Women have been giving birth for thousands of years. It’s natural and we will know what to do, right? In general, yes. Plus you have the benefit of at least two hundred doctors, nurses, and random strangers off the street gathered around your naked body telling you when and how to push.
Women have been breastfeeding for thousands of years too. So it’s also natural and we will know what to do, right? Definitely not.
Breastfeeding is hard. Although it might be natural, it certainly does not always come naturally. In fact, I found it the most challenging part of the fourth trimester.
Laugh at my mistakes, groan at my lack of knowledge, and use these six tips and suggestions to jumpstart a positive breastfeeding experience from your first day at the hospital.
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Breastfeeding in the Hospital: 6 tips for success
1. Research before delivery.
2. Stay away from bottles and pacifiers (for a while)!
3. Nurse as often as possible.
4. Limit visitors.
5. Learn how to use your breast pump.
6. Pester the lactation consultant.
Keep reading for more details about how to use these tips and leave the hospital feeling more confident about breastfeeding!
Don’t forget to leave a comment at the end with your favorite tip!
1. Research before delivery.
Throughout my pregnancy, everyone was happy to tell me their birth story, no matter how graphic, gory, or downright terrifying. The more stories that I heard, the more I knew that I had to research ways to have a more successful and less traumatic delivery.
As the months went on, I went to a birthing class with my husband. I toured the labor and delivery unit at the hospital. And I Goo
But no one told me to research breastfeeding. Heck, no one said anything about breastfeeding, other than how magical and amazing it is.
“You form the most amazing bond with your baby.”
“Nothing compares to the happiness of looking down at your peaceful baby’s face while he nurses.”
Because I only heard magical stories of how amazing breastfeeding was, I didn’t do any research on breastfeeding before delivery. I figured it would be super easy, come naturally, and be a happy, magical ending to a gross, exhausting day.
Finally the day arrived and it was time to meet our little one.
A quick overview:
Childbirth: Overall pretty straightforward.
Breastfeeding: Difficult, challenging, and frustrating!
As soon as the doctor laid Baby J on my chest, he was rooting around looking for a place to eat. The nurses asked if I was ready. Then they took one look at my confused and slightly panicked face before jumping in to get him aligned and adjusted.
From that very first time that he latched, the questions flooded out.
Did he get enough to eat? Did he get anything to eat? Is it supposed to feel that way? When should I switch sides? How do I know when he’s done? Is he seriously ready to eat again?
Yup, I was out of my league and needed to do some
Make your life easier and do your homework before that first night in the hospital. (By then you’re exhausted, cranky, and should be sleeping instead of Googling all ten thousand questions you need
Trust me, a little preparation and research will help you to feel a lot more confident AND be more successful during those first few nursing sessions.
2. Stay away from bottles and pacifiers (for a while)!
Your baby is born with the instinct to nurse. However, early exposure to bottles and pacifiers can interfere with this instinct and cause nipple confusion.
Mama bears are born with the instinct to protect their cubs. We don’t mess with that instinct.
Don’t mess with this one either!
I was a clueless first-time mom. And I thought nipple confusion was a myth made up by overly worried parents.
Wrong. Nipple confusion is legit.
According to La Leche League, after exposure to bottles or pacifiers, babies may begin to struggle, cry, have difficulties latching properly, or completely refuse to nurse. This is due to this nipple confusion. Yup, that sounds familiar.
For this reason, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and many other organizations recommend avoiding pacifier use with breastfed babies until they are at least a few weeks old.
Baby J had low blood sugar in the hospital and my milk supply hadn’t come in yet. For this reason, the doctors recommended that we feed him a bottle. My husband and I rejoiced as he ate 5, 10, or even 15 ml. He didn’t seem to mind any bottle type, pacifier, or nipple. So I breathed a sigh of relief that nipple confusion really was just a myth.
My theory proved to be wrong within a couple of days. Little people are smart and soon Baby J learned that it was much faster and easier to use a bottle than to nurse. He started to refuse the breast, crying every time we tried to latch. He would get so frustrated that he wasn’t getting the milk that he wanted.
This caused me to become stressed and frustrated and started a cycle where we both hated breastfeeding. This lasted for weeks as we tried and tried to reset things and breastfeed properly.
Don’t create this unnecessary battle for yourself.
Make it a goal to spend the first few weeks without any exposure to bottles or pacifiers. Instead, help your baby learn to latch properly and effectively while you build a good milk supply.
Once you are ready to introduce a bottle, I highly recommend that you do
*If your medical professional advises supplementing, please fully discuss this with them. If deemed necessary, ask for other methods to provide this supplementation without introducing a different nipple to your newborn.*
Nurse as often as possible.
I think I secretly enjoy making things harder and more stressful for myself.
Why not slow down milk supply? That will make those early days even more interesting and challenging.
As a new mom, I completely underestimated how often a baby needs to nurse. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to feed Baby J too often. After all, I didn’t want him to get used to eating for only a few minutes every hour or so.
After lots of moving and readjusting positions, Baby J would finally get hooked up and eat for a while. Then, based on our recommendations we would then supplement with a little formula to combat low blood sugar. Finally, he would fall asleep for the most precious hospital snuggles.
Less than an hour later, he would get fussy again. However, I was convinced that there was no way he could be hungry already.
