The 19 Most Useful Breastfeeding Tips and Tricks

Breastfeeding has many positive effects for both you and your baby, but it doesn’t always come easily. These breastfeeding tips can help you ease into breastfeeding your newborn and all the challenges that can go along with it.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Before we get into the tips and tricks, we’d like to share some of the benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby. Knowing some of the benefits may help give you that extra boost of motivation and encouragement when things get a little tough. Here are a few of the benefits of breastfeeding:

  • Breast milk is a source of nutrition that’s made specially for your baby

  • Breast milk is packed with antibodies that help boost your baby’s immune system

  • Breastfeeding is thought to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

  • Breast milk is always available for your baby, any time any place

  • Breastfeeding can lower your own risk of certain cancers, osteoporosis (weak bones), heart problems and obesity

  • Breastfeeding can help you form a strong bond with your little one.

Each woman's and each baby's experience is different, and some mums may find that breastfeeding takes a little more effort or time to get the hang of than others. Speak to your midwife, health visitor or a lactation consultant for personalised advice if you still need a little extra help with finding the best breastfeeding holds and positions, ensuring your baby has a good latch or any other aspects of breastfeeding. Above all, whether breastfeeding comes relatively easily or presents a few challenges for you, know that you’re doing great and that things will fall into place over time.

19 Breastfeeding Tips and Tricks

Here are 19 tips and tricks to help make breastfeeding go as smoothly as possible.

1. Attend Breastfeeding or Antenatal Classes

2. Arm Yourself With the Right Breastfeeding Supplies

3. Let Your Midwife Know You Plan to Breastfeed

4. Breastfeed Right After Birth

5. Make Sure Your Baby Is Well Attached

6. Try Different Breastfeeding Positions

7. Breastfeed From Both Breasts Equally

8. Ease the Pain of Engorgement

9. Don’t Give Up Breastfeeding If You Have Mastitis

10. Care for Your Nipples

11. Follow Your Baby’s Cues When It Comes to Breastfeeding

12. Check Your Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk

13. Increase Your Milk Supply, If Needed

14. Consider Using a Breast Pump

15. Wait Before Introducing a Dummy

16. Get Prepared for Breastfeeding in Public (If You Choose To!)

17. Look After Yourself

18. Avoid Alcohol and Smoking, and Limit Certain Foods

19. Don’t Lose Heart If You’re Struggling With Breastfeeding

1. Attend Breastfeeding or Antenatal Classes

It’s a good idea to get as much information on how to breastfeed as you can while you’re still pregnant, especially if you’re a first-time mother (or it’s been a while since you last breastfed). Your local hospital may offer breastfeeding classes, and in some cases information on breastfeeding may be provided as a part of antenatal or parentcraft classes. Ask your midwife about these classes or about any other organisations that offer breastfeeding support in your area. Your midwife, doula (if you have one), family and friends can also give you plenty of breastfeeding tips and advice.

2. Arm Yourself With the Right Breastfeeding Supplies

Anything that can help make your life simpler and more comfortable while you breastfeed your baby is a welcome addition. Here are some things to consider buying:

  • A well-fitting maternity bra can give your breasts the right level of support and make it possible to feed your baby without completely undressing. It’s important that your bra should not be so tight it squashes your breasts as this can lead to blocked breast ducts. If you plan to stock up on nursing bras before your baby is born, wait until the last month of pregnancy to do this, as by then your breasts may have become larger. Keep in mind, you may also need to switch up another size again within six weeks of giving birth.

  • Breast pads can come in handy as your breasts might leak from time to time. Avoid plastic liners as they can irritate your nipples.

  • You may want a breast pump, bottles, and breast milk storage bags so you can express your breast milk and store it for later.

  • A footstool can help raise your legs and lap higher, making it easier to find the breastfeeding position that suits you and your baby the best.

  • The extra comfort and support of a nursing pillow or cushion could be welcome as it can help keep your baby in a more comfortable position for the perfect latch.

3. Let Your Midwife Know You Plan to Breastfeed

It’s a good idea to tell your midwife while you’re still pregnant that you’d like to breastfeed your baby. That way, your midwife can make sure you have the information and resources you need. If you’re putting together a birth plan, you can include your wishes about breastfeeding in that document too. If you're taking any medication, your doctor and midwife should know that you're planning to breastfeed. In some cases, your doctor may recommend an alternative medicine for the period while you’re breastfeeding.

