Certified Lactation Consultants' Breastfeeding Essentials and Lactation Advice

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Breastfeeding your baby is a part of parenthood that may feel like it comes naturally. Or it can be surprisingly difficult and even stressful.  

First and foremost, let’s acknowledge the glaring gap between the CDC’s recommendation that women should exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life—and the reality of life as a new mom.

To help you on your breastfeeding journey, we spoke with Certified Lactation Counselor, Dana Saccomano and Kelly Wysocki-Emery MSN RN IBCLC on their breastfeeding essentials for new moms and their advice for nursing moms, including what breastfeeding moms should expect in the early days postpartum and the first year.

Kelly is a registered nurse and internationally board certified lactation consultant by the IBLCE, or International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. 

Kelly Wysocki-Emery

Certified Lactation Consultant, Kelly Wysocki-Emery

Dana Saccomano’s experience breastfeeding her two children led her to become a  breastfeeding counselor for Breastfeeding USA as well as a Certified Lactation Counselor. 

Certified Lactation Counselor, Dana Saccomano

Certified Lactation Counselor, Dana Saccomano


We asked Saccomano and Wysocki-Emery some of your most common questions about how long the feeding journey lasts, how to breastfeed successfully and what to do if breastfeeding doesn’t quite work out as planned.  

What Are Some Of The Benefits Of Breastfeeding?

By now, you’ve most likely been told or read that breastfeeding has big benefits for your baby.  The benefits of breastfeeding for your baby include:

  • Reduced risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and gastrointestinal illnesses including NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis) a disease that can be life-threatening for preterm infants 
  • Ear infections 
  • Obesity 
  • Type 1 diabetes

But breastfeeding also has significant benefits for you, the nursing mom. For nursing moms, breastfeeding can provide protection from breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and even high blood pressure.  

Mother breastfeeding her baby

What Are Your Top Tips For Breastfeeding Moms, Especially Around Making The Early Days Postpartum Easier?

Before your due date, stock up on breastfeeding products, like a few comfy nursing bras or nursing tanks, absorbent nursing pads or breast pads (disposable nursing pads are readily available), a nursing pillow or breastfeeding pillow like Boppy or My Brest Friend. Nipple cream like Lansinoh or lanolin nipple cream can be a lifesaver as well.

Setting yourself, and your baby, up for a successful breastfeeding experience is surprisingly simple. “The most important things you need in order to get breastfeeding off to a strong start is the desire within yourself, a hungry baby and some good lactation support.” Saccomano told us. 

Having an idea of what to expect and a basic sense of how to breastfeed can be extremely helpful. “Comfort comes with good feeding positioning and latch, which a lactation consultant can help you with,” Succomano told us. Sounds easy enough. In Saccomano’s experience seeking the advice of a lactation consultant makes all the difference. “Some folks like to buy things like special pillows, nursing bras and tanks, nipple butters, et cetera. The best investment you can make is setting up a lactation appointment early on in your baby feeding journey,” she shared. 

Wysocki-Emery concurs, “Just as you’d hire an electrician if you had trouble with your outlets, hiring someone who specializes in the mammary glands is just as smart!”

She recommends finding a lactation consultant you click with before your little one arrives. In terms of finding the right lactation consultant for you, she advises “Ask friends, co-workers or family members for recommendations. The “gold standard” is an internationally board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), but some hospitals also have certified lactation consultants ("CLCs") in the hospital or at the health department, so take advantage of their presence if you can, as they can help with the basics and getting you off to a good start in the early days when it can be most stressful!  All lactation consultants share the goal of helping you meet your goals for feeding baby, so they are a great resource for guiding you along the way.”  

Lastly, our experts recommend preparing yourself and your partner. “Learn about what to expect and how to feed your little one ahead of time, as it’ll be “go” time once baby arrives! Ask your partner to take over the washing of the breast pump, pump parts, and bottle parts!” Wysocki-Emery says, “They really do want to be helpful, so give them specifics that you’d love taken off your plate--your support team can’t read your mind, so now’s the time to be clear and honest.”

What Are The Most Common Breastfeeding Challenges You See Postpartum Moms Face?  

