Written by the Theralogix team of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists
In the beginning, a breastfeeding mom can feel like she is nursing 24/7. While it is one of the most natural things you can do, it can sometimes be challenging to establish a comfortable breastfeeding relationship with your baby. There are many breastfeeding resources for new moms. Some of these resources include online or in-person support groups and classes. Others are simply products that make breastfeeding easier. In this article, we share helpful breastfeeding resources for new moms.
Breastfeeding Resources: Education and Support
Throughout your breastfeeding journey, you will inevitably have many questions. Women have been nursing babies since the beginning of time! Moms are very good at helping other moms. Some of the best lactation education happens in conversations with friends and family who have been there before.
However, if you don’t have a tight-knit group of moms or family who has breastfed, don’t worry! There are many ways to get valuable information from other sources.
One of the most challenging aspects of breastfeeding is simply knowing what to do. The mechanics of breastfeeding are surprisingly difficult. Lactation consultants are professional breastfeeding specialists. They are trained experts who can help teach women to breastfeed their babies.
With the support of a lactation consultant, you may be able to learn how to overcome some initial breastfeeding challenges. Lactation consultants can help your baby achieve an effective latch. Achieving an effective latch is often one of the main concerns new moms have with breastfeeding. Lactation consultants can also help with painful nursing, low-milk supply, and support as additional questions arise.
Look for a lactation consultant that is board certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Board-certified lactation consultants have the acronym “IBCLC” after their name and are referred to as IBCLCs (International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants). These health professionals can work in hospitals or private practices, and some will make home visits.
It is not uncommon to see a lactation consultant in the hospital before bringing your baby home. It is a good idea to take advantage of your lactation consultant visits in the hospital. If you find you need further assistance once you get home with your baby, ask your baby’s pediatrician for a recommendation, or use the search tool on ILCA’s website.
Breastfeeding Resources Online
If you Google almost any question about breastfeeding, you will likely find the holy grail of online breastfeeding resources: KellyMom.com. This website is the breastfeeding mom’s best friend. Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC, the owner and creator of KellyMom.com, provides only evidence-based information on breastfeeding and parenting The Kelly Mom community includes the website and social media pages, including Facebook and Twitter.
Because nursing moms often do not have time to sit in front of the computer, Breastfeeding Solutions by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA is a great smartphone app to consult for common breastfeeding questions. You can browse common topics or search through the alphabetical index of issues.
Another great site with easy-to-read, evidence-based articles on breastfeeding is CindyAndJana.com. Registered Nurses and IBCLCs run this site, so you know the information they share is accurate and credible. One of the great things about Cindy & Jana is that they offer free and paid online breastfeeding classes. These classes are helpful if you want in-depth knowledge but do not want to work with a lactation consultant in your area.
Breastfeeding Support Groups
La Leche League International (LLLI) corners the market on breastfeeding support groups. LLLI states that its mission is to “help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.”
Essentially, LLL support groups can become your network of moms who’ve “been there, done that.”
You can use the “Find Local Support” function on the LLLI website to find support group meetings in your area. LLL support groups are held in every state in the US and in many countries worldwide. If you do not want to attend a meeting, you can also find contact information for LLL “leaders” in your area to reach out to with any questions.
The LLL website also has Mother-to-Mother Forums, which can be helpful sounding boards for common breastfeeding questions. In short, LLL is one of the best resources available to breastfeeding moms.
Strategies to Increase Milk Supply
Low milk supply is a common problem faced by many breastfeeding moms. As mothers, we want to make sure our babies are getting enough milk to ensure proper growth and development.
Any food, herb, or medicine that promotes or increases the flow of mother’s milk is called a galactagogue. As Kelly Mom reminds us, the best way to increase milk-supply is to remove more breast milk frequently. If you have worked with a lactation consultant and have tried other strategies for increasing milk supply, consider adding a natural galactagogue.
