Nursing your baby is no easy feat. Luckily, we've rounded up the only breastfeeding tips you'll ever need, from the experts who've figured out the smartest tricks, shortcuts, and solutions.

By Michelle Crouch
February 17, 2015
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Credit: Uv Group/Shutterstock

Nursing may be natural, but it's also downright difficult. While 83 percent of mothers breastfeed soon after birth, only 57 percent are still nursing six months later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's a surprisingly low number considering that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months. The benefits of breastfeeding range from prevention of childhood obesity to decreased risk of infection, SIDS, and allergies.

If you decide to give breastfeeding a try, rest assured that with a little bit of patience, some smart planning, and a firm resolution, you have increased chance of success. Read on for some simple, proven tips to help you make it through those early days.

Pre-Baby Breastfeeding Prep

Line up help. "Consider meeting with a lactation consultant or another nursing expert before you have the baby. She can share tips that will help in the beginning, and you'll know whom to call if you have a problem. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, or IBCLCs, have had the most intensive training." – Dee Kassing, IBCLC, a lactation consultant in the St. Louis, Missouri, area

See the real thing. "If you have a friend who's nursing, ask if you can watch. If not, attend a La Leche League meeting or another breastfeeding support group where you can see moms feeding their babies." – Jessica Claire, IBCLC, a lactation consultant in Los Angeles

Create a space for breastfeeding. Before Baby arrives, create a "nursing station"— an area with a comfortable chair, a breastfeeding pillow, and a side table for snacks, water, nursing pads, burp cloths, your phone, and a good book. You'll spend a lot of time there!

Tell the hospital what you want. "Ask whether you can keep your baby in the room with you at all times if possible. Rooming in will help you bond with your baby, learn feeding cues, and better establish breastfeeding." – Laurie Jones, M.D., IBCLC, a pediatrician in Phoenix and founder of

Breastfeeding Tips for the Hospital

Don't wait to get help. "If the nurse in the hospital says your latch 'looks great' but it still hurts, call a lactation expert (IBCLC). If your doctor says your baby is not gaining enough weight, call. If your nipple is injured, call. If your gut says something isn't right, speak up. You can save yourself weeks and weeks of pain and trouble." – Jaye Simpson, IBCLC, lactation consultant in Sacramento, California

Try to nurse within the first hour after delivery. "Two hours later, many babies will be hard to rouse. It may seem like you're producing very little at first – maybe just a few drops of colostrum – but a 1- or 2-day-old baby's stomach is only the size of a marble." – Jenny Thomas, M.D., IBCLC, a pediatrician in Franklin, Wisconsin, and author of Dr. Jen's Guide to Breastfeeding

Enlist Dad. "If possible, your partner should be there when you meet with the lactation consultant, both in the hospital and afterward. Dads can be good problem-solvers, and you may find yourself feeling so overwhelmed and sleep-deprived that it will be hard for you to process information." – Jan Ellen Brown, IBCLC, lactation consultant in Charlotte, North Carolina, and coauthor of 25 Things Every Nursing Mother Needs to Know

Focus on those little feet. "Babies always seem to nurse better when their feet are touching something, like your leg, the arm of the chair, or a pillow tucked next to you. It makes them feel more secure." – Veronica Jacobsen, a doula and lactation counselor in Richfield, Minnesota

Avoid formula at first. "Even if you're not sure how long you'll breastfeed, go all in while you're in the hospital. Any formula that's not medically necessary can affect your milk supply." – Dr. Jones

How to Get a Deep Latch

Position yourselves nose to nipple, belly to belly. "Make sure that your baby's stomach is touching yours, so she doesn't have to turn her head to latch. And point your nipple at her nose, not at her mouth, so she'll lift her head up, open her mouth wide, and latch on deeply." – Jacobsen

Encourage a mouthful. "If you're breastfeeding sitting upright, bring your baby to your breast once his mouth is completely open. Press between his shoulders firmly to bring him to you, while you support your breast. Your nipple will fill the roof of his mouth. If it still hurts after the first few sucks, de-latch and reposition." – Brown

Don't push the back of your baby's head. "That triggers his instinct to resist and chomp down. Instead, put your hands at the nape of your baby's neck, and bring him swiftly to your breast." – Leigh Anne O'Connor, IBCLC, lactation consultant in New York City

Breastfeeding in the First Few Weeks

Don't count minutes. "You can leave your baby on the first breast until she comes off on her own and then offer the second breast. It's typical for some babies to take one breast at some feedings and both breasts at some." – Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, lactation consultant in the Chicago area and author of Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple

Avoid pacifiers at first. "The AAP recommends delaying the pacifier for the first month because it can suppress hunger cues and steal time from the breast during a critical period. After that, offering a pacifier shouldn't hurt." – Dr. Jones

Lie on your side. "It lets you rest your shoulders and lower back if you tend to hunch over, and it's good for moms who've had a C-section, who have carpal tunnel syndrome, or who are just exhausted. Put a pillow between your knees and your arm under your head, and bring the baby in facing you. Have someone help you at first." – Brown

Try a nursing stool. "It can help give you more of a lap, especially if you're short, and it takes the pressure off if you've had an episiotomy. When I watch a mother use one, I can see right away on her face how much more comfortable she is." – Brown

Offer the first bottle at 4 to 6 weeks. "If you wait until 8 weeks, you risk bottle refusal. Have someone other than you give the first one – and get out of the house so you're not tempted to help out." – Dr. Jones

Don't buy a whole nursing wardrobe. "It can be easier to just lift up your shirt. If you wear a blouse over a camisole, you'll have a lot of coverage." – Brown

Lose the snooze. "If your infant keeps falling asleep on your breast, try tickling the bottom of his feet, stroking him under the chin, or touching him with a wet washcloth." – O'Connor

Pay attention to your diet. You'll need even more calories when breastfeeding than while pregnant— about 300 more per day than in the last trimester, even more if you're exercising or have multiples. But don't go overboard; three well-balanced meals a day plus healthful snacks should cover it.

Step Up Your Milk Supply

Look at your baby, not at the scale. "I've seen so many moms whose baby looks healthy, nurses well, and meets milestones, but they've lost confidence in breastfeeding because their doctor told them that their baby's weight was not on the charts. If you received a lot of IV fluids during labor, your baby could be artificially 'heavier' at birth. If he has low weight gain, but he's smiling, his linear growth and head circumference and neurological development are notably okay, I'd get a second opinion before giving formula." – Jay Gordon, M.D., pediatrician in Santa Monica, California

Try a stronger pump. "Some hands-free pumps and the ones covered through insurance aren't as powerful as you need when you're establishing your milk supply, so you may want to rent a hospital-grade one, at least at first." – O'Connor

Don't get a used pump. "A good electric pump has a limited number of hours of motor life before the suction starts to die." – Simpson

Returning to Work While Nursing

Ease in. "Consider starting back on a Thursday rather than a Monday, so you have only two days away from your baby at first." – Claire

Understand how much milk babies actually drink. "Unlike those on formula, breast milk-fed babies need the same amount of milk per day when they're 6 months old as they did when they were 1 month old. Really! By about 1 month, a baby has established how much breast milk she'll need and you don't have to keep increasing how much she eats as she grows. But a lot of moms (and docs) are still applying formula rules to breast milk-fed babies. So remember: If you'll be pumping for the next day's feedings when you go back to work, all you really have to do is maintain your current supply." – Dr. Jones

Feed the baby, not the freezer. "You don't need to pump like a maniac on your maternity leave. You may end up with clogged ducts, mastitis, letdown that's too fast, and exhaustion. You need only a small reserve." – Dr. Jones

Pump Up Your Pumping

Get the right fit. "A lot of mothers don't realize that pump flanges come in different sizes. If the standard shields that come with your pump are too tight or too big, you won't pump as much milk and you could even cause damage. A lactation consultant can help you choose the right ones." – Claire

Make your own DIY hands-free bra. "You don't have to spend a fortune on a fancy bra designed for pumping. Instead, buy a sports bra that's snug, cut little slits in it, and stick the breast shields in there." – Claire

Get in the mood. "To help encourage letdown, download a galactogogue, a relaxation recording designed to stimulate milk production. Search 'podcasts for breastfeeding' on iTunes for a free one." – Dr. Jones

Make cleaning a breeze. "Mothers may be glad to know that as long as your baby is healthy, you really don't have to clean your pump parts every time you've finished pumping. You can simply put all the parts in a plastic bag, store them in a fridge or a cooler, and pull them out to use again a few hours later." – Dr. Jones

Fixing Common Breastfeeding Problems

Heal damaged nipples. "Use water-based hydrogel pads or apply enough purified lanolin to keep nipples moist between feedings. – Mohrbacher

Resolve tongue-tie. "If you're having pain even though your latch looks great, ask a lactation consultant whether your baby may have tongue-tie. A specialist can treat the problem." – Jacobsen

Prevent blocked ducts. "Avoid anything that puts pressure on part of your breasts. That includes baby carriers, diaper-bag straps, even sleeping on the same side every night." – Dr. Jones

The Tools Every Breastfeeding Mom Needs

Nursing pillow. Unlike other pillows, it wraps around your body and helps with positioning. It can also relieve stress on your back, neck, and shoulders.

