How to Simplify Breastfeeding
I thought I was prepared for breastfeeding as a new mom…then I had my baby. Anyone else? Hopefully your journey can be easier- and here are my top tips for breastfeeding moms to help simplify things for you!
Of all the things I have done in my life, breastfeeding my kids is one of the things I am most proud of- in part because it takes/has taken so much work, especially in the newborn phase.
I’ve been breastfeeding/nursing for over 4 years straight now (yep, even through pregnancy), so I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are a few of my top tips and tricks (and some from my readers as well) on how to simplify breastfeeding!
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Simple Tips for Breastfeeding Moms
I’m limiting myself on how many tips I include because this could definitely be an entire series of posts in itself. But here are some of the biggest things that have helped me simplify things as a breastfeeding mom!
1. See an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant)
Hands down this is the biggest thing I wish I could tell every pregnant and breastfeeding mom. Have the number of an IBCLC already in your phone and ready to go because 90%+ of us will need them within the first few weeks. Some of them will even come to your home (talk about simple!)!
I don’t know what percent of problems can be solved by having a good IBCLC on board with you, but it’s a LOT. You don’t need to flounder and push through a bunch of pain to try and breastfeed. Get the support you need!
ALSO- while it doesn’t replace the one-on-one help that a IBCLC provides, this online class by Milkology is a great way to get started!
2. Treat it like it’s your job.
It’s been estimated that breastfeeding takes nearly as much time in a year as a full-time job. Go into it knowing that’s going to be the case and don’t plan on trying to do a whole lot else while you get breastfeeding established!
I know this may sound like an odd way to “simplify” things- but think about it this way: if this is basically all you’re trying to do (other than, like, sleep and eat)…it doesn’t get much simpler than that.
And it takes effort to intentionally simplify your life that much while you get the hang of breastfeeding- it will mean saying no to a lot of other things (and people…).
But also know that it won’t always take as much time as it does in those first few weeks- it eases up the older (and more efficient) the babies get.
Give yourself major mom points for each day you breastfeed, whether that’s 10 days or 100 days or 1,000 days- it’s hard work and you deserve credit for it!
3. Feed on demand; babies nurse for all kinds of reasons!
It can be easy to get caught up in all sorts of attempts at tracking everything about breastfeeding- how much, how long, how long in between feeds….it can get complicated fast!
So to make it simpler- nurse on demand.
Babies don’t just nurse because they’re hungry! Babies nurse because they’re hungry, thirsty, tired, cold, sick, hurt, teething, needing to poop, overstimulated, bored, scared, wanting cuddles, and more.
Babies also do this fun thing called cluster feeding where they want to nurse ALL. THE. TIME. for a few hours or even on and off for days (or nights).
Often this is because they are in a growth spurt, and the cluster feeding plays the important role of telling your body that it’s time to up/change the supply to match baby’s new needs. How cool is that?
So take note: if your baby is nursing all the time (and gaining weight/making enough wet/dirty diapers and you are not in pain) it doesn’t mean you don’t have enough or good enough milk. It likely just means that baby loves you and is growing- both good things! Just keep on trucking!
By simply allowing your baby to nurse when they ask, you can set aside all the tracking and simplify breastfeeding for yourself. And if you are truly worried about your supply dropping, dig into what might cause a sudden drop in milk supply and know that there are plenty of things you can do to help get it back up!
Simple Tricks for Breastfeeding Moms
These tricks are things I wish I had known earlier on while breastfeeding that would have made my breastfeeding life a lot simpler!
Y’all. This is a game-changer. Some of the benefits of side-lying nursing are:
- Rest for Mom- because laying down is basically always easier than sitting up.
- Better latch for baby- easier to line things up/position them
- Baby can let milk pool in their cheek- helpful if you have a fast letdown!
If you’re wondering how to simplify breastfeeding, nursing laying on your side is one of the best ways to do it! I’ve gotten soooooooo much more sleep thanks to this trick!
Building on the side-lying nursing thing- add in the Safe Sleep Seven and you’re well on your way to a good night’s rest (as much as that ever happens with a baby!).
Co-sleeping is not for everyone, but research does show that when done safely, it reduces the risk of SIDS by up to 50%, and it makes the breastfeeding relationship much easier (much less getting up in the middle of the night!). KellyMom has a great article with a lot more about this.
Studies also show that most moms will co-sleep intentionally or unintentionally (think falling asleep while nursing) at some point, so even if you don’t intend to bed share/co-sleep, PLEASE learn how to do it safely and set yourself up in a way that protects baby. <3
And, there’s just nothing better than baby snuggles!
