Nursing Your Newborn

Nursing a newborn, especially if it’s your first baby, brings about some special challenges. Because, although nursing is considered a “natural” thing to do, baby doesn’t always catch on as quickly as a new mommy might think! (especially if you’ve had an epidural. Narcotics = sleepy baby after birth) So I thought I’d go through a few things that work for me!

Before your milk comes in:

Colostrum is all baby needs those first few days- supplementing is not necessary or even recommended no matter how big baby is. Your body needs to start building it’s own supply and will base that off of how long baby feeds. (plus there are major health reasons to not supplement with formula as well) Is baby crying every hour to feed? Every 2 hours? Fine, feed them until they unlatch themselves.

(and just a bit about crying – they don’t always cry because they are hungry! Did you put baby in the nursery at the hospital? Do you have them sleeping in the other room or in a crib? Expect more crying. Babies that are away from mama will cry more. How would you like to be yanked out of the most snuggly, warm home ever into brightly lit rooms where you lay flat on your back? Keep baby close in those first few weeks and not only will they cry less, you’ll learn their feeding cues much faster! Actually you’ll begin to notice that they root around and/ or put their hands in their mouths before they start to cry.)


Sweet mercy, they’ve grown 3 times bigger than the baby’s head!

It always seems that baby is just getting the hang of latching on and everything changes. Now they have to open up even wider and since the milk has come in, they now have to nurse something hard, not soft and pliable like it was just a few hours before. To helps them out, you can hand express a bit until the breast softens, or you can even try a heating pad (it will make you leak!) to do the same thing. And although uncomfortable and sometimes slightly painful, it normally doesn’t last to long. You can also use a cold compress or take a warm shower to help ease any discomfort. And if you do express, don’t express to much. Otherwise your body will think baby is eating more than they are and will keep producing more.

Learning the Latch:

If you’ve never nursed a baby before ask to speak to the lactation consultant at the hospital or have your midwife help you find the right latch. While it may be slightly uncomfortable, it shouldn’t hurt. Ever. If it does, something isn’t working right.

  • Don’t stress if they don’t seem to “get it” right away. Sometimes babies seem to play around and root without latching. It’s ok. You know why? They are actually helping your body with the letdown reflex. The stimulation releases some hormones and lets your body know what to do.
  • Try a different position. My first baby could only latch on with the football hold for the first couple of weeks, this new one can latch on no matter the hold. So if baby is having trouble latching on, just switch it up a bit.
  • Wait until the mouth is wide open! Otherwise the lips gets pursed and although they can latch on and nurse, it’s gonna hurt! So if you have to, flatten the nipple and pull baby on to it when they open up wide.
  • Try and keep them awake. Babies fall asleep so easily when nursing that sometimes it takes a lot of effort to keep them up. I always nurse one side until they unlatch, then I wake them back up (normally with a diaper change) and then nurse the other side. The next feeding I’ll start on the one they ended with last time. That way it keeps my supply even and it makes sure they’re getting both the foremilk and the hindmilk.

When you sit down to nurse:

Prepare to have it take awhile. Feedings can last 30 -45 minutes (once your milk comes in, before you have milk the sessions may be rather short). Yea, most newborns aren’t that quick when it comes to eating. But making sure you have everything you need before you start to feed can make it so much easier.

  • First off, wear something easy to nurse in. Personally I don’t care for nursing tops. They always seem to get in the way and baby usually makes a mess anyways so the bottom half of the shirt always gets soaked. I like to wear a zip up sweatshirt or button up shirt. That way you have nothing in the way of viewing baby. (A larger/stretchy v neck shirt works as well because you can just pull the neck down under the breast) A sleep bra also makes it a bit more convenient the first couple of weeks since they just pull out of the way with less bulk.
  • Get a boppy or fluffy pillow. You wanna get comfy since you could be sitting there awhile. Even if you don’t have a specified “nursing” pillow, a pillow of any sort can help keep you from hunching over and getting a sore back.
  • Grab a small towel or burp cloth. Not only are these good for if baby makes a mess while burping, they work great when placed under the breast and on top of baby’s shoulder. Why? Baby’s are messy eaters and they let milk leak all over! This saves their clothes and yours from getting soaked. Plus, at some point baby may choke and gag because they aren’t swallowing fast enough! Not to worry though, just sit baby up with one hand and grab the towel/cloth to cover the spray coming from your mammary gland. Without the cloth you will either spray baby in the face or you’ll be trying for the distance award in the nursing Olympics! (yes nursing is quite the experience)
  • Bring a glass of, or bottle of, water. Breastfeeding can be quite dehydrating to your body so I try and make a habit of sitting down with something to drink. This way I’m replenishing as the baby is draining.
  • If nothing else will be vying for your attention, grab a book or the remote. With my toddler around, we get out some of his books or even watch one of his DVDs all cuddled up on the couch.
  • Put the phone near you. That is if your baby nurses well without you holding everything at the right angle. Otherwise, let it ring. I do all the time. πŸ™‚

