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4 experts on the 1 piece of breastfeeding advice new moms need to know

You’ve just given birth and now there’s one more thing to add to your list of firsts: breastfeeding. Even if you planned to nurse from the moment the pregnancy test was positive, the learning curve can feel steep and the pool of breastfeeding resources can feel shallow.

Whether you’re in the stage of preparing to breastfeed when baby arrives or already boob-deep in the highs and lows, know that it’s natural to have concerns about nursing.

To help, we reached out to a panel of experts for the one biggest piece of advice they have for new breastfeeding moms.

Seek support early and often

Carrie Bruno, registered nurse, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and founder of The Mama Coach: Bruno says the pressure on new moms to successfully breastfeed can actually be detrimental. According to her, the idea that breastfeeding is easy is simply not true—although it can eventually be if a mom has support. She wants new moms to understand that it’s okay to ask for help, even before the baby comes.

“I describe the initial two to three weeks of a breastfeeding journey to be a rollercoaster ride,” Bruno tells Motherly. “She will have a great feed where she thinks it's not a problem and the very next feed could leave her in tears.”

This can be compounded when a mom doesn’t know where to find resources. Bruno says to do some homework before baby arrives, such as finding out where there is a local breastfeeding clinic or which lactations consultants are available. Bruno says, “Finding this info before she has the baby can decrease the stress postpartum and help her get support sooner.”

Get help if it’s painful

Diana Spalding, midwife and Motherly's Birth Editor: Spalding advises all new moms to seek support from partners, lactation consultants, pediatricians and people in their villages. She says, “Please know that you are not alone. Be gentle with yourself and know that no matter what, you are doing an amazing job.”

Spalding adds breastfeeding should never be painful for moms, so a medical professional should be alerted if it is. According to Spalding, as many as one in 10 babies has a tongue or lip tie and this can be reason for painful feeds.

“Adjusting to breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at first for the nipples, but it should never hurt—severe pain is usually an indication that something is up, and it's often latch related,” she says. “If the baby can't get a deep enough latch, they end up kind of chomping down on the tip of the nipple, which really hurts.”

She notes many moms report that having a tie corrected isn’t an immediate fix, but it does ultimately help.

Prioritize establishing a good latch

CJ Blennerhassett. Registered Midwife: Another experienced midwife, Blennerhassett says the single biggest technical tip she offers to new nursers is simple: Focus on getting a deep latch—which looks like getting “a ton of tissue in the baby’s mouth.”

Once baby has a good mouthful of boob, families may start to focus on some of the emotional challenges around breastfeeding. According to Blennerhasset, while couples often imagine sharing the baby duties equally, in reality the nursing parent will be doing the majority of work involved in the feeding.

That can be hard for either partner when they realize the balance isn’t quite what they’d imagined, but accepting reality and accepting help with other baby duties can help both parents feel more involved.

“Partners and members can find other ways to support that workload,” Blennerhasset says. “That’s okay.”

Trust your instincts

Meg Nagle, aka The Milk Meg, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant: A mom of three and La Leche League leader turned well-known lactation consultant, Nagle says moms need to trust their instincts—whether they’re breastfeeding their first baby or ninth. If you’re in pain or struggling, it doesn’t matter if someone tells you the latch looks good. If it’s not working for you, it’s not working.

“It’s really important that we’re assessing a breastfeed on how it’s feeling and whether or not the baby’s gaining weight and is content—not how the latch is looking,” Nagle says. “If you are going to seek someone’s help—if that’s a lactation consultant or a doctor or whoever—it’s so important that you’re seeing someone who is listening to you and really taking into consideration your feeling and your insight as well.”

If you are struggling with a nursing challenge, don’t be hard on yourself. Breastfeeding worries are as common as breastfeeding itself—but also often surmountable with guidance. Check out local breastfeeding groups and don’t be afraid to say when it’s hard.

Like anyone trying something for the first time, you (and baby) may need a bit of practice.

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.

The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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