4. Breastfeed Right After Birth

It’s beneficial to breastfeed your little one very soon after he or she is born. Newborns are typically ready to breastfeed within the first hour after birth. Those first feeds nourish your baby, of course, and get you both started in figuring out this new skill and routine of breastfeeding. There are other benefits too:

  • The milk that comes through in the first few days is actually colostrum – a thick, yellow fluid packed with protein and antibodies that support your baby’s growth and development

  • Breastfeeding encourages the release of the hormone oxytocin, which may help you bond with your baby and help you feel more confident about your nurturing abilities

  • Skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding also helps stabilise your baby’s body temperature, heart rate, breathing and blood sugar levels.

5. Make Sure Your Baby Is Well Attached

A good latch is important – if your baby isn’t properly attached to your nipple, he or she may not be able to get enough milk at each feed. Poor latching is also the number one cause of sore nipples when breastfeeding.

Here are some essential breastfeeding latching tips (ask your midwife or doula for help if you’re having any difficulties):

  1. Hold your baby close in a breastfeeding position that feels comfortable. His or her nose should be level with your nipple.

  2. Allow your baby’s head to tilt backwards until his or her top lip brushes against your nipple. This can trigger a reflex that causes your baby to open his or her mouth.

  3. Guide your baby’s head so the chin touches your breast first, with the head tilted backwards so the tongue reaches as much breast as possible. Look out for these signs that your baby is properly attached:

  • Mouth wide open, with a big mouthful of breast

  • Chin touching your breast

  • Nose not squashed up against your breast

  • No breast or nipple pain during feeds (although the first few sucks may tug a little)

  • More dark nipple skin visible above your baby’s top lip than below the bottom lip.

6. Try Different Breastfeeding Positions

There are a variety of breastfeeding positions you could use to help your baby latch on better and help empty your breasts more effectively. Here are four breastfeeding holds to try:

  • Cradle hold. This is the most traditional hold that many mums instinctively try first, but you might find it uncomfortable just after a caesarean section (because your baby can rub against the scar). Cradle your baby with his or her head in the crook of the arm that’s on the side your baby is feeding from. Use the hand of that arm to support the full length of your baby’s body. Your baby’s head should be resting in the crook of your elbow, facing your breast, with his or her ear, shoulder and hip all in a straight line. Tuck your little one’s lower arm under your own.

  • Cross-cradle hold. This is similar to the cradle hold, except here you’re holding your baby with the arm opposite to the breast he or she is feeding from. Support your baby’s head with your hand and have his or her bottom in the bend of your elbow. You’ll want your baby’s body turned inward to you.

  • Ruby hold (also known as the ‘clutch’ or underarm position). Just like it sounds, this position involves tucking your baby under your arm as if you were holding a rugby ball. You’ll want to hold your baby to your side at the level of your waist while supporting his or her back with your arm. The head should be tilted up toward your breast. This position can work well if you’ve had a caesarean or for the breastfeeding of twins simultaneously – with one baby under each arm.

  • Side-lying position. While lying on your side, place your baby next to you, put your lower arm under your head or pillow and guide your baby’s head towards your breast with your free arm. This position is convenient for those late-night feedings (just be sure to put your baby back to sleep in their cot afterwards). It’s also a good position to try if you’ve had a caesarean section.

Check out our visual guide to these breastfeeding positions:

7. Breastfeed From Both Breasts Equally

When your baby starts feeding from one breast, the milk has less fat in it. The fat content increases as your infant feeds. This fat is an important source of energy for your baby. Left to his or her own devices, your baby (if well attached) will usually drink enough milk to get a good balance of foremilk (the thinner breast milk that comes out first) and hindmilk (the fat-rich milk that comes out last). Wait until your baby comes off the first breast on his or her own, then offer the second breast. Your infant may not want any more though, and this is fine – it just means your little one has had enough to eat for now. In this case, though, it’s a good idea to offer your baby the other breast first at the next feed to make sure both your breasts get emptied equally. Here’s another handy breastfeeding tip: If you tend to forget which breast your baby last fed from, attach a safety pin to the bra strap of the other side after a feed to remind you which side is next.

8. Ease the Pain of Engorgement

Engorgement is when your breasts become overfilled with milk, causing discomfort or sometimes pain.

The best prevention strategy is to feed your baby ‘on demand’, and to make sure he or she feeds equally from both of your breasts.

Feeding on demand means paying attention to feeding cues – like sucking on a fist or seeking out your breast with his or her mouth – and offering feeds accordingly, rather than just having a fixed schedule.

If you feed on demand your breasts will usually produce just as much milk as your baby needs at each feed, so they won’t get too full.