As always, please consult your healthcare provider to see if any of these would be right for you.
Herbs that Help Lactation
There is some mixed evidence that fenugreek seed may be an effective herb for promoting adequate milk supply. The most common ways to get fenugreek are by taking it in supplements or drinking fenugreek tea.
Please consult your healthcare provider and/or lactation consultant if you are interested in trying fenugreek.
Foods that Help Lactation
Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence to show that any foods are effective galactagogues. Anecdotally, however, some women find that oatmeal may increase their milk supply.
Kelly Mom shares some possible reasons why oatmeal may work to boost lactation. One theory is that since oatmeal is a good source of iron, and iron deficiency anemia can lead to decreased milk production, eating foods rich in iron may increase lactation. Also, because oatmeal is a comfort food for many women, promoting relaxation may increase milk supply. Finally, there is some connection between lowering cholesterol and an increase in breast milk output.
Whatever the reason may be, many women swear by eating oatmeal every day to boost or maintain milk supply.
One popular way to get your daily dose of oatmeal is to eat lactation cookies. If you Google “lactation cookie recipes,” you will get many variations of this popular food for breastfeeding moms.
In addition to oats or oatmeal, most lactation cookie recipes include brewer’s yeast, flax meal, and wheat germ, which may promote increased lactation in some women. If baking isn’t your thing, you can also purchase commercially produced lactation cookies.
Nutrition Support: Breastfeeding Supplements
Beyond making sure you have enough milk, you want to provide your baby with vital nutrients for their healthy development. Some essential nutrition tips for breastfeeding moms include eating a healthful, balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and taking a high-quality postnatal supplement.
Many women continue to stay on their pregnancy prenatal throughout breastfeeding. However, we recommend taking a postnatal supplement formulated specifically for the needs of breastfeeding moms. The goal for this type of supplement should be to help fill the gaps in a nursing mom’s diet.
Essential nutrients to consider when taking a postnatal supplement include iodine, DHA, and vitamin D. These three nutrients are sometimes challenging to obtain through the diet alone and are critically important to a baby’s growth and development. You can learn more about breastfeeding in the article, “Good Nutrition for You and Your Baby while Breastfeeding.”
Additional Tips for Breastfeeding Moms
Some of the most popular nursing pillows include the Boppy and My Breast Friend. The basic idea behind these U-shaped pillows is that they hug mom’s midsection so that she can rest the baby on her lap while nursing.
One of the more innovative breastfeeding pillows is the littlebeam™ Nursing Pillow developed by Dr. Kathleen McCue, an IBCLC with experience assisting well over 5,000 nursing moms. This pillow is smaller and bean-shaped, which allows for more comfortable positioning for many moms and babies.
Nursing Bras and Clothing
As you begin to breastfeed, you will quickly realize that standard bras and clothing will not cut it. To make your life a lot easier, we recommend investing in some nursing bras and a few clothing items specifically designed for breastfeeding moms.
Lucie’s List is an excellent resource for new moms. In addition to great information, this site provides reviews of baby gear organized by life stage. Check out their nursing wear guide and reviews of the best nursing bras to see the range of apparel available for breastfeeding moms. There are some very stylish and functional options to help make nursing easier and more enjoyable.
If pumping is a part of your breastfeeding journey, the Simple Wishes Hands-Free Pumping Bra is a good option. The double zippers make it possible to pump one side at a time easily. It is fully adjustable to fit a range of sizes, which can be helpful as the size of your bust fluctuates. You can also make it tight enough so that the pump does not fall out (an issue with some looser pumping bras).
Another recommendation is a comfortable sleep bra. Because your milk supply may build up overnight, leaking can be an issue. Therefore, you may want to sleep with nursing pads tucked into your bra.
Breastfeeding can be challenging. It can also be one of the most rewarding experiences you share with your child. As you can see from this list of resources for breastfeeding moms, there are support systems and products available to help you achieve your breastfeeding goals.