Co-sleeping is a great way to simplify breastfeeding because it reduces any middle-of-the-night frustrations and accidental dozing and instead helps lead to sweet sleep for mom and baby.
3. KellyMom.Com for all the things!
There are about a thousand questions you’ll have as you breastfeed, and your questions may be completely different than your friend’s questions because you have different challenges along the way. Enter KellyMom. She has so many resources and articles available, and I love that her information is research and evidence based.
Whenever I run into a problem with breastfeeding, I check out Kellymom first. Her site is a simple breastfeeding resource that has good information about nearly everything breastfeeding related!
Top Picks for Breastfeeding Moms
These are some of the items I found to be necessities, especially as I was establishing breastfeeding with each of my kids. I also checked in with some of my Facebook fans and they agreed- so I figure these are pretty valid recommendations. 😉
1. Hydrogels or Booby Tubes
Either way, the idea is the same- relief for the initial discomfort that breastfeeding can bring (engorgement, soreness, etc.). The Hydrogels are cooling, and the Booby Tubes can be cooled or heated, depending on your need.
Picking one of these two simple products will make a huge difference when you’re getting started breastfeeding!
NOTE: Pain beyond the initial latch is NOT okay while breastfeeding! It does happen, but it can almost always be fixed. If you are experiencing pain while nursing, please see an IBCLC!
I wrote about this one in detail in this post, but I’m obsessed with this nursing pillow. It was one of the most expensive and most worthwhile investments that I made in our breastfeeding success.
It’s like a firm beanbag, so it’s easy to adjust position and even shift the beans around a bit to get just the right angle. Also, it’s a great help for side-lying nursing as it fits perfectly behind your back so you can relax into it while nursing. I wish every nursing mama had one of these!
Other nursing pillows (or stacking up piles of pillows) felt complicated, bulky, and frustrating for me- but this amazing pillow did a HUGE amount to simplify breastfeeding for us!
I couldn’t write a “how to simplify breastfeeding” post without telling you about the Haakaa!
This is another one I wrote about in detail in this post because I love it so much. The Haakaa is a silicone manual pump- you just stick it to the side the baby isn’t nursing on, and it’s catches whatever comes out.
I don’t even leak (never really have), but I can still get a bit from the other side from the suction. I especially love the version that has the suction cup on the bottom and the pourable lid- both are worth the extra couple of bucks to not spill your milk!
There’s a lot of variations on this, but the idea is the same: a slanted stool to put your feet up on while nursing. Before having kids I didn’t really understand what the point of this was, but a friend assured me that it was a must-have, and she was right!
This simple tool for breastfeeding helps to elevate your lap up toward your chest, putting baby at the breast without feeling like you need to lean down to get to him. It makes latching easier and really saves your back!
There are a lot of different nipple creams and butters out there, but Earth Mama’s is my favorite. I like that it has simple ingredients that are organic, non-GMO, and it doesn’t include lanolin, parabens, or petroleum.
I recognize the ingredients, and therefore I wasn’t worried about if baby got some because I forgot to wipe it off (the mom brain is real!). I also liked that it didn’t feel as sticky as some of the others.
Another Earth Mama product I liked was the Milkmaid Tea. I bought some and didn’t drink much with my first baby because I had a lot of oversupply, but the second baby had some latching issues (and a tongue and lip tie we had to get revised) and I drank it to help protect my supply while we got that straightened out.
There’s a lot of great herbs out there to help with milk supply, but this was the simplest solution for me- lots of good milk-making-herbs all made into a nice cup of tea!
Note: The best way to up your milk supply is always removing milk from the breast- that tells the body to make more!
7. Nursing Bras
You’ll probably want a few different kinds of nursing bras. Here are some of the most common types:
- A sleep bra. This one will not be very supportive, but covers up your likely-very-sensitive nipples.
- An every day bra. This one will probably be pretty soft and not too fancy. I like the cake bras!
- A “nice” bra/t-shirt bra. This one is more for your nicer outfits that you want a little more support and overall nicer look. Anita and Bravado both make some good ones!
- A pumping bra. Kindred Bravely has a great pumping bundle, too!
- A sports bra. If you want to get back to working out after baby (give yourself some time!), you may want a sports bra that is nursing-friendly. I love this one from Moving Comfort– the straps are Velcro, so it’s super easy to nurse but also super supportive (even for the bigger sizes!). I also recently discovered the nursing sports bras by Love & Fit- I haven’t tried one yet, but they look awesome!
So here’s my How to Simplify Breastfeeding Mom Hack on this one- I tried a few different types of nursing pajamas and I’m going to give you my all time favorite….you ready for this?
A cut up men’s undershirt. Yep. I take one of my husband’s old undershirts (like these) and I cut it from the neckline down about 12 inches.
It’s not exactly super attractive, but it works really well; my shoulders stay warm (I can’t stand cold shoulders when I sleep), I can nurse without fiddling with straps (not as easy half-asleep), and baby has easy access.
And bonus there’s extra skin-to-skin when we’re side-lying nursing, and that’s great for all that lovely bonding oxytocin between baby and mommy. And, it’s cheap! Pair that with some yoga pants and I’ve got simple, comfy, practical pjs!
9. A One-Handed Water Bottle
Why one-handed? Because the other one is holding baby.
I actually often had two water bottles going at the same time during the first stages of breastfeeding; hydration is so important for a good supply, and I’d stick one on either side of me so I could always reach one, no matter which side baby was on!
With my first baby, I mostly used the Camel-Bak water bottles, and I did like those. The problem I had with them was that there was so many moving parts that I kept ending up having to replace things- granted, I was pretty rough with them!
However, they do have a lifetime guarantee, so I was able to replace parts at minimal cost most of the time.
With this baby I’m really liking the Contigo Auto-Seal stainless steel water bottles. I like that they don’t leak (unless your 3yo stands on the button…not sure how I know that…) and that there aren’t as many moving pieces, so it’s both easier upkeep and it’s easier to clean.
The one downside to these is that mold can grow under the auto-sealing piece- it says top piece is dishwasher safe, but I’ve found if I wash it in the dishwasher it doesn’t get to that one part. But as long as I hand wash it and stick a brush in that little area, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Bonus: they also have a kids’ version of the Contigo Auto-Seal bottles, so Butterfly can have one “like mommy”! I like these because they don’t leak (rare for kids’ water bottles, I feel like!) and they are only two parts, so easy to clean!
10. One-handed Snacks
Breastfeeding hunger is a real thing! When my oldest was about 5 months, we were at the beach with extended family. My dad made an entire pot roast that was supposed to last the whole family for lunches for most of the week.
I had some the day he made it…and then that evening…and then the next morning at 6am when baby woke up…and by breakfast that next morning there was no more roast. Oops.
That said, it’s always good to have easy, healthy snacks around! One of my favorites is Lara Bars– simple ingredients, allergy-friendly, and I can take them anywhere. (Simple breastfeeding snacks are also a great gift for new mamas!)
The one downside is they do get expensive, so at times I’ve also made my own (they’re super easy!). I’ll write a post on that at some point because I have my own twists on things, but for now here’s another blogger’s version that I’ve used before!
11. Breastfeeding Baskets/Nursing Stations
So this isn’t really one thing, but more like a conglomeration of all the little things you need for breastfeeding in a particular place. Some people make baskets that they can carry to wherever they are sitting; I made one for each main place I sat so that I didn’t have to move much around. You’ll find whichever is simpler for you and your nursling.
You can find a lot of lists out there of what you might want in your basket, but here’s a few of the things that have been in mine at different times:
- Tap light
- Rescue Remedy
- Homemade Lip Balm
- Calms Forte
- Baby Nail Clippers
- Burp cloth
- Medicines for baby or mommy
- Phone charger with a long cord
- Nipple cream
- Nose frieda
- Vitamin D drops
- Reusable nursing pads
12. A Towel in the Car
Trust me on this one. Pick an old towel and leave it in the car. Preferably a larger one, like a beach towel. I can’t tell you how many times I have used the “car towel” for spills and messes (kids make a lot of those, as do tired mommies), and it also works for a makeshift blanket, pillow, and nursing pillow or cover. This simple trick has saved me many times!
Just don’t get it wet and then leave it in the back of the car and forget about it for a few weeks in the summer. Not that I’ve done that or anything, of course.
The biggest takeaway…
If I could give just one piece of encouragement to moms who are trying to figure out how to simplify their breastfeeding journey, I would say this: hang in there; it’ll be worth it!
I’ve been nursing for over 4 years and the first several months were so hard- but I’m so glad I didn’t quit because the investment started really paying off after that! It’s been one of the best Mommying tools I’ve got.
What challenges did you come across while learning to breastfeed? What tools did you find that simplified breastfeeding for you? Comment below and let me know!
You got this, Mama!
P.S. I made you a simple and FREE diaper bag check list- enter your email below and I’ll send it to you!
If you liked this, be sure and check out these posts, too!
- 10 Items Every Mom Needs after Having a Baby– Postpartum Essentials!
- How to Get Out of the House with a New Baby– a Simple Guide for Moms of Newborns
- To the Mom of a Hard Baby– Encouragement for Moms with challenging littles