Like all aspects of new parenthood, breastfeeding challenges can be physical and emotional - and both at the same time! When Wysocki-Emery sees her postpartum clients struggling in their breastfeeding journeys, it is typically with the physical experiences of sore nipples, cracked nipples or engorgement, or the emotional experience of lack of confidence doing something completely new.  “Doing anything for the first time (or even the second time!) can be awkward, and breastfeeding is no different.” says Wysocki-Emery, “Although babies and moms have great instincts about these things, it can sometimes be a minute before everything clicks.” 

For new moms who have had a painful experience with breastfeeding, Saccomano told us, “Breastfeeding should not hurt! One of the most common challenges new breastfeeding moms face is sore nipples or cracked nipples, which is often caused by suboptimal feeding position and latch.” In fact, Saccomano said, “Suffering through any pain is completely unnecessary.”

If you’re experiencing pain during breastfeeding - whether sore nipples, cracked nipples, or even engorgement, it may be time to call in the experts. Saccomano recommends, “Lactation consultants want to help you achieve a comfortable, sustainable latch and will help you and your baby get into comfortable positions for feeding.  Seek out support from a lactation consultant you click with early to avoid this common challenge.”

Most importantly, its critical to tune in to yourself and what you want, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and try to have a flexible mindset. It doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” situation.” Wysocki-Emery advises, “If you enjoy putting your little one to the breast, and they enjoy being there, there’s no rule that says you can’t combo feed.” When new moms may experience challenges with milk supply, Wysocki-Emery reassures, “Breastfeeding isn’t all about the volume of milk, it can also be about the relationship you and baby form along the way.  It’s a “dance” you and baby do together, so take your time, make up the steps as you go along, making sure to stay in line with what feels right for you. I always tell new moms, “You’ve got this!”

How Long Do You Recommend New Moms Should Breastfeed?

There are differing opinions on this question. According to Saccomano, “The CDC does recommend exclusive breastfeeding (baby receiving nothing but human milk, with the exception of vitamins) for the first 6 months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding for at least 1 year. The WHO also recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding for at least 2 years.” 

How long you breastfeed your baby is ultimately up to you. It will likely depend on your baby, your body, and your life. Saccomano reminds new moms that, “These recommendations are not made to make mothers who do not meet them feel badly about themselves. These recommendations are made to protect children around the world from food and water-born illnesses and infections and also because the first 2 years of a child’s life is an extremely important time for ideal nutrition for proper growth and development.” 

It’s worth noting that at around six months your little one may begin to show signs that they’re ready to add solid foods to their diet. As a result, their milk intake may change. You can learn more about introducing solid foods to your baby in our article, “What you need to know about solid food and your baby”.

How Can Nursing Moms Continue to Breastfeed When Back at Work?

For millions of new moms around the globe, breastfeeding will at some point, become a part of their workday. In the U.S. in particular, there’s a good chance that a working mom will head back to work long before her baby is six months old. 

Breastfeeding for working moms comes with an added layer of challenge.  Pumping to provide milk for your baby while you are separated can be time consuming and unfortunately, there are workplaces that do not provide adequate time and space for pumping mothers,”  Saccomano told us. 

If you, like millions of working moms, find pumping from work to be extremely difficult, Saccomano shared some insights. “My advice to mothers facing this struggle would be to reach out to other parents and see how they made it work. Online support groups for breastfeeding and working mothers are great for this very purpose!”

For those who find the challenges of pumping at work too great, it can be distressing. Some may feel guilt or even sadness at this reality. You’re not alone. Continuing to breastfeed after returning to work can be a real challenge. “If you decide breastfeeding is not going to work out for you, and you are having a difficult time dealing with that decision, then please do reach out to a perinatal mental health specialist or a lactation counselor,” Saccomano shared. “Breastfeeding grief is a real thing and you do not have to navigate through it alone.” 

What Advice Do You Have For Moms Who Are Planning On Combo Feeding Or Bottle Feeding?

Whether milk supply, circumstances, or personal preference, combo feeding (combining breastfeeding and bottle feeding) and bottle feeding are great options.