Still, your breasts can sometimes get engorged anyway despite your best efforts to avoid it.

One time this is more likely to happen is when you’re just starting to breastfeed, and your milk supply isn’t quite matched to your baby’s needs yet.

There’s also a higher chance of engorgement when you’re weaning your baby onto solid foods. During this period, he or she may breastfeed less frequently than before or at irregular intervals.

If your breasts get very engorged, your baby could find it harder to latch on properly. To help avoid this happening – and ease the discomfort – here are some more tips for dealing with engorgement:

  • Express your breast milk by hand or with a breast pump (just take out enough milk to relieve the pressure – draining the breast fully will only increase your milk supply)

  • Soak a flannel in warm water and place it on your breasts before hand-expressing

  • If you find that heat doesn’t work, you could try using a cool compress to reduce pain or swelling.

If these tips don’t work, contact your midwife, health visitor or doctor for advice. You don’t have to suffer with breast discomfort or pain – there is help available.

9. Don’t Give Up Breastfeeding If You Have Mastitis

Occasionally a blocked milk duct can get infected, leading to a condition called mastitis. The symptoms of mastitis usually affect only one breast and can include

  • a red, swollen, hot, painful area on your breast

  • a hard, wedge-shaped lump or hard area on your breast

  • burning pain in your breast, either constantly or just when breastfeeding

  • white or blood-streaked nipple discharge

  • flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, aches, chills and tiredness.

If you are breastfeeding and think you may have mastitis it’s important to continue breastfeeding, even if it’s painful. Stopping will only make the blockage worse as your breasts continue to produce milk. If the symptoms don’t clear up within 24 hours see your doctor, who may prescribe antibiotics. (If you are not breastfeeding and have mastitis, see your doctor immediately.) In the meantime, there are a few home remedies you can try:

  • Apply a warm compress to your breast or have a warm bath or shower

  • Offer your baby the sore breast first at feeds

  • Express milk between feeds to help drain the blocked duct

  • Massage the breast to get milk flowing, stroking from the lump or sore area towards the nipple

  • Wear loose-fitting tops and go braless until you feel better

  • Take every opportunity to rest and drink plenty of fluids

  • Take a pain relief medicine recommended by your doctor if necessary.

10. Care for Your Nipples

Tender or sore nipples are not unusual during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. Eventually this tenderness will likely go away, so don’t let it discourage you from breastfeeding. To help reduce or prevent nipple discomfort, follow these breastfeeding tips:

  • Poor latching is the most common cause of sore nipples when breastfeeding. Flattened, wedge-shaped or white nipples after a feed may indicate that this is the problem. Make sure your baby is properly attached by checking that your baby’s mouth is open wide and covering your areola (the darker skin around your nipple), not just the tip of your nipple.

  • Keep feeding your little one for as long as he or she wants. Shorter feeds won’t make your nipples less sore and might decrease your milk supply.

  • If you find breastfeeding too painful, try expressing milk by hand until your nipples are less sore

  • If your baby is latching well and the symptoms don’t clear up in a few days, talk to your midwife, health visitor or doctor. In this case the soreness might be caused by something else, like thrush.

In the meantime, try these tips for soothing and protecting your nipples (keep in mind that these remedies will only really help once any problems with your baby’s latch are sorted out):

  • Dab a little expressed milk onto your nipple to soothe and moisturise cracked skin after a feed

  • Wear a cotton bra that allows the skin of your breasts to breathe

  • Put in a fresh breast pad after each feed, especially if your breasts tend to leak. Try to avoid using pads with a plastic backing.

  • When bathing, wash your breasts with water and avoid the use of soaps, shampoos, or other cleansers that irritate your skin

  • Ask your health visitor or doctor to recommend an ointment or cream that can help soothe your sore or cracked nipples.

11. Follow Your Baby’s Cues When It Comes to Breastfeeding

Every baby is different, and yours may want to feed more or less often than other babies, so don’t worry if your baby doesn’t follow the schedule you had expected beforehand. Instead, pay attention to your baby’s feeding cues – signs that he or she is hungry - including:

  • Sucking on a fist or finger

  • Rapid movements of the eyes

  • ‘Rooting’ (nuzzling up to your breast with his or her mouth open)

  • Restlessness

  • Crying.

Crying can be a late sign of hunger, so try not to wait until your baby starts to cry to feed her. In your baby’s first weeks, your newborn will likely want to feed around 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Extended feeding sessions, as well as feeding more often for a period of time, may be a sign of cluster feeding, which typically happens during growth spurts.

