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17 Breastfeeding Mistakes Most New Moms Make and How to Fix Them

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What breastfeeding mistakes could I be making and how do I fix them?

Congratulations on making the decision to breastfeed!

Whether you’re still pregnant and trying to learn all you can, or it’s 2 in the morning (and you’ve got a hungry newborn) and you’re looking for some advice, I have fixes to some of the most common breastfeeding mistakes you could be making.

I was there in the beginning of my breastfeeding journey and had no idea what I was doing and no idea what I was doing wrong (making most of the mistakes I’m going to go over). I really feel for new moms on this journey. So, feel free to reach out, ask questions or just connect with someone who’s been there.

Without any further delay, let’s get into the mistakes so you can get to feeding that little one and maybe get some sleep!

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How do you know if you’re breastfeeding wrong?

Of all the breastfeeding mistakes you could be making there is one way to know you may be doing it wrong:

In the beginning, it is natural for your nipples to be cracked and chapped, at least until they become used to what is going on. And to help with that you’re going to want to use a nipple cream. This cream works just like chap stick and is safe for baby and momma. However, if you are having actual pain in your nipples or breasts when breastfeeding that is not normal. And it is the biggest indication you are doing it wrong.

So how do you fix this most painful breastfeeding mistake?

First, you want to make sure your baby is latched correctly. All of the nipple and much of the areola should be covered. Your baby’s lips should be fanned out to cover the nipple. Your baby should be able to stay on your breast for the entire session. And you should either see your baby swallowing (by watching their jaw move) or hear your baby swallowing (there was an audible click when my son would swallow).

If you’re still having problems getting a good latch, you may need to try other breastfeeding positions. (Check out breastfeeding mistake #3.) Everyone is familiar with the cradle hold. This is how you easily hold your baby in your arms when not breastfeeding. However, it may be one of the breastfeeding mistakes you are making and can be fixed by simply changing positions or using more support. Read on for how to fix this breastfeeding mistake and others you may encounter.

What are common problems of breastfeeding?

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Breastfeeding Mistake #1: Not Taking a Class

The number one breastfeeding mistake you could be making actually starts before you even have the baby. And that is not taking a class to prepare yourself.

I will raise my hand and say I made this mistake myself. Not because I thought I had any idea about what I was doing. But covid canceled my class, and I thought how hard could it be really? After all, it’s a natural process. Baby, breast, milk – ta da! Oh, I was so cocky. (And at the time, I didn’t feel like I had any other real options.)

While it is a very natural process, it’s one neither you nor your child have ever done before, so there will be a learning curve. But you’re not going to follow in my footsteps and make one of the biggest breastfeeding mistakes. You’re going to sign up for a class (whether at your hospital or online), and you’re going to learn all you can about breastfeeding.

I’m not guaranteeing that you will have success right off the bat, but you will have an idea where to start and lessen your learning curve.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #2: Not Asking for Help

I had some very supportive nurses in the hospital helping me with this whole new world of breastfeeding. But due to covid, lactation consultants were not permitted in the hospital. The nurses kept telling me I was doing a great job, but my son would only feed for about 5 minutes or so until he decided it was better to take a nap. (Just long enough for the nurse to say great job, I’ll be back in a little while.) Then nothing. I couldn’t convince him to eat any more. And that was if he decided to latch at all.

Fortunately, the day we were discharged, the nurse saw the trouble I was having and offered me a nipple shield. This woman was my godsend. If it wasn’t for her, I definitely would have quit within a few days of being home. After I was home for a few days, a lactation consultant contacted me and really helped me through all the other problems I was facing. (Many of which, I have listed for you below.)

The point of this very long story is to tell you to not be afraid to ask for help. Ask the nurses. Get the number of a lactation consultant (mine was through the hospital). Ask your other momma friends (or make some new ones – I’d make a great mom friend!).

