A Lactation Nurse Shares Best Tips for Successful Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can come with an extreme learning curve and intense pressure – literally and figuratively. Here are some of the best tips to finding success with nursing.

If you choose to breastfeed your baby, you should consider some important things to give yourself the best chance of having success. Keep in mind that no matter how your breastfeeding journey plays out, you are an incredible mom.

How do I get breastfeeding off to a successful start?

For the highest chances of success at breastfeeding, the evidence-based best practice supports immediate, uninterrupted, skin-to-skin contact until the completion of the first feeding. That’s what hospital organizations’ policies and procedures should support, too, but they don’t always.

Before delivery, discuss your expectations with your care team. Your nurse should be your advocate and respect your wishes, but there are times you may need to be assertive and advocate for yourself. Learn more about self-advocacy during pregnancy here.

new mom nursing infant in hospital

When will my milk “come in”? 

It takes about three to five days for breastmilk to start coming in and transitioning.

Colostrum is the term used to describe your breast milk right after birth, and some women will experience leaking of colostrum during pregnancy. Then, there’s a transitional phase from colostrum to mature milk during the first two weeks after birth. There’s also more fat and a high level of lactose in transitional milk than colostrum.

I want to clarify that there aren’t three different types of breastmilk. But there are three distinct stages to breast milk: 

  1. Colostrum
  2. Transitional milk
  3. Mature milk

The primary ingredient is the same. But your milk will change and is fine-tuned to the demands of your baby. During the transitional stage, your milk production will increase. 

How much milk will I produce?

On the first day of life, you may only produce five to ten mL with each feeding, and your baby’s stomach is only able to hold about five to six mL at each feed. As your baby’s belly grows, so does your milk production.

By the end of the first week, your baby’s stomach is about the size of an egg. Around two weeks after delivery, you’ll be producing about 600 to 700 ml over a period of 24 hours. 

How relieve engorged breasts? 

Engorgement is not a good thing. When you have engorgement, you have breast tissue compression, which leads to breast milk suppression. There are a few tips to help combat engorgement:

  • Use a NSAID like Motrin (per your provider)
  • Feed on cue or on baby’s demand
  • Heat your breasts before feeding for 5-10 minutes
  • Use cold therapy after feeding for 10 minutes
  • Use a suction-based pump (like this one) to relieve pressure

*If engorgement lasts more than 48 hours, see a Lactation consultant. 

new mom breastfeeding in bed

What’s the best tip for having a good milk supply? 

To achieve an optimal milk supply, feed your baby on cue instead of a pre-set schedule. This does not mean you can’t have a routine. Routine is different from a schedule.

During the initiation phase of breastfeeding, which is the first two weeks, it’s essential to feed on cue. I don’t even like to give a range of how often to nurse, as people can take the suggestion as a scheduled feeding plan.

Your baby, and your breasts, need feedings at least eight times in 24 hours. The feeds might be every 2 hours, 1.5 hours, 3.5 hours. Your baby will feed the most efficiently and effectively when your feeding on cue. That means your baby will feed the fastest, get the fullest, and sleep the longest when you’re feeding on demand. 

How do I breastfeed when I go back to work? 

If you’re returning to work and trying to figure out how to incorporate a pumping schedule into your regular breastfeeding routine, I’d encourage you to reach out to a lactation consultant.

You’ll want to make sure you’re pumping each time your baby is getting a bottle. If your baby is getting three bottles while you’re away, you should pump three times. It’s ideal to pump around when your baby is getting a bottle, but it isn’t going to be detrimental to your supply if you cannot align your pumpings with bottle feedings.

What’s most important is that you make sure you’re pumping the same amount of times he’s taking a bottle.

More breastfeeding resources

Hillary Sadler
Hillary Sadler

MSN, RNC-OB, CLC

As a Labor & Delivery, Newborn, and Lactation nurse, I’ve seen parents struggle through the newborn and postpartum period. I founded Baby Settler to support parents in their unique parenting journey on all things baby, sleep, and feeding-related.

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