One of the most amazing bonding activities you can have with your baby is your feeding relationship. Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, meal time for baby can be an incredible experience. I am very PRO breastfeeding, there are so many benefits for both mom and baby that I highly recommend it to any mom currently considering their feeding options. First, I want to just say that I recognize not all mothers are able to breastfeed, many choose not to breastfeed, and many others try to breastfeed and are unable to continue for one reason or another. No matter what you choose to do, the choice is personal and you know what is going to be best for you and your baby. Feeding time is still special, no matter what you do! For moms who choose to breastfeed, the first few weeks are rough and it can be tough to get through them and reach your goal (3 months? 6 months? A year?). Here are a few secrets to help you find breastfeeding success, no matter what your goals are!

Get a good latch.

The most important thing to having success at any feeding is making sure the baby is latching properly. If they aren’t, they won’t be able to suck properly, causing less or no milk to be produced and strain on your nipples (which means more rawness and potential for rips! Ouch!) Try and find the proper latch from the very beginning so the baby learns how to breastfeed properly instead of having to try and retrain baby later down the line.

• Speak with a lactation consultant.

This was the best thing that I did for my entire breastfeeding relationship that lasted for 9 months. Most hospitals and birthing centers have them on staff, but there are many lactation nurses you can make an appointment to meet with or will even come to your home. If you don’t know where to go to find one, you can ask your doctor to give you a recommendation. A lactation consultant can give you information about getting baby to latch properly, different breastfeeding positions, how to avoid infections, and how to make your breastfeeding relationship successful.

• Stay hydrated.

The more fluids you drink, the more effectively and quickly your body will be able to produce milk. This is especially important if you feel you have low milk supply, which is one of the most common reasons women give up on breastfeeding before meeting their goals. Get drinkin’ those electrolytes ladies!

• Keep taking your prenatal vitamins.

Even though your body is no longer growing a baby, you are still providing milk to sustain that baby. It is important that your body has all of the vitamins and nutrients that it needs to keep producing milk for two reasons. First, your body uses all of the nutrients it has available to produce rich, nutrient packed milk, before it distributes the vitamins to your body, so having an extra vitamin supplement ensures that both the milk and your body still get all the possible nutrients. Second, it ensures all of the necessary vitamins for babies health get into your body and into the milk.

• Invest in a breastfeeding pillow.

Yes, they can get pretty pricey, but they are worth it. It helps position your baby correctly and support you during breastfeeding so you only have to focus on the actual feeding, and not your arm going to sleep underneath you. There are many cheap alternatives through making your own (I have seen tons of cute ways on pinterest!), buying used and getting a new cover for it, or purchasing new ones while they are on sale or with coupons.

• Eat properly.

This goes right along with taking a prenatal vitamin. Every time you put something into your mouth, it is going to go into your breastmilk. Making sure to eat healthy is key to producing more milk (great for low milk supply), and healthy milk! There are also times when you might notice eating certain foods will upset baby’s tummy, try to stay away from those. For me, it was broccoli. Every time I ate broccoli my poor baby got terrible gas, so I had to find other green vegetables to eat instead.

• Use a nursing bracelet.

As a mom, you will notice that sometimes, especially in the first couple of months with a new baby, everything always seems to blend in together. Wearing a bracelet on the side you last fed on will keep you from losing your mind! There are even some bracelets that have a notch where you can record what time the session was at so you can remember!

• Get a good nursing bra.

This is one that I have heard is extremely important for nursing moms. I never used one because, let’s be honest, my chest is just too big to go and buy one at the store, so I would have to special order it and that would be over a hundred bucks for just one for me (hello, I am not made of money here!) and so I opted to just see how it went with my regular bra and I actually ended up doing just fine. While I did fine without one, I still think having one would have made breastfeeding a lot easier, especially when with company or in public.

• Use heat and ice for engorgement.

The first 6 weeks after having a baby, your body is trying to adjust to how much milk to make according to baby’s needs. For me, all that meant that I was horribly engorged which was extremely painful! Some ways to help are to take a hot shower, trying to massage your breasts, and using ice packs of some sort to help with swelling. I used frozen bags of peas and frozen iceberg lettuce leaves (sounds weird but seriously, they were the best!) Pumping can also help engorgement, but you want to be careful with pumping in the beginning, it can confuse your body into thinking the baby is drinking all of that milk, which leads it to make more to satisfy baby’s needs, leading to more engorgement. If you plan to pump, this can be good to help build your stock up, but you might be prolonging how long it takes your body to figure out what it needs for milk supply- making you engorged longer.

• Skin to skin contact.

Especially in those first few weeks. Babies can get overstimulated really easily because they are learning and experiencing so many new things at one time. This can cause the baby to be frustrated, stressed, or confused, making it harder for them to concentrate on feeding. Skin to skin contact is the best way to calm your baby down, give them comfort, and help them build a relationship with you, all of which will help your breastfeeding success. Additionally, newborns can only see between 8 and 12 inches in front of them, and really can’t see colors yet. Being that close to you for feeding helps them to see the contrast of your breast skin to nipple, helping them know where latch on easier.

• Get support.

From your partner, your mom, your breastfeeding friends, anywhere you can. Breastfeeding is extremely hard in the beginning, and the thought of giving up will undoubtedly cross your mind. Having support can help get you through the tough part of breastfeeding. Once you pass that first 1 to 2 months, things get so much easier and you are more comfortable. Another great place to go for breastfeeding support is La Leche League. They are an international support group for breastfeeding women around the world, they have information, answers to questions, and even on-call nurses that can answer questions at any time for you. They also have a number of resources to help find lactation consultants in your area.

• Keep the baby awake.

One of the most frustrating things about breastfeeding is the baby always seems to want to be sleeping at feeding time. To wake the baby up, try patting them, gently tickling them, or undressing them. To keep them awake try patting them on the bum while you feed them, talk to them, or gently blow on their skin so that they eat.

• Figure out a schedule.

I use schedule loosely on this one, because it really depends on mom and baby. Some women find fantastic success to feed the baby whenever they are hungry, whether the last time they ate was 30 minutes ago or 6 hours ago. Other women find success in feeding exactly every 3 ½ hours. Originally I had planned to go with the “feed my baby when she is hungry” schedule, but my baby actually got hungry like clockwork, exactly every 4 hours, on the hour. Whatever your method is, make sure you find what works for you and don’t be afraid to branch out and try a different method if the one you are using doesn’t seem to be suiting you or baby that well.

• Purchase breast pads.

As a nursing mom, your chest will leak. It will leak whenever it wants for the first little while, then when your body gets onto a routine, it will start leaking around feeding time, whenever your baby cries, or a number of other times. Having breast pads in place will keep your clothes dry and free of embarrassing wet circles!

• 2 words, breast pump.

Not everyone agrees with the use of a pump, but if you plan to go back to work or even if you aren’t going to be in a position to feed your baby for more than 3 hours for whatever reason, a pump is an excellent option to help you continue to give your baby breastmilk. It is also great for when your baby finally decides to sleep through the night, but you wake up completely engorged!

• Have patience.

The first few weeks are the worst because it is painful, frustrating, and it feels like it is non-stop. Try to remember that you are not the only one learning how to breastfeed, but your baby is just learning too! It is something both of you will work at together until you have an established routine and are experts. There will come a point where you might think, “I just can’t do this anymore!” but if you keep pushing passed that, you will realize at some point that it has become natural to you and you and baby are pros! Allow yourself time to achieve that goal and allow your baby to learn alongside with you. As you persevere through those first few weeks, you and baby will both be rewarded with the amazing benefits breastfeeding offers! You can do it!!