And don’t forget to ask your spouse and family for support as well. Many mommas say cleaning can wait but eating definitely cannot. So, find someone to make you snacks and meals. Breastfeeding can be very exhausting, especially when you’re not asking for the help you need.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #3: Not Trying Different Positions

As I mentioned before, sticking with only one position is one of the breastfeeding mistakes a lot of new moms make. You might not have even realized there were different ways to hold your baby while breastfeeding:

  1. The cradle hold – (the traditional position) baby is cradled in your arms with his tummy against yours, using the nursing arm to support the baby’s head
  2. The cross-cradle – similar to the cradle hold, but you cross your non-nursing arm over your body to support the baby’s head, while your nursing arm can be used to position your breast
  3. Lying back – (usually what happens right after birth) place baby on your chest or belly and allow him to latch
  4. Side-lying – you and baby lie on your sides facing each other, good for middle of night feeds
  5. Football hold – baby lies against the outside of your body and is supported by your arm or pillows, allows for nursing arm to support and non-nursing arm to position your breast

Different positions are better for different sized babies and different sized breasts. A different position can also help if you have a clogged duct. Don’t be afraid to try something new until you find what works best for you. And get enough pillows to support your back and your baby each time you breastfeed. This is a marathon momma, so get comfy!

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Breastfeeding Mistake #4: Ignoring Problems

I mentioned earlier that the way you know you’re breastfeeding wrong is that it’s painful. After your nipples get used to the idea of what’s going on, breastfeeding should never be painful, so please don’t ignore it.

Your baby can be latching correctly, and you can have success for weeks, and you can still end up in some degree of pain for any number of reasons.

Engorgement is painful, but super easy to treat. This is when your breasts become too full and basically feel like they could explode, and they may even start leaking. It might be that your little one finally started sleeping longer and missed a meal. Just go ahead and feed. But if it’s not time for baby’s next meal, you’ll want to pump to alleviate the pain.

Another painful side effect of breastfeeding is clogged ducts. This can be a little scary because you might actually feel a small lump where the duct is clogged. (Not something any woman wants to find.) Try different breastfeeding positions to allow your baby to latch differently to try to unclog it. Run warm water over the clog while you are in the shower. Or use these breast therapy pads to warm the area.

Sometimes that clogged duct can become infected and turn into mastitis. Usually, the breast will be tender and warm to the touch and may even look red. You could have a fever and may need to be placed on an antibiotic. Don’t dismiss this and get the help you need.

You could also end up with thrush, which is a yeast infection in the breast. It’s usually caused by baby’s saliva entering your nipple. Nipples could be sore or have an itching or burning sensation. There are treatments for thrush for both you and your baby, so don’t wait to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any painful effects while breastfeeding.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #5: Sticking to a Schedule

Everything I actually did read on breastfeeding said that a newborn baby needed fed every two hours. This is a great guideline to follow, especially once you have a working breastfeeding routine. But for a new mom, sticking to a schedule is one of the biggest breastfeeding mistakes you can make.

You should actually be watching for your baby’s cues to determine when the next feeding session will be. Early signs like rooting (searching for the breast), sticking hands in mouth and stretching are when you should be getting your baby ready to start a feeding session. If your little one is already smacking his lips or super fidgety, don’t wait any longer. And if you’re little one is crying, he’s more than likely too overwhelmed to eat. You’ll first need to calm him before he’ll be able to eat.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve missed the early cues. It happens when you’re still learning your baby. It can also happen when you have visitors over, who want to hold that precious newborn. That’s when it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the clock and your baby’s temperament. And don’t be afraid of taking your baby back if someone mentions the rooting or hand sucking. Now you know about the cues.

The only other time you won’t be able to watch for baby’s cues is when you’re finally able to get some sleep. My first night home, I set an alarm for every two hours. But don’t be surprised if your baby wakes more often. In the beginning, I was feeding my little guy every 15 to 30 minutes. (And I’ll explain why in breastfeeding mistake #6.) I’m not saying that to scare you. I just want you to be prepared. Eventually, we got into a better pattern and were closer to every two hours.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #6: Not Feeding Baby Long Enough

In the hospital, first I had problems with my son latching. Then he would only eat for 5 minutes before he decided it was time for a snooze. The nurses wanted him to eat for at least 15 minutes until we could work our way up to 20 minutes. I think we hit the 15-minute mark once during our entire hospital stay.