Sore-nipple soother. Lanolin-based creams are a proven remedy, but some consultants prefer organic coconut oil or Motherlove nipple cream, which are not animal products. (Lanolin comes from sheep. Either can occasionally cause an allergic reaction in a sensitive mom.) All are considered safe for babies. Water-based hydrogels can also promote healing. But your nipples won't heal unless you first solve any underlying latch problems.

Tracking system. Download an app such as Baby Breastfeeding Tracker (free, iTunes) to record feedings and diaper counts and track doctor's visits during those foggy first weeks.

Expert access. Have the number of someone you can call for help (a local lactation consultant or a La Leche League leader) programmed into your phone.

Double electric pump. It's a must-have if you're going back to work; look for one with graduated suction-level settings (rather than just high, medium, and low) and several sizes of flanges (breast shields) available.

What's "Laid-Back Breastfeeding"?

Some lactation consultants are embracing a different technique called laid-back breastfeeding, or "biological nurturing." A few early studies have found it can make breastfeeding easier. To try it, lean back or recline slightly, and then bring your naked baby skin-to-skin and face-down on your chest. Use your hands to gently guide your baby's mouth to your nipple, then let gravity and his instincts take over. "Most babies will bob over and self-attach with a great deep latch," says lactation consultant Jessica Claire. "It's a little more relaxing for you and can really help if you've been having pain."

Parents Magazine

Comments (3)

June 9, 2019
This is awesome and spot on. As for the comments below... I didn't find them helpful. Everyone's a little different but this is my personal experience: 1. Leaving the house while a bottle is given is a good idea (trust me, you'll want a break by then! Lol) but really because you're not going to be there to come to the rescue while you're at work. Second, even though your baby is super young they're smart. Mine was PISSED when she was giving the boob and not a bottle. Other friends babies were the exact opposite. They wouldn't take a bottle from mom, only the boob. Third, you want that "mom = boob" idea to stay there because you probably don't want to stop nursing all together. Many moms don't know you can do both. 2. Stashing the freezer. Give yourself a break momma!! Focus on a good latch first. I found I was OBSESSED with HOW MUCH??! was I expressing/pumping. My nurses would weigh baby after I fed and told me how many ounces. It's a crazy thing. Not sure if we just need to know because we are obsessed with doing everything right for our kids or are just scared we won't produce enough. For me, trying to "create a stash" just about killed me and really stressed me out. This was the case even a month into nursing. For me, feeding my baby was first, then I would pump until empty and pour into a bag in fridge. Once it was full (however many of she was drinking @ that stage) then I would freeze that bag and start a new one. There shouldn't be alot of excess after each feeding because your body only really makes enough to feed your baby especially at first. Many things can effect how much ilk you produce and it varies daily. Ask for guidance from a lactation consultant only!! if you are worried. This way toy get the facts and learn what is a practical amount to have frozen or on hand to eliminate any bad advice from well meaning friends!!
March 3, 2019
Wow, this Dr. Jones person sounds like she could use a refresher. The only comments that made me roll my eyes were from her particularly about having to leave the house to introduce a bottle to your baby or telling you not to build up a store of breast milk while on maternity leave? The first one is just weird and the second assumes you'll have no problems pumping enough at work, which isn't the experience of many women because they're getting used to pumping there, scheduling and having that schedule honored...pump whatever makes you feel comfortable. Same with however you sleep causing clogged ducts? Total BS. Same with avoiding formula in the hospital. Being baby's sole source of nutrition when you're exhausted and in pain can make breastfeeding much harder because you're stressed out. Taking care of yourself is also taking care of your child There was a lactation consultant at the hospital where I gave birth who sounded a lot like Dr. Jones and she was a nightmare but I listened to her because she was certified in this area. Things turned around completely when I decided to ignore her and I'd suggest doing the same with this advice.
December 4, 2018
Quick tip for all you parents all out there: My baby never slept well (especially through the night) until I started using the website >>>>SleepBaby .org<<<< - that website has been by far one of the best things I've ever got my hands on to get him to fall asleep quickly. Best time is 45 seconds from awake to asleep! I heard about it through a kindergarten teacher who uses it to put to sleep a group of 30 children. Check it out! Sorry, you can't post links here so you'll have to turn it into a normal link. >>SleepBaby .org<< Best of luck to you and your family! :)