Some other things I do

I don’t let the hospital give my baby any type of bottle (formula or glucose water) or a pacifier. Not only do I think that anything other than breastmilk messes with their not yet fully formed intestines, I don’t want them to get used to any other type of nipple. Once baby is latching on and feeding well for a couple weeks I’ll offer a pacifier if I think it’s needed, but not before.

I don’t leave the house often or make any plans the first few weeks. Breastfeeding is important to me and I don’t like to feel hurried either at home or while we’re out.

And the best thing you can have around you during those first few weeks is a supportive spouse and family/friends. If you aren’t getting the support you need at home, look to a group like the La Leche League or even online forums. Breastfeeding is to important to give up just because you’re tired and frustrated and your spouse’s advice is to just “give him/her a bottle already”. Sure breastfeeding is hard, but it gets better as time goes on!

Did I miss anything? What has made nursing easier for you? What are your tips and tricks?


*This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday

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This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

About donielle

Donielle is a natural momma of two, lover of real foods, and owner and editor of Grand Rapids Natural Living and Naturally Knocked Up. You can usually find her in the kitchen whipping up some nourishing foods, cuddled on the couch reading books to the littles, avoiding the laundry and Mt. Saint Dishes, or tapping away on the laptop. Her husband puts up with her sometimes crazy "hippie" ways, but loves her regardless. Welcome to my home away from home.


  1. Thanks for sharing these tips. I’m expecting #2 in 2 wks, but I wasn’t able to nurse #1. We’re really hoping that nursing works for us this time!

  2. Amy @ Finer Things says:

    Fantastic info. Don’t think I have anything to add… but I echo it all. I would strongly encourage new mamas to keep baby IN THE ROOM at the hospital. None of my babies ever left our room for any reason (other than my boy’s circumcision, and hubby went along.)

    I liked to use receiving blankets to stuff under my breast to catch leaky milk while baby was nursing.

    So important for new moms to remember that brand new babies are NOT prone to scheduling. They take their own sweet time with nursing, and they do it often. It’s a labor of love, but those first few months go so quickly. Try to relax and enjoy!

  3. With my first, I wound up with a c-section. Because I was recovering from surgery, I spent five days in the hospital. One of the best thing about those days? I could see the nursing specialist every single day! It was such a blessing for her to come in and coach my husband and I. I learned so much, and I was blessed to have that time to actually work on nursing.

  4. Great advice! I just have a few more things that worked for me:

    Lansinoh lanolin cream saved my life, or at least my nipples!!

    Tape some good TV during the last weeks of pregnancy, and play it back while nursing. This was handy in the first weeks when I needed both hands to keep baby latched on. I enjoyed getting one last splurge of TV before he got old enough to notice it. (Babies should not watch TV.)

    Get an assortment of books and magazines and place them within reach of your favorite nursing locations. When baby falls asleep in your lap, use that as an excuse to sit and read some more! It’s so relaxing and gives you new things to think about.

  5. Lenetta @ Nettacow says:

    My daughter ended up hauled out via forceps (much to my and my midwife’s dismay!) and my lac’ consultant recommended I take her to a chiropractor. I wish I had done it right away! I waited three months, and boy, was her latch WAY better once I did.

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to wean her at age 2 so she can get a sibbling, though . . .

  6. Lenetta – I wish someone would have told me that about the chiropractor! My first was hauled out with the vacuum and his latch was horrible and he was fussy. Wonder if it would have helped us?

  7. barefootinhighheels says:

    Great post! I’m due in July with my 3rd, and nursed my girls for a year each.

    The only thing I would add is that I tell expecting moms who are planning on breastfeeding that IT IS A COMMITMENT and can be FRUSTRATING AND DIFFICULT AT FIRST! I was thankful to have friends tell me this before my first was born. So I was mentally prepared. So many women give up at the beginning because they think it’s “too hard” and it should just come naturally. I was determined to nurse, and if I hadn’t been, I probably would have given up at the very beginning the first time. Good thing I didn’t! And then, of course, the second time I knew what I was doing, so there were no issues.

  8. Beautiful post, how can I share it with my new moms on FB? I see a tweet, am I missing it? I am in the process of getting my Duala license & would like to get cert. in some sort bf assistance too. Any suggestions?

