Whether you choose to nurse for two months, are preparing to breastfeed for two years, or using formula, it's an important decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. First, know that whatever you decide is totally fine. We're here to support your entire journey.
We tapped a few experts who know the breastfeeding ropes and are happy to share bits of advice. Here's what they had to say:
On increasing your milk supply
1. The exact number of fluid intake may vary per individual, but you should aim to have at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
2. Anecdotally, some women find that lactation cookies help—and even if they don't, they are delicious cookies, so yay! You can bake some at home and modify the ingredients to your liking (ie. add more chocolate chip!) or buy pre-made cookies.
3. Galactogogues like Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle and Brewer's Yeast are supplements that can help with your milk supply. These herbs can be taken separately or in a combo formulation. Fenugreek can have mixed results when taken by itself. For some women, it really helps, but for others it may not make a difference or even reduce supply. Find what works for you.
4. Breastfeeding moms need an extra 500 calories per day. Choose nutritious food that give you energy, such as protein-rich foods like oatmeal, adding flaxseed meal or brewer's yeast to smoothies or yogurt, eggs, and veggies.
5. The AAP recommends calcium, vitamin D, iron, folic acid as important vitamins and minerals for breastfeeding moms.
6. Nursing babies do not follow a schedule, they set it. So, try to go with the (milk) flow and follow your boss baby's cues, especially when your baby is still a newborn. Lactation consultants often recommend feeding on demand, which means that every time your baby is hungry, you feed them.
On taking medication
7. The commonly used acetaminophen and ibuprofen are generally considered safe to take while breastfeeding. Medications are said to be "lipophilic" when they have a tendency to concentrate in fat. Because breast milk contains a high proportion of fat, it will also contain a high proportion of a drug that dissolves in fat. Therefore, fat-soluble medications are often prescribed with caution.
8. Medications prescribed for anxiety and depression are lipophilic and have relatively long half-lives, meaning that they both dissolve in fat and take longer to metabolize. Although the infant exposure to these medicines through breast milk is still relatively low, there have not been long-term studies of this exposure, so women who need these drugs may be discouraged from breastfeeding.
Stephanie Loomis Pappas is a professor turned stay-at-home parent committed to debunking all of the bad parenting advice on the internet.
On alcohol and breastfeeding
10. A study found that babies slept less in the hours after consuming breastmilk with alcohol in it.
11. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the ingestion of alcoholic beverages should be minimized and limited to an occasional intake [which is approximately] 2 oz liquor, 8 oz wine, or two beers.
Diana is Motherly's digital education editor. She is a midwife, pediatric nurse and founder of Gathered Birth.
On what position to breastfeed in
12. The cross-cradle position is the standard, go-to nursing position that most lactation consultants will start you on. It's good for first-time nursers, when you're in bed, on a chair and in public places.
Katie Brooker is an avid multi-tasker. Apart from being the head designer and fit technician for Cake Maternity, she's the mother of two young girls.
13. It's essential that you're aware of what to realistically expect of you in those first few days, weeks and months. You can do this by talking to mamas who are breastfeeding. Find a friend who is nursing, a local La Leche League, or a breastfeeding support group—and attend a meeting prenatally or have conversations around what to expect.
On preparing for the breastfeeding journey14. There probably won't be a nursing pillow in the hospital, so you may want to bring one.
15. I recommend hydrating your nipples with olive oil. Just like you would use hand cream to protect your hands, the more supple your nipple, the less likely they are to crack and bleed.
16. In the first three days of life, your baby loses weight, and can't eat a lot because their gut is the size of walnut. In those first few days, your baby can nurse as much as 12 times a day. Since they're not taking much in, they don't need as much time on the breast—eight to 10 minutes per breast is enough.
17. In those first three days, baby should be doing eight to 10 minutes on each breast. Once your milk comes in (around day two to four), it should be 10-15 minutes on both sides, and one or two times a day, 10-20 minutes each breast. Babies should be able to drain a breast in an appropriate period of time.
18. You know you have a proper latch when your nipple goes deep in the mouth and comes out of the mouth round. During a great latch you should also have minimal to no discomfort and you should see your baby sucking. Latching is not just the mother's responsibility; it is also the baby's responsibility.
19. If your baby is nursing well during the first few days, don't pump. Milk is supply and demand. If you pump too early, you might overproduce.
On traveling and breastfeeding
20. When traveling, don't forget your road trips snacks. Nursing moms need extra calories, so pack water bottles and healthy snacks to keep your energy—and patience—up.
21. If you're on a road trip and using bottles and nipples to feed your expressed breast milk, it's always helpful to pack one to two more than you think you need.
22. If you're on a flight, breastfeed at take-off and landing. Swallowing helps babies adjust to the change in air pressure.Molly Petersen Molly began her Lansinoh career assisting customers with product questions, and was inspired to become a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) when she realized that many questions were more about breastfeeding than products.
