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20 Breastfeeding Hacks That Will Make Your Life Easier

From having the right supplies to surrounding yourself with supportive people, knowing these 20 breastfeeding hacks will make your breastfeeding journey just a little easier.

mother breastfeeding her baby

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Breastfeeding is a miracle. Breast milk contains all the nutrients a baby needs and is not only sufficient but the best food a young baby could have.

Breastfeeding is natural and beautiful. But it doesn’t come naturally to any of us. Getting the hang of it can be quite the roller coaster. 

While every woman’s journey with breastfeeding is going to be different, there are a few hacks that can make it a little easier. These 20 breastfeeding hacks are a conglomerate of advice I was given, resources I found, and things I figured out on my own. 

20 Breastfeeding Hacks

These hacks are in no particular order. Some are more applicable with a newborn, some apply no matter what stage of breastfeeding you’re in. All of them are super simple to implement.

Let’s begin.

1. Use nursing bras.

Maybe it goes without saying, but nursing bras are going to be your breast friend (hehehe) while breastfeeding. The clasps allow for easy access without having to shimmy your bra strap down off your shoulder.

You could also opt for simple cup-less bras with an elastic band in which case it would just pull it up and out of the way. This kind won’t provide much support, though, so they’ll probably be more of an at-home thing.

2. Use a burp cloth or nursing pad to keep your bra dry.

Whether your supply is still adjusting and you leak everywhere while feeding or your baby lets go in the middle of the let down, it’s nifty to have something tucked in your bra to keep things dry.

After undoing the clasp and folding the cup of your nursing bra down, tuck a nursing pad or a burp cloth inside the cup, under your breast, and fold it over so it covers the inside of the cup of your bra. This way any drips will be caught and you won’t have a wet bra for the rest of the day.

3. Have an in-house helper for at least a few weeks.

In those first few weeks postpartum, you’re likely not going to want to do anything except take care of your baby and sleep. Not only that, but breastfeeding is likely going to go better if you have someone supporting you. 

Encouragement will be helpful. But your helper (whether it be your spouse, your mom, or someone else) will also be the one to take care of other tasks that need to be done so you don’t have to worry about it.

Figuring out breastfeeding is challenging enough. Make it easier for yourself by making sure you always have someone around to get you what you need or tidy the house so you don’t go crazy.

4. Save IBC’s breastfeeding videos to your phone’s browser.

Someone sent me the link to IBC’s (International Breastfeeding Center) breastfeeding videos when I was learning to breastfeed my first baby.

The videos and the written descriptions were helpful in knowing what I should be looking for as far as a good latch and good drinking. They also share some good tips for how to help your baby latch better and drink deeper.

Save the link to your browser favorites or your home screen for easy access whenever you need it for reference.

5. Offer your baby a “nipple sandwich.”

In the first weeks of breastfeeding, when your baby is very small and still learning to latch, you can use a “nipple sandwich” to make it easier for them to get a good latch.

With the hand that isn’t supporting your baby, make a C shape. Grab your breast (thumb on top, fingers on bottom) and squeeze gently, so your breast forms a sort of ledge with your nipple in the middle. Hold that shape and offer your breast to your baby. 

The thin ledge is easier for your baby to get his or her small mouth around than a full breast.

Once your baby is latched, you can let go.

6. Use hand expression and spoon feeding if your nipples need a break.

My first baby breastfed right after she was born and it went well. But the next time we tried, a few hours later, it was incredibly painful for me. She wasn’t latching well and my nipples weren’t used to breastfeeding yet. 

Gratefully, my La Leche League leader (more on that later), sent me a video about spoon feeding breast milk to a baby. For that first night, I hand expressed colostrum into a small spoon and my husband helped me feed that to our baby instead of feeding at the breast.

7. Use nipple shields for a little while.

At the beginning, if this is your first time breastfeeding, your nipples will probably be sore and feeding might hurt a little. While pain isn’t normal, an adjustment period is. For me (and a lot of women), nipples shields were the solution.

Nipple shields are like thin silicone bottle tops – nipples that go over your nipples. They have holes in the tips to allow milk to come through but they protect your breasts from poor latching and give them time to get used to breastfeeding without direct contact. 

It’s not recommended to use them for long periods of time (so you don’t become dependent on them). But using them for a few days, even weeks in some cases, won’t be a problem. If it’s the only way you can breastfeed for a little while, it’s worth it.

8. Use nipple cream.

Even if your nipples aren’t hurting, use nipple cream every time after you breastfeed, at least at the beginning. A good natural healing salve will do wonders for keeping your nipples healthy and happy. 

Just make sure to get one with all natural ingredients so you don’t have to worry about wiping it off before feeding your baby again.

9. Touch your baby’s face to get them to turn toward your breast. 

If your baby isn’t facing your breast when you sit down to feed, touch his or her lips or cheek to get them to turn toward you. This touch helps activate a newborn’s rooting reflex so they can find the breast and eat.

10. Tickle your baby gently to keep him or her awake.

If your newborn is falling asleep while eating, try gently rubbing their jawline or tickling their feet to help them stay awake. While it’s okay to let them breastfeed to sleep, you want to make sure they get a full feed first.

11. Change your baby’s diaper to wake them up before a feed.

Alternatively, you can change a baby’s diaper before sitting down to feed. If they are just waking up, it may help them be fully awake instead of drifting right back off to sleep while eating.

Depending on the time of day, this may not always be the most feasible option but it can help.

RELATED >> 29 Diaper Changing Hacks You’ll Wish You’d Known Sooner

12. Guide your baby’s head with your hand while he or she is learning to latch.

While your baby is still young and learning how to latch properly, don’t just support their back and bring them toward your breast. Instead, put your hand on their neck and guide their head toward your nipple.

Don’t press on the back of their head, but support it. Keeping your hand on their neck more than their head allows them to touch your breast with their chin and lower lip first, which will achieve a better latch.

Once he or she is latched on, you can remove your hand and use your arm to support their body.

Note: This is sometimes called a “cross-cradle” position.

13. Relax and enjoy your time breastfeeding. 

Though breastfeeding can be challenging and can be time-consuming at first, try to relax. Not only will relaxing help your milk to flow better, but it will also make feeding more enjoyable for you. 

Breastfeeding sessions can be great opportunities to connect with your baby. Make eye contact, smile, and play with them.

You can also use breastfeeding as a moment to take a break. It could become a cherished time of slowing down in the middle of busy days. Listen to a book or do something else you enjoy. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to feel like a chore.

14. Pay attention to hunger cues (for the first few months).

A newborn baby knows how to tell you that he or she is hungry. There are a few clear hunger cues you can learn to look for so you can know your newborn is hungry before they start crying.

These hunger cues include:

  • Putting fists in or near mouth,
  • Turning their head toward your chest or bobbing it against your shoulder (also called rooting),
  • Acting more alert and restless,
  • Sucking on their hands or smacking their lips, and
  • Opening and closing their mouth.

If your newborn is doing any of these things, it’s time to feed them. Crying is a baby’s last resort when you don’t pick on these signs. (And it’s much easier to feed a calm baby than a crying one.)

Keep in mind that babies older than 4 or 5 months will likely stop showing these signs of hunger. That’s normal.

They learn other ways of showing you they’re hungry (like getting excited when they see food or pointing at you or your food). Plus, you, as their mother, will likely get better at understanding their needs without such clear signs.

15. Always have water nearby while breastfeeding.

Almost nothing makes you thirstier than breastfeeding. Many times, I’ve sat down to breastfeed and instantly felt parched. A lot of the water you take in is being used to make breast milk, so it’s extra important that you stay hydrated.

Try to drink water throughout the day, but also be sure to keep a water bottle near your nursing chair so you can reach it when you want it.

16. Buy some smocked-top dresses.

This is one of my favorite breastfeeding hacks. If you wear dresses regularly, you’re going to want some nursing dresses. Unfortunately, the (affordable) options are limited and aren’t always the most stylish.

A few months into breastfeeding my first baby, I got one of those stretchy smocked-top dresses and realized that it was the perfect breastfeeding dress! It didn’t look like a breastfeeding dress, which I liked, but the neckline was stretchy enough to pull down out of the way.

If you’re not a fan of typical nursing dresses, you’ve got to get yourself a smocked-top dress. (Just make sure it’s not the kind with a fake neckline that isn’t stretchy.)

17. Hang a string in your laundry room or over your laundry baskets.

If you use reusable nursing pads but don’t want to wash them every day, hang a string or two in your laundry room or somewhere out of the way. You can use the string like a clothesline to let your used nursing pads dry out instead of letting the milk get sour and yucky.

18. Participate in La Leche League meetings.

La Leche League (LLL) is an international organization with the sole purpose of supporting breastfeeding women. Along with providing lots of good information on their website and in their well-known book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, LLL holds free monthly meetings all over the world for women who want live support.

Many LLL meetings are now held over video call so you don’t even have to leave your house. One or two LLL leaders (women who have experience breastfeeding) lead the discussion and answer any and all questions that women bring to the meeting. 

You can learn from women who have lots of experience (the leaders) as well as benefit from listening to women who are at the same stages and having the same struggles that you are.

A positive support group is HUGE when learning to breastfeed. It can make all the difference. LLL is one way to get that support. 

Plus, most LLL leaders will give you their cell number so you can text them in between meetings for support. I texted my LLL leader several times and she checked in on me repeatedly. 

19. Try different breastfeeding positions.

While the cradle position is the most common, you can choose to breastfeed in many different positions. Trying several is a good idea at the beginning so you can find what works best for you and your baby.

The most common positions are:

  • Cradle, 
  • Cross-cradle, 
  • Side-lying, 
  • Laid-back, and 
  • Clutch.

You can learn more about each and see pictures in this blog post.

I used the cross-cradle position most at the beginning and now use the cradle position almost exclusively. That’s what works best for me and my baby.

20. Use breast shells.

Last but certainly not least, use breast shells. Breast shells are plastic cups with silicone backs that fit over your nipples and are used for catching breast milk.

You can wear them in between feeds if you leak a lot (like in the first few weeks). Even better, you can use them during feeds on the side your baby isn’t on. You’ll save a lot of milk this way, which means you can have a freezer stash even without pumping!

You’ve Got This, Mama!

So there they are: 20 breastfeeding hacks. I hope they make your life easier. And I hope you feel more confident and ready to continue on your journey with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding isn’t always easy but it is SO worth it, for you and your baby. If you’re curious about all the benefits of breastfeeding, check out Breastfeeding vs. Formula: 25 Benefits of Breastfeeding.

Most of all, don’t give up, mama! It gets better, I promise. Find your support people and use these hacks to make breastfeeding a little easier for yourself. You’ve got this!

Until next time,

Allison

READ MORE:

10 Tips for Successful Breastfeeding

9 Cool Facts About Breastfeeding and Breast Milk

18 Must-Have Breastfeeding Supplies

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