  9. I wish I had read this before nursing my first. πŸ™‚ I was so intent on believing breastfeeding was a “natural” thing, that I didn’t do much research about how it worked! As it turned out, my milk didn’t come in until day 4, and my baby spent his first night home screaming from hunger. I wish I had known how to help stimulate milk production in the beginning.

    I had trouble getting him to latch because his chin was receded, and the lactation consultant offered me a nipple shield. I’m so glad we used it, because I probably wouldn’t have been able to breastfeed him otherwise! Although even when his chin grew to be more normal, he still wanted to nurse with the nipple shield… so it got kind of annoying at times.

  10. I first saw this post 2 years ago! I still think it’s great advice. I have one more thing to add:

    Bring the baby to the breast, not the breast to the baby. If you lean over to reach the baby (especially if you’re small-busted), you can wind up in a very uncomfortable position and then be “stuck” there until nursing is done. Instead, get yourself comfortable and then bring the baby’s mouth toward your nipple.

  11. My 2nd baby is due in about 6 weeks, so this article had some great reminders, thanks! I also second using a nipple shield if your baby has trouble latching on- My problem was flat nipples- the shield adds a large nipple extension (like a bottle nipple) so it gives baby something to latch onto, and it keeps your nipples from getting sore:) We ended up using it the whole 10 months she nursed, although it was a bit of a pain to use while nursing in public (one more thing to get in place). Other than that, it was great and we’ll probably use it again for #2.

  12. April W. says:

    This is a great post for newbie moms like myself. We’re expecting our 1st in a few months, and all your advice coincides with “Bestfeeding” a breastfeeding book lent to me by a friend. The only thing I’ll add (from the book, obviously not from experience) is that it’s very important to get yourself positioned well in a straightbacked chair for initial feedings until baby gets the hang of things.

  13. Brianna says:

    Thank you so much! I’ve heard that it’s “work,” so these are all great tips for a first time Mama!! πŸ™‚ I’m excited I found this blog, Thanks again!!

  14. Love this post. I’ve had three kids all were big babies but my last was 11lbs.10 oz. She wasn’t nursing well while we were at the hospital and they would not let the her leave until we gave her a bottle of formula. Makes me so angry that nurses/doctors force formula on mothers and babies. We also had to go back to the hospital for three checkups (baby lost a lb. and they wanted her to gain that back plus some). We are a military family and had our baby at a Naval Hospital and they said tricare wouldn’t cover her (our peds are civilian dr.s’) until she got clearance from them saying she was okay (gained enough weight) Our first two babies were born at civilian hospitals and we never had that problem. Next baby we will be paying out of pocket (no ins.) to see a civilian Dr. Dealing with tricare can be a pain but being at a Naval Hospital was a horrible experience for me. Also military facilities force WIC down your throat. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been told we need to sign up for WIC because they will pay for formula.

    • @Katie, My brother-in-law is in the airforce. They got my sister-in-law a civilian plan just for childbirth so that she could go to a birth center. They were glad they did. I find the WIC thing surprising, but maybe where they are stationed things are different.

  15. Contact and get involved with Le Leche League!!! It can go a looooong way in helping you and your baby succeed at breastfeeding. Research shows that the top factors that contribute to successful breastfeeding are commitment and support. Get your motivation and support from your friends at your local Le Leche League meetings.

  16. Great article! I want to mention the “Breast Friend” nursing pillow. Similar to the boppy but more structured, with little pillows that support babies head and are supposed to help by keeping them alert. (Also, since it has a strap that buckles behind you can use it to carry baby around if necessary and even allows for a restroom break in a pinch.) I have inverted nipples & struggled terribly for the 3 months that I stuck with it. My sister-in-law said she would pump a little, nurse, then finish by pumping. And I think that would really help anyone with inverted nipples because the pump would draw out the nipples so that the baby could latch a little easier. It’s what I’m going to try next time. Hopefully with help from Naturally Knocked Up, it will be sooner rather than later. Lactation Consultants are very worth it. There fees seem high sometimes but not compared to the cheapest formula.

  17. Another tip for engorgement is cabbage leaves!! I had my husband get a head of cabbage right when we got home with my little guy. I used them as soon as I felt myself fill up. It allowed them to fill a little more gradually and not hurt so much. You simply put take a leaf that’s already curved like a bra cup and slide it into your bra. Change them out when they are withered. The coolness of the leaves helped, but there’s something else that keeps you from engorging as well – I don’t know the technical reasons, just that IT WORKS!!!