On nutrition and breastfeeding
On those hard breastfeeding days
25. Sometimes breastfeeding problems can be solved by going back to basics. If your nipples hurt, try to change position, shape and hold your breasts, or unlatch and start again. If you aren't making enough milk, try nursing more frequently.
26. Breastfeeding boils down to three things: Trust biology, your body, and your baby.
27. Even when you get there, know that it is normal to have rough days as your baby gets older. Teething, growth spurts, and other fussy phases can all drive a nursing mother mad! We have all been there. You have the right to complain. You have the right to vent. It's all part of the cycle of life you are in with your baby, and with breastfeeding.
28. Whether or not you breastfed or were breastfed matters in many ways, and in many ways it doesn't matter at all.
29. All mothers have a right to feel whatever they feel about how breastfeeding went for them. All feelings are normal. All feelings are real.
30. How much you pump doesn't always reflect how much milk your baby takes at your breast. Most babies take more than the pump extracts; some take less.
31. You should breastfeed for as long or as short a time as you want. It is entirely up to you (and your baby).
On what is normal… and what is not
33. Lactation cookies and herbs can really help with your supply, but they are only helpful if combined with other treatments for remedying supply issues like lactation teas.
34. Tongue ties can impact breastfeeding. Tongues that are tied down can't milk the breast properly (leading to low weight gain) and can cause a lot of pain.
35. It's normal for newborns to never want to be put down. Ever. And it's normal for them to nurse all the time, sometimes more than once an hour. Really.
36. Almost all moms will make enough milk if they nurse often enough, but for a small number of moms, this isn't the case. Low milk supply is a real thing, and if you have it, you deserve good, kind, thoughtful help.
37. We need to make breastfeeding normal. Teach kids breastfeeding positioning, behavior and more.
38. After the first few hours, babies often fall into a deep sleep and are less able to nurse well. There is also evidence that nursing in the first few hours leads to long nursing duration in the long-term. Babies are learning as soon as they are born, so give them the chance to learn to nurse.
On general breastfeeding tips + tricks
39. When you're at the hospital after the birth of your child, give your baby no artificial nipples—no bottles or pacifiers.
Wendy Wisner is an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and breastfeeding writer.
40. Set small goals and reach out to your support team when you are having a hard time. Breastfeeding can have its ups and downs...and so can parenting! Find people who will be that listening ear and supportive sounding board that we all need.
41. I think one of the biggest factors in mothers reaching their breastfeeding goals is confidence.
42. Prenatal education is important. We all have a mother's intuition inside of us, but having reliable information and options helps us to create the confidence to tap into that mother's intuition more readily.
Lindsey Shipley is a registered nurse and owner of Lactation Link LLC
On trusting your intuition
43. Trust your instincts! So often I hear new mothers say, 'I'm just a first time mother so I'm not sure...' If there was one thing I wish for every new mother it's to realize that you know more than you think."
44. You will know if breastfeeding is not working. You will know if your baby is unsettled or something just isn't right. If you suspect something is going on, please seek help from an IBCLC who listens to you, respects your instincts and feelings and helps form a plan for you to reach your breastfeeding goals.
Meg Nagle is an IBCLC and author of Boobin' All Day...Boobin' All Night. A Gentle Approach To Sleep For Breastfeeding Families
45 . Your breastfeeding journey doesn't have to be all or nothing to be successful, it isn't a pass/fail event.
Jessica Martin-Weber, founder of The Leaky Boob
46. Most progressive NICUs will prioritize breast milk and breastfeeding. But there's still the misconception that premature and other babies in intensive care can't breastfeed so read on the topic and be prepared to advocate for yourself and your baby.
On breastfeeding with twins
47. Tandem breastfeeding means breastfeeding your babies simultaneously (one on each breast), which may actually buy you some time to rest and take care of yourself between feeding multiples! For most new parents of twins, this requires latching one baby on first and having someone else position the other baby on the opposite breast. If tandem is not working for you in the beginning, that's ok. Practice really does make perfect. So take the time to work on the latch individually with each baby; and once individual latching and feeding is feeling easier, try tandem nursing again (somewhere in the 2- to 6-week mark).
48. One of the biggest concerns for twin parents is getting a milk supply big enough for two. To do that, our breasts require frequent, regular stimulation to make the right amount of milk for our babies. So if you can, initiate breastfeeding within the hour and allow the twins (either one or both) to suckle at your breasts whenever they show signs of hunger.
49. Expert support can really make a difference when it comes to feeding twins. A lactation consultant who's versed in breastfeeding multiples will give you all the tools you need to find the right nursing position, to help you make enough milk for both babies and to ultimately succeed in your breastfeeding journey.
50. If you can, keep your babies very close to you at all times as you are learning to breastfeed and building milk supply. At home, you can use a co-sleeper or nearby bassinet so you can hear and respond to your babies' feeding cues as quickly as possible.