12. Check Your Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk

You’re probably wondering if there’s an easy way to know if your breastfeeding baby is getting enough nourishment. Here are five tips for checking that your newborn is getting sufficient breast milk while he or she is feeding:

  1. Listen for your baby swallowing while breastfeeding. A few quick, short sucks followed by longer rhythmic sucks and swallows (with occasional pauses) is a sign that the milk is flowing properly.

  2. Look at your baby’s cheeks. They should be rounded, not hollow while your little one is sucking.

  3. Keep an eye on your baby to see if he or she seems calm and relaxed during feeds, and content and satisfied afterwards. It’s a good sign if your baby comes of the breast of his or her own accord at the end of a feed.

  4. Before a feed, your breasts may feel full and firm, but after a feed they will feel softer.

  5. If your nipples don’t look flatter, pinched or white after feeds it’s a sign that your baby is latching properly. This is important for getting enough breast milk at a feed.

Weight Gain and Growth A very accurate sign that your baby is getting enough to eat is steady growth and weight gain. After the first two weeks, your baby will usually be weighed and measured by your health visitor at health check-ups once a month until he or she is 6 months old, then once every 2 months until the age of 1 and every 3 months after that. Your health visitor will be keeping track of your baby’s weight gain and growth using special baby growth charts, but don’t hesitate to ask your health visitor or doctor for advice if you have any concerns about your little one’s development. It’s normal for a newborn to lose a little weight in the first few days, but by the end of the second week, he or she should be back to gaining weight at a steady pace. Wet and Soiled Nappies Wet and full nappies are another great indicator of how well your baby is eating. In the first 48 hours you might only see 2 or 3 wet nappies, but after day 5 they’ll be more frequent: You can expect to see 6 or more heavy wet nappies (with light-coloured urine) every day. In the first few days your baby’s poo will be a sticky, dark, tar-like substance. This first baby poo, known as meconium, this will gradually give over to regular poo over the following few days. From about day four your baby should do at least two soft, yellow poos a day. After a few weeks the frequency of bowel movements may decrease. If you’re ever concerned that your baby isn’t eating enough, let your health visitor or doctor know – don’t wait for your next scheduled appointment.

13. Increase Your Milk Supply, If Needed

Here are four things you can do to help boost your milk supply:

  1. Breastfeed your baby as often and for as long as he or she wants – your breasts will increase the supply of breast milk to keep up with demand

  2. Express some milk after feeds to stimulate breast milk production (it’s best to wait until breastfeeding is established before trying this)

  3. Offer both breasts every time you feed, and alternate which breast you offer first

  4. Try to reduce stress and relax. For example, take some time for yourself every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes.

Here are some reasons why you may have a low milk supply:

  • You might not be breastfeeding often enough (remember that newborns feed about 8 to 12 times a day). Breastfeeding or pumping too infrequently may signal your breasts to produce less milk.

  • You’ve been temporarily separated from your baby (for example because your baby was born prematurely and needed a little time to build up his or her strength in a neonatal intensive care unit. Gently expressing milk by hand can help build up your milk supply in this case.

Ask your health visitor or a lactation consultant for more personalised advice on increasing your breast milk supply.

14. Consider Using a Breast Pump

You may need or want to express your breast milk if

  • circumstances make it difficult for you to feed your newborn; for example, if your baby is born prematurely and is being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit

  • your breasts are uncomfortably engorged

  • you have mastitis; pumping can help relieve the discomfort associated with this condition

  • your baby only likes to feed from one breast

  • you’d like to have some extra breast milk stored so that someone else, such as your partner or a babysitter, can bottle-feed your baby

  • you’re heading back to work and plan to pump during the day.

There are three ways you can express milk:

  • By hand. This is a useful technique to learn, especially if you only express milk occasionally to ease the pressure on a full or engorged breast. You can do it anywhere without special equipment. Ask your health visitor or lactation consultant to show you how.

  • With a mechanical breast pump. A hand-operated breast pump could be an affordable and easy-to-maintain option for expressing your milk. You might find one brand or model suits you better than another, so – if possible – try before you buy.

  • With an electric breast pump. Electric breast pumps usually cost more than manual ones, but you may also be able to hire one. Ask your midwife or health visitor what’s available locally. Electric pumps often pump faster than a mechanical one. Some can express milk from both breasts at the same time, halving the time it takes.

15. Wait Before Introducing a Dummy

Giving your baby a dummy can help soothe him or her between feeds; however, offering it in those first few weeks can discourage your baby from breastfeeding, which in turn could have a negative effect on your milk supply. This is why experts recommend waiting until your baby has settled into breastfeeding before offering a dummy.

