days, so much faster. We bought this one because it got good reviews. Not much more to say about it other than it saves time instead of having to boil water.

Bottle Brush: It makes cleaning bottles so much easier. We have this one that also includes a nipple brush.

Mother’s Milk Tea: This helps your milk supply and tastes good too! I brew a big batch every morning and sip on it cold throughout the day. I originally bought Earth Mama Angel Baby “Milkmaid” tea, but it was kind of gross, so I switched to Yogi Tea “Mother’s Milk” which I love.

Nursing Clothes: I could do a whole post on this, but it’s really helpful to have some tops (tanks, tees, and long sleeved) that give you easy access. When I have visitors like my father-in-law over, it’s nice to be a little more covered. I’ve tried a bunch (and returned a lot) of tops, and will list my favorites in a few categories:

Sweater: I wore this sweater while pregnant too and it’s still one of my top picks. I get so many compliments on it!
T-Shirt: A reader sent me this soft cotton shirt and I LOVE it. It’s a small brand, but makes a great nursing top.
Tank: I’ve been pretty much living in this tank with yoga pants lately. I’m probably going to get it in every color because in the fall I can just throw a cardigan over it.
Sweatshirt: This cozy hoodie is super soft and long enough to cover your butt. Win/win!
Fancy: For my favorite “fancier” nursing top this this one from Maia Moda that looks chic enough for a date night.

Any tips or must have products? Let me know!

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  • My baby is due September 1st and this post is just what I needed! Thank you for sharing the Baby Wise routine – so helpful. As always, really appreciate your honestly. I am buying formula – just in case and Earth Mama Angel Baby today!

    • Yay! So happy I could help. And congratulations!

  • Ann

    Wanted to weigh in on the S1, I have both the S2 and the S1 (biglaw mamma who nursed/pumped for 14 months). The S1 is super convenient since you don’t have to plug it in, but it is not as strong as the S2. I always got better pumps out of the S2 regardless of having the same settings on both – so I used the S2 on a daily basis and the S1 only as a one-off. The S1 is great to have for travel or if you have to go to an event and pump mid event – you can more easily find a place since plugs can be hard to find (or pump in your car, so glam). Also we love love loved the medela quick steam bags for sterilizing bottles and pump parts. Target also makes some that are great too. Enjoy your sweet babe!

    • Oh wow interesting. Good to know, it sounds like I made the right choice after all! That makes me feel better because I was so worried about it.

      • BSM

        Amazon also sells an external battery you can use for S2 so that you don’t have to plug it into a wall outlet. It makes it a little more mobile!

  • Sarah

    My little guy is 3 months old and we’ve loved the Kiinde system to eliminate the milk transfer you referenced. An adapter allows you to connect the Kiinde bags directly to your pump (I have the S1) and then the bags snap directly in to a bottle for feeding! You can write the date and ounces on the bags with a sharpie too!

    I also recommend the thirdlove nursing bra- it comes in half cup sizes!

    • OMG Sarah I think you just changed my life. I’m buying the Kiinde system right now. THANK YOU!! I’ll check out the Thirdlove nursing bras too 🙂

  • Veronica Horner

    Such a helpful post! I definitely feel you on the patience / calm comment. Breastfeeding takes so much longer then I ever imagined and you just can’t rush it. So happy to hear you like the Maia Moda top, it’s great to have some nicer options for going out!

  • Melissa Vincelette

    You can buy a Spectra/Medela adapter (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DGEDVUM/ref=twister_B072J8HF55?_encoding=UTF8&th=1) and then you can use all Medela parts to save you a step. Good luck and good job mama!

  • jennie lopez

    It sounds like Amalia is the dreamiest baby. So glad a schedule is working for you!

  • I am not even close to having a baby but I have loved reading all of your maternity/pregnancy posts! Now I feel like I’m super prepared, even if it is a few years early!

  • Lindsey Baker

    Check out Latched Mama for nursing clothes. A childhood friend started the company after baby #2 and has some really cute stuff! I’m due any minute (due date was 8/17) and you being just a few weeks ahead has been really helpful. Thanks, and good luck!

    • Great tip thank you! Will check them out now. Congrats by the way 🙂

  • Anne [A Squared]

    Good for you for introducing formula early! My girl EBF until 7 months and then went through a weird nursing strike and I had to supplement and it was a struggle. This will make the process easier on all of you!

    • So glad to hear you think that! I was so nervous about it at first.

  • Chelsea

    I have a quick question about the tea you are drinking to increase your milk supply. I can’t seem to find “Yogi” tea- mothers milk. I can find “Yogi” tea- nursing support. Is that the one you are drinking?
    Thank you!

    • Oh interesting! That must be a different version. I know they have a bunch of them. The one I drink is literally called “Mother’s Milk”.

  • Michaela

    You have a lot of great tips and I think it’s great that you are open to formula as an option. I would however caution you, and all parents, against the “babywise” methodology. The AAP found its practices to be dangerous – http://www.aappublications.org/content/14/4/21?sso=1&sso_redirect_count=1&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token

    • Wow that is really scary thank you for sharing! I saw our ped again today who said that as long as the baby is peeing and pooping enough and gaining weight on track (she is!), then we’re good to go. I’m sure it’s different for every baby!

      • Michaela Meyer

        I’m glad she is on track!

  • Michelle

    Can you share what your lactation consultant suggested or did to make your nursing pain free? My midwife says the latch is fine but I’m still cringing at every feed. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Michelle! So our issue is that the baby was going too far over so I had to start her with the nipple right at her bottom lip and then kind of smoosh her face right into it. It seemed scary at first but it worked so well!

  • Bre

    As the daughter of a lactation consultant and a breastfeeding mother myself, I have to add that cluster feeding is totally normal for a newborn and often the way that they take in calories and comfort themselves. The more you nurse, the more milk you’ll produce (it’s nature’s supply and demand mechanism!). Cluster feeding is one way babies increase breast milk production, and it’s an important part of establishing breastfeeding during the first month or so.