The right gear can make postpartum life much easier. Wysocki-Emery advises new moms get a supportive (not binding) bra and cold packs for when your milk may increase around day 3 postpartum. For bottlefeeding, niceties like ready-to-feed formula (“just pop the top and feed!”) or formula makers are just a few small ways to make the early days or the first year easier. Wysocki-Emery notes that bottle warmers can be nice but babies don’t always care if the bottle is a little cool, so no need to invest there unless your little one shows a clear preference. Lastly, Wysocki-Emery recommends reviewing the FDA guidelines for infant formula safety in order to make sure you’re covering all of your bases.

Transitioning from breastfeeding to bottle feeding has its own challenges and joys.

For Formula Or Combo Feeding, How Much and How Often To Feed?

The most accurate and precise way to estimate your infant’s feeding needs is to meet with an internationally board certified lactation consultant to do something called a weighted feed. “The lactation consultant will use a special scale accurate to 2 grams in order to see approximately how much baby is taking from the breast.” says Wysocki-Emery, “This will help gauge how much formula or pumped breastmilk your little one might need in a baby bottle.” 

Wysocki-Emery notes that there will be natural variability between feeds and days to be expected. “Just like adults, babies can take in more at one feeding and less at another, and more one day and less on another.” Wysocki-Emery advises parents to try to become aware of your own baby’s cues for hunger and satiety, and then track their weight with the pediatrician at their normal checkups. Many factors, including genetics, go into a baby’s growth trend, so it’s most accurate to talk to a pediatrician.

For parents looking for a high level gut-check, Wysocki-Emery offers “A very general guide is to multiply 2.5 x baby’s current weight, and this will give you the amount of ounces they may need in 24 hours at a minimum. They can have more if they want, or less if they want, it’s just an average. And this calculation is just for the first couple of months, not for forever.  So, for instance, if baby is 8 lb., 2.5 times 8 would be 20 oz per day.  If baby feeds 10 times a day, that would be about 2 oz each session.  If your little one eats 8 times a day, this would be 2.5 oz per session.  Typically babies will top out at 6 months around 25-35 oz per day and then they start getting some calories from solids very gradually.” she notes, “But again, run these numbers by your pediatrician for a more accurate gauge.”

The Bottom Line

With a little planning you can identify lactation resources in advance in case you need them once your baby arrives. Having this support can help you, and your little one, experience the benefits of breastfeeding without unnecessary stress. 

“It is important to realize breastfeeding does not have to be all or nothing!” Saccomano reminded us. “Any amount of human milk you provide for your baby, whether you produce it yourself, or it comes from a milk donor or donation bank, will benefit their health in a positive way.” 

Whether breastfeeding comes easily to you or not, Saccomano reminded us that, “The way you feed your baby is 100% your choice and no one else’s. Ultimately, you need to do what is right for you and your little one.” 

Breastfeeding Essentials for New Moms

  • A good nursing bra or nursing tank that you love. “Try out a few models. You can change them out or use absorbent nursing pads or breast pads - disposable nursing pads are a lifesaver!” Wysocki-Emery says.

  • If you are planning to pump, a breast pump. Spectra, Medela, Elvie and Willow are all popular brands. Consider whether a hands free option works best for you. If you’re planning to pump away from home - for example at work - breast milk storage bags.

  • If you’re wondering which pump to choose, check out our comparisons of top models, including the double electric breast pumps Spectra S1 and Spectra S2. You can also buy breast pumps used, as long as you keep in mind how to do so safely.

  • Some nice items that can help breastfeeding feel most comfy, like a nursing pillow - Boppy and My Brest Friend are popular brands but there are many others as well.

  • A nursing cover can be great for nursing away from home

  • If you want to prepare in advance for potential sore nipples or cracked nipples, nipple cream like lanolin is great

  • Baby bottles, of course! You may want to try out a few to see which your little one prefers. Once you land on a brand and style your little one likes, stock up! “Since a little one can need about 8-12 bottles per day, the number you buy likely has most to do with your preferences for storage and dishwashing!” says Wysocki-Emery. Bottle sterilizers can also make this part of care a bit easier.

To start your lactation journey or learn more about breastfeeding, book a consultation with Kelly Wysocki-Emery, RN, CBCLC or Dana Saccomano, Certified Lactation Counselor. 
Courtney Harris is the author of this article. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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