16. Get Prepared for Breastfeeding in Public (If You Choose To!)

At first you might only feel comfortable breastfeeding in private. At some point, however, as you get the hang of it you may feel confident about breastfeeding your baby with other people around or while you’re in a public place. Here are some tips for breastfeeding in public:

  • Wear clothing that allows you to easily access your breasts, like a loose top or a buttoned blouse or shirt

  • You may prefer to use a muslin square or a thin scarf to cover yourself when you’re breastfeeding. If you want to keep your tummy covered, another method is to wear two stretchy tops – just pull one down and the other up when it’s time to breastfeed.

  • If you don’t have (or want) a maternity bra, a soft non-underwired bra is easy to pull up or down for breastfeeding

  • Some baby slings are designed to allow breastfeeding while your baby is in the sling. Not only is this practical, it also keeps your baby comfortably close to you.

Be aware of your rights The decision on when and where you feel comfortable about breastfeeding is yours alone, and that decision is protected by law: It’s illegal in the UK to ask someone to leave a public place (such as a shop, cafe or public transport vehicle) because they’re breastfeeding.

17. Look After Yourself

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is just as important now that you’re breastfeeding as it was when you were pregnant, and at other times in your life.

  • Keeping to a healthy, balanced diet when you’re breastfeeding is important for your wellbeing and your little one’s healthy growth

  • Ask your health visitor or doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement

  • Postnatal exercises or other gentle exercise like walking or swimming can help your body recover more quickly after birth

  • Drink plenty of water. If your pee turns darker you may not be getting enough fluids. Breastfeeding can be thirsty work, so it’s a good idea to have a water bottle or glass of water close at hand.

  • Rest as much as you can. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps to take advantage of those opportunities for rest. Ask your partner or close friends and family to help with chores or watch over your baby while you get some much-needed rest or ‘me time’.

18. Avoid Alcohol and Smoking, and Limit Certain Foods

The following tips are reminders that as long as you’re breastfeeding, you’re passing on what you eat and drink to your baby, so certain things are best avoided or limited to ensure your baby isn’t affected in a negative way:

  • Limit your caffeine intake to 300 milligrams a day at the most. Caffeine is a stimulant that can make your baby restless and difficult to get to sleep. Keep in mind, it’s not only coffee and tea that contain caffeine. Energy drinks, cola and even chocolate also have varying amounts of caffeine in them. A mug of filter coffee may contain about 140 milligrams of caffeine, a cup of tea 75 milligrams and a 50-gram chocolate bar also 50 milligrams.

  • Eating two portions of fish a week is recommended when breastfeeding, but limit seafood that’s high in mercury – like swordfish, marlin or shark – to one portion a week at most. Two portions of oily fish a week is also enough – oily fish include fresh (but not tinned) tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, herring, mackerel and pilchards.

  • Avoid smoking, since nicotine can interfere with your baby’s sleep and health. Second-hand smoke also increases the risk of SIDS and respiratory illnesses in your baby.

  • It’s safest not to drink any alcohol at all while breastfeeding; but if you do happen to have the occasional drink, wait two to three hours for it to leave your system before a feed. Never sleep in the same bed or on a sofa with your baby after consuming alcohol, as this can also increase the risk of SIDS. In terms of lowering the overall SIDS risk, your baby should always sleep on his or her back in the cot.

19. Get Help If You’re Struggling With Breastfeeding

If you’re finding breastfeeding difficult or uncomfortable, don't hesitate to reach out for help, and don't be embarrassed. Breastfeeding is a natural process, but it does takes time and practice, and problems can crop up along the way. Your midwife or health visitor can provide one-on-one help, and they may also be able to put you in touch with trained local volunteer mothers (known as peer supporters) who you can lean on for advice and support when you need it. Besides this, there are plenty of other places and organisations you can turn to, including breastfeeding drop-in centres and cafes where you can make friends and share tips and advice on breastfeeding and many other aspects of parenthood. Many local and national charities and support groups also run breastfeeding helplines and websites in English and other languages. Ask your midwife or health visitor for details.

The Bottom Line on Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can be challenging at times, especially if you’re new to it, and it’s normal to feel a little anxious about it as well. By following these breastfeeding tips, and with professional help and support if you need it, you’ll soon get the hang of it. Before long, breastfeeding will become second nature and something you look forward to as an enjoyable part of your daily routine and a special way of bonding with your baby.

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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