Breast Friends

Need a little help nursing your baby? We've got simple, tried-and-true advice from women who've been there.

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Whenever my pregnant friends ask me for tips about breastfeeding, I advise this: Before you sit down to nurse, make sure there's a tall glass of something wet within reach. I experienced an overwhelming thirst the second my son started to suckle, and grape juice was the only thing that quenched it. Other women have told me that instead of water, Gatorade and carrot juice quelled their insta-dehydration.

Sure, lactation consultants will teach you the fundamentals—the correct positioning and latch, for instance. But your girlfriends will tell you about the best nursing pillow, the perfect tip for heading off neck tension, the most effective remedy for sore breasts (hint: it's edible) and, perhaps most essential, give you sage and sympathetic counsel to keep you from throwing in the towel when times get tough. That's why we asked veteran breastfeeders for hints and pointers—the kind of info you'd seek from your girlfriends, if you only had the time to ask! Here goes.

Find Your Comfort Zone

Lessen the tension: While nursing, stretch your neck and hold your mouth in a slightly open 'o.' This will relax your body and head off soreness in your neck and shoulders. —Victoria Clayton, Westlake Village, Calif.; mother of Nicolas, 2

Get horizontal: Nursing while lying on your side is a lifesaver. Even if you don't actually fall asleep with the baby, simply being able to relax your whole body gives you some much-needed physical rest. And if you do fall asleep, all the better! —Sydney Stoyan, Toronto, Canada; mother of Jacob, 3

Try a nursing pillow: I used the Boppy for both my boys (I even kept one upstairs and one downstairs). Not only does it make your baby more comfortable, it also frees up both your hands to do other things: hold the phone, read mail, click the remote or eat. —Robin Miller, Scottsdale, Ariz.; mother of Kyle, 4; and Luke, 2

Dress for success: You don't need to buy expensive 'nursing wear' I refuse to wear those layered smock tops that are specifically made for breastfeeding, so I opted for ballet-style cross-over tops and plain old stretchy bras instead. These types of tops have no fancy hooks or snaps, so I'd just pull mine discreetly to the side (right along with the bra) to nurse. Presto! —JennaCoito, SantaBarbara, Calif.; MotherofSophieBella, 3; AndSashaLaurel, 1

Drape a shawl over exposed skin: Even in liberal Toronto, I felt shy about nursing in public. Finally, on my birthday, my husband and I went to our local pub, and I managed to nurse my baby under the pashmina--while eating supper! —Sydney Stoyan

Nip Discomfort in the Bud

Never 'work through' pain: It wasn't until I nursed my second daughter that I realized it doesn't have to be uncomfortable. Any time it was, I'd have my lactation consultant come out to the house. She'd tweak this (usually me) and that (sometimes my daughter's head), and the pain would vanish. —Jenna Coito

Push it real good: If your nipples hurt during letdown, gently push on your breast just outside the areola--you'll find that the pain is immediately diminished. —Lynn Picker, San Diego; mother of Jason, 6; Julia, 4; and Adeline, 1

Diapers do double duty: Got engorged breasts? Heat damp disposable diapers (unused, of course) in the microwave, then place one on each breast. Huge relief! —Kathy Shea, Pelham, N.Y.; mother of Tommy, 9; and Riley, 7

Ready to wean?: Visit the produce department Raw cabbage leaves are a lifesaver! I put them right in my bra--they're the perfect size, they don't smell, and they stop the pain of engorgement. My doctor suggested this--and even she doesn't know why it works! (Many moms swear by the therapeutic effects of cabbage leaves even if you're not weaning.) —Marijane Funess, Pelham,N.Y.; mother of Gregory, 19; and Nick and Veronica, 9

Express Yourself

Pump up the volume: If you have problems pumping an adequate amount of milk, let your baby nurse from one breast while pumping the other. The baby's suckling helps trigger letdown and allows the available milk to be pumped from the other side. (This often works best after the first feeding of the day, when your milk volume is highest.) —Lynn Picker

Prime the pump: When my milk first came in, my breasts became so engorged there was no way my babies could latch on. I tried pumping a little bit of milk before I started breastfeeding, and it made all the difference. —Carol Melnick, Pelham, N.Y.;mother of Justin and Alexa, 7

Don't Quit Out of Frustration

Think of the benefits: I had mastitis, blocked ducts, cracked and bleeding nipples, and babies who didn't latch on.The only thing that kept me going through those first few weeks was the thought of the incredible health benefits: a decreased risk of diabetes, allergies and asthma for them; a lower risk of breast cancer and weight loss for me. —Laurie Powers, Fayetteville, N.C.; mother of Alec, 11; and Avery, 7

Buy yourself some free time: It's OK to give your baby an occasional bottle of formula. It allows your spouse to participate in feedings, it combats the "Oh my god, I'm almost out of frozen milk" panic and it can be used as a midnight feeding--which might let you get a few hours of sleep. And it gives your nipples a freaking break! —Jenna Coito

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