Instead of nursing, we would talk, sing, and snuggle with him for a few minutes until he fell back into a peaceful sleep.
When your baby is born, her stomach is only the size of a marble with a maximum capacity of 5-7 ml. You don’t need to be feeding your baby several ounces (or even very many ml) of milk at a time. However, you do need to be feeding her regularly because her tiny stomach will empty frequently.
This is great for you because the more you nurse, the more milk your body will produce. Each time your breast is “emptied,” it signals your body to make more milk. Most importantly, this means that the more often you nurse, the quicker your milk will come in and the easier you can overcome any low supply challenges.
Don’t make this process harder by sticking to a rigid feeding schedule. Instead, listen to your baby’s cues.
Although feeding often might seem inconvenient, it is what’s best for you and your baby. Feeding often will also make the next phases of breastfeeding so much easier for you once your supply is established.
4. Limit Visitors
As a new mom, I had no clue what I was doing or how to breastfeed properly. And I was way too embarrassed to nurse in front of family and friends that came to visit.
It was bad enough fumbling around without additional people to see me struggle. I certainly wasn’t coordinated enough to try to latch properly AND cover
However, we had lots of family and friends that were excited to meet Baby J. And we were excited to show him off to everyone. Unfortunately for me, that meant spreading out feedings to wait until our visitors had left. And we already learned why this was a bad idea. This hurt my milk supply from day one.
You’ve got two options here.
Number 1: Be brave and nurse in front of others without a care in the world. Seriously, people know how amazing breastfeeding is. They shouldn’t be bothered by you feeding your baby the best nutrition possible. If they’re not bothered, you shouldn’t be worried either.
Number 2: Even though you know that you shouldn’t be bothered, you’re still too self-conscious to nurse in front of people. Stand your ground and limit visitors.
You NEED to breastfeed often in order to be successful. Also, you DESERVE to feel comfortable in your own hospital room. Most importantly, your baby should eat on HIS schedule, not on the schedule of all of your visitors.
Let your family and friends know a good time to stop by the hospital or when to visit you at home. Then enjoy some stress-free time alone in your hospital room.
5. Learn How to Use Your Breast Pump.
Sometimes it takes a while for your milk supply to come in. This is where a breast pump can come in handy.
There will come a time when you need to be away from your baby. Again, this is where a breast pump can come in handy (and don’t forget to teach your family and friends how to do paced bottle-feedings!).
Sometimes your baby just doesn’t want breastfeeding to work, but you are determined to give him breast milk. This is where a breast pump is absolutely vital.
Although pumps are a pain in the butt, they are seriously an amazing invention. Learn to use them properly and accept the love/hate relationship that you will have with them.
I highly recommend that all new moms purchase the best quality breast pump that they can afford before baby arrives. My personal favorite is hands-down the Spectra pump. I used tons of pumps while trying to increase my milk supply and this one gave me the exact same yield as a hospital grade pump! It’s comfortable, you can do both sides at once, AND the battery pack allows you to pump anywhere at any time.
Although I love this breast pump, all pumps can be confusing. There are lots of different pieces to connect, a bunch of different buttons and settings, and right and wrong ways to “latch” your pump.
Buy your pump before baby arrives. Click here to get the Spectra pump that I love! Whatever pump you choose, bring your personal pump to the hospital. Show it to the nurses and lactation consultant and ask questions. Learn the optimal way to use the pump and which settings will work best for you.
Because a breast pump will never be as efficient as a baby, it is important to learn how to use it optimally. Use your resources at the hospital to ensure that you get the most out of any pumping you need to do in the future.
6. Pester the Lactation Consultant!
If I had to do it all over again, I’d make one change. While breathing and pushing during those final contractions, I would holler, “Bring me the lactation consultant! I need her!!”
Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but please, please do not underutilize these amazing professionals.
These ladies are incredible and the earlier and more often you connect with them during your hospital stay, the more successful you will be.
I didn’t think to ask to meet with a lactation consultant, so I didn’t meet with one until Baby J was about 24 hours old. By this point, I was already feeling pretty overwhelmed and under-qualified.
When she came to meet with me, I was so inexperienced I still didn’t really know what to ask or how to ask it. I rattled off a few vague questions about different positions to use and tips for latching and then she went on her merry way.
I didn’t think to have her check my latch, practice positions with her in the room, or anything. Even though I was already starting to have nipple pain and lots of breastfeeding frustrations!
Although I severely underutilized this resource in the hospital, I regularly connected with lactation consultants in the next few months as we worked on successful breastfeeding. I learned so much and felt much more confident each time that I met with them.
Seriously, I can’t say it enough. Use these geniuses as much as possible!
Try to connect with the lactation consultant each time that you feed your baby to check that you are latching properly. With their guidance, test out several different positions you can use so you feel prepared and confident when you go home.
Also, don’t forget to find out ways to connect with a lactation consultant after you leave the hospital. You never know what questions will arise after you leave.
Although breastfeeding can have many frustrations and challenges, I hope you can use these tips to become more successful from day one.
What else should new moms know?
Which of these tips do you think is the most helpful? What are other suggestions new moms can use to start breastfeeding with fewer frustrations and more magic?
Please leave a comment below. I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions!