Breastfeeding with confidence: Tips from an expert

Many new mothers spend sleepless nights searching the internet for advice on breastfeeding. And while there’s plenty of good information out there from trusted sources, not everything is available online.

"What they can't get on Google is reassurance and a connection to a person who is actually saying, ‘You're doing a great job! Keep going!'" says Andrea Mansor, RN, a lactation (breastfeeding) expert at HonorHealth. She is part of our team of board-certified lactation consultants with advanced training in breastfeeding management.

For new moms who deliver at HonorHealth, Andrea is that champion for them. She calls new moms a few days after they return home from the hospital to check on mother and baby, answer questions about breastfeeding and offer encouragement and support. Here are the top questions moms ask her, tips for common issues and information about when to talk to your doctor.

Engorgement

Engorgement can occur when the breasts become swollen as they fill with milk in the days following childbirth.
“Breasts can feel really hard and painful,” explains Andrea. 

Fortunately, there are a few things new moms can do at home for relief. The first thing Andrea recommends is icing the breasts with ice packs to help reduce some of the swelling. She says using bags of fruits or vegetables from the freezer is just fine, too. Icing the breasts works best if you remove your bra and put on a thin t-shirt first. 

Next, Andrea suggests massage, using a sweeping motion from the center of the chest through the armpits to try to clear excess fluid. After that, she urges new moms to express milk from their breasts to relieve pressure, whether it’s through breastfeeding or by using a breast pump.

Follow our step-by-step guide for therapeutic breast massage.

Taking a warm shower or applying diapers filled with comfortably hot water before breastfeeding or pumping can help with the expression or “let down” of milk.

Patience is important, as it can take 24 to 48 hours to significantly reduce engorgement. 

Latching

Latching, or how the baby attaches to the breast, is a critical part of successful breastfeeding. A proper latch helps ensure the baby is getting enough breast milk to thrive. When proper latching isn’t achieved, feedings can be very painful for the mother, who may experience nipple pain.

If Andrea suspects a new mom is having trouble getting the baby to latch correctly, she refers her to a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant can help guide the mother through breastfeeding techniques and a number of different positions and holds so she can find one that works well for her and baby. 

Sore nipples

Some nipple tenderness is common for moms who are new to breastfeeding. However, if nipples are painful or sore, it’s a sign that something may be wrong, such as a shallow latch.

“In that case, latching needs to be corrected,” notes Andrea.

Sometimes sore nipples result when the baby is tongue tied, which means the tongue is connected too tightly to the bottom of the mouth, making it difficult to breastfeed. If Andrea suspects that is the case, she advises moms to see the pediatrician for an evaluation.

Breast conditions may also cause nipple pain, so if the pain persists, mom should pay a visit to her own doctor, too. Nipple damage can lead to breast conditions like mastitis or plugged ducts (a breast infection). Signs of a breast infection include a fever and breasts that are red and feel painful, and Andrea recommends that new moms contact their doctor.

There are many products available to breastfeeding moms with nipple pain. These include hydrogels—gel pads that are soothing—and ointments like lanolin. However, Andrea urges moms to talk to their doctors about prescription nipple ointment if nipples become cracked or damaged.

Normal feeding patterns

“Moms are told to breastfeed every three hours, and sometimes they take that literally,” notes Andrea. However, she explains that healthy, full-term babies often feed more or less frequently than that based on various factors, such as time of day or night and how much the baby weighs. 

Instead of fretting about timing, new moms should instead pay attention to how many times a baby feeds during a 24-hour period. She encourages mothers to keep a feeding log to track this information. Download a printable feeding log.

“We need to look at the 24-hour picture,” she says. “You want to see eight breastfeeds in 24 hours—and more is OK.” 

Isolation during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is also impacting new mothers. Due to restrictions, many are unable to attend breastfeeding classes prior to childbirth. When these moms go home with their newborns, often they encounter breastfeeding challenges that hadn’t come up yet while they were still in the hospital.

In addition, due to social distancing guidelines mothers can no longer share their birth experiences face-to-face with close family or friends. When they go home, they aren’t able to have family members help at home as they could before COVID-19, either.

According to Andrea, this adds up to one big issue: “Isolation for new moms when they go home,” she says. At the same time, she’s hearing that partners are more actively involved than what she’s observed in the past. 

For her part, Andrea is happy to be able to help new mothers feel connected and confident as they adjust to life at home with a newborn.

“Patients are appreciative knowing someone is reaching out and they are not navigating this breastfeeding experience alone,” she says.

Breastfeeding resources

Access breastfeeding resources and learn how to schedule an appointment with Center for Breastfeeding Support.

See breastfeeding resources