Breastfeeding helps you provide your baby with essential nutrients, protective antibodies, and quality bonding time.1 But many moms experience a learning curve at first. If you plan on nursing your newborn, these breastfeeding tips will help you navigate any questions and challenges along the way.
1. Get expert advice.
If you’re breastfeeding for the first time, you may have a lot of questions: How do you get a good latch? How often should you feed? How can you tell if your baby is getting enough milk?
For expert advice and breastfeeding tips, talk to your OB/GYN, sign up for a breastfeeding class, or set up a session with a lactation consultant. The more information you have about breastfeeding, the more prepared and confident you’ll feel when your baby arrives—and that can help set you up for success.
2. Follow your baby’s cues.
Newborns should be fed on demand. So what’s the best way to tell if your baby is hungry?
Experts caution that crying is often a late feeding cue—and once your baby is feeling fussy, it may be more difficult to get a good latch.2
Instead, watch for these signs that your baby is ready to eat:3
- Increased alertness and activity
- Opening their mouth or puckering their lips
- Placing their hands in their mouth
- Turning their head towards your hand if you stroke their cheek
Every baby's feeding patterns will be different, and those patterns will change as your baby grows, so watch for these cues rather than trying to follow a rigid schedule.
3. Pay attention to your own eating habits.
What you eat while breastfeeding will help to support your baby’s development, so it’s important to follow a balanced diet that includes plenty of nutrient-dense foods.
Some of the most beneficial foods for breastfeeding include:
- eggs for choline
- leafy greens for B vitamins
- beans for iron
- healthy fats such as salmon, avocado, and whole fat Greek yogurt
Keep in mind you’ll need an additional 330 to 400 calories per day above your typical pre-pregnancy intake.4 The USDA’s Dietary Reference Intake Calculator can help you determine how many calories you need while breastfeeding based on your age, height, weight, baby’s age, and activity level.
4. Take a multivitamin.
Optimal nutrition won’t always be in the cards, especially when you’re dealing with new mom fatigue. That’s why experts recommend a daily multivitamin for mom to ensure you’re getting the RDA of the vitamins and minerals you and your baby need most.
So what should breastfeeding moms look for in a multivitamin? Our Mom Multi Support Pack, which was formulated by an OB/GYN to support breastfeeding moms, includes:
- A full-spectrum multivitamin with key nutrients including folate, choline, iodine, selenium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and D
- Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA + EPA) to support your mood and benefit your baby’s development
- Collagen to support skin elasticity and biotin for healthy skin, hair, and nails
- Ashwagandha and L-Theanine to help maintain emotional balance
5. Limit toxins
Along with all those nutrients and antibodies, certain harmful substances can also be passed to your baby through breastmilk — so it’s important to maintain your non-toxic pregnancy habits as much as possible postpartum.
Here are a few things to limit while breastfeeding:
- The chemicals in cigarettes, including nicotine, can be passed to your baby through breastmilk.5
- Excessive alcohol consumption may affect your baby’s development, but moderate consumption—up to one drink per day—isn’t known to be harmful.6 A good rule of thumb is to wait two hours per drink before nursing your baby.7 (So, if you’ve had more than a drink or two, you may need to tap into your stash of stored milk.)
- High-mercury fish. The CDC recommends avoiding fish with the highest mercury levels while breastfeeding.
- Caffeine is considered safe while breastfeeding, but aim to limit your intake to 300 mg per day (2 to 3 cups of coffee).8
6. Get the right gear.
Technically speaking, you don’t need any equipment to breastfeed. However, there are a few items that can make breastfeeding more convenient and comfortable for you and your baby.
Consider adding these items to your baby registry:
- Nursing bras. Nursing bras are stretchy and supportive, with “flaps” in the cup that can be easily unclipped, folded, or moved aside for feedings.
- Nursing pads. These pads are worn inside your bra to absorb milk that may leak between feedings.
- Breast pump and storage bags. If you’ll be away for an extended period — like a full workday or an overnight trip — you can use a these to save your milk for later use. A breast pump can also help to relieve engorged breasts or plugged milk ducts.9
- Breastfeeding pillow. These small, supportive pillows position your baby closer to your breast and can help you minimize arm, neck, and back strain.
7. Vary your holds.
The classic cradle hold may be what comes to mind first when you think of breastfeeding. But after a bit of trial and error, you may find that a different position—like the cross-cradle, football, or side-lying hold—feels more comfortable to you.
The Mayo Clinic offers an illustrated list of breastfeeding positions with clear instructions so you can find the hold that works best for you and your baby.
8. Ask for help if needed.
Breastfeeding may not always go perfectly smoothly. You may experience latching issues, cracked nipples, clogged ducts, or an infection like thrush or mastitis. If you’re noticing any unpleasant symptoms, or you’re worried about your milk supply, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor with your concerns.
9. Wean gradually.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life, followed by continued breastfeeding for a year (or longer, if you choose) as you introduce solid foods.10
Of course, ultimately fed is best, whether it's formula or breastmilk, and you should choose what feels right for you and your family: exclusively breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a combination of the two.
Keep in mind when you begin weaning, you may experience mood changes such as sadness, anxiety, guilt, or difficulty concentrating. Chalk this up to the strong connection between hormones and breastfeeding—namely, the “feel-good” hormones oxytocin and prolactin, which your body produces while breastfeeding.
As these hormone levels start to drop, you may notice a shift in your mood which may last up to three months. (If it lasts longer, or feels unmanageable, talk to your doctor.) Weaning slowly—ideally by dropping one feeding per week—can help to ease this transition.
Get more stories from real moms about their breastfeeding experience now. Plus, shop breastfeeding-safe vitamins formulated for moms postpartum now.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.