Once we got home, I figured out the reason he kept falling asleep was because he was so warm. Then, I was finally able to keep him awake during the whole 20 minutes. (SCORE!) But he was still eating every 30 minutes or so ALL. NIGHT. LONG. This momma was not getting any sleep.

After an amazing conversation with a lactation consultant, I found out the breastfeeding mistake I was making (and I’ve made them all at this point) was that he should have been feeding for 20 minutes ON. EACH. SIDE. Holy cow! Why did no one in the hospital think to mention that?!

After a 40-minute feeding, he no longer needed to eat every 30 minutes. We were FINALLY at the 2-hour mark, and I could finally get some sleep!

Please don’t make this mistake! Feed your little one for 20 minutes on the first side, then switch and feed for another 20 minutes. You should also be starting on the opposite side each time you feed. So, if your 8 o’clock feeding started on the right side, your 10 o’clock feeding will start on the left. (This keeps the girls nice and even and lessens the chances of one breast becoming engorged.) And as a final reminder, your 2-hour feedings start when you start feeding, not from when you finish.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #7: Not Taking a Prenatal

You may have thought you could give up that prenatal vitamin once you were holding your new baby in your arms. But in all honesty, you shouldn’t. Everything that is packed in those vitamins that are so important for baby’s development in the womb are just as important to pass on through your breastmilk.

It’s also just as important for your health, and it has been suggested that continuing a prenatal can decrease the chances of postpartum hair loss (although it didn’t work for me).

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Breastfeeding Mistake #8: Not Drinking Enough Water

This is a common breastfeeding mistake even seasoned mothers make. We’re so busy doing ALL. THE. THINGS. that we forget to take care of ourselves. But if you’re not drinking enough water, you’re not going to be able to keep producing enough milk for your baby.

Breastmilk is nearly 90% water (source), and with the energy it takes your body to make breastmilk, you’re using a lot of water. Make sure you drink a glass of water during each breastfeeding session to replenish what you have used. Try using a water bottle with measurements to make sure you are getting enough.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #9: Not Eating Enough

Here’s another breastfeeding mistake I made early on. And it was mostly because I was so focused on other things, and I didn’t realize just how much you need to eat to keep doing what you’re doing. Now is not the time to start watching your weight or worrying about cutting calories.

In fact, you probably need to increase your calorie intake to 500 a day (source). Of course, that should be a healthy 500 calories. Make sure you’re eating your regular meals but keep snacks near your bed and in your breastfeeding station for a quick pick-me-up.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #10: Not Using a Pump to Create a Supply

I’m sure you’ve read many articles about the best way to start a freezer stash. My lactation consultant said not to worry about this until month two or three, after we had a solid routine. And it is the one piece of advice I wish I would have avoided.

I made sure to try my breast pump before returning to work and got a few ounces here and there. What I failed to do, until after returning to work, was use this wonderful device called a Haakaa. I love this one because it comes with a lanyard to secure it while you’re feeding so your little one doesn’t kick it off.

breastfeeding mistakes: woman sitting in chair breastfeeding her baby

It’s also incredibly easy to use. Just squeeze it and apply to the breast not being occupied by your baby. It will create a suction and as your baby eats, the Haakaa will collect the letdown in the opposite breast. There’s a chance you will leak milk from that breast anyhow, so don’t let it go to waste. One of the nurses in the hospital suggested that I get two for after a shower, as the hot water usually causes the milk to leak.

I was able to collect 3 to 6 ounces every time I used my Haakaa; enough for 1 or 2 feedings, depending on how much your little one eats. It might not be enough to stock your freezer. But if you do it a couple feedings a day, you’ll easily have enough stored up so you can go out for the evening or take some time for self-care and still be able to feed your baby.

Related: How to Set Up a Pumping Station

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Breastfeeding Mistake #11: Not Pumping on a Schedule

If you’re a breastfeeding momma and you’re heading back to work, you’re going to need to pump on a schedule. It should be similar to your baby’s feeding schedule. If that’s every 2 hours, then every 2 to 3 hours, you should pump for 15 to 20 minutes. Fortunately, pumping is quicker than when baby feeds.

The breastfeeding mistake I made when pumping was when my pediatrician gave me the go ahead to stop my baby’s night feeds. Finally, I could sleep through the night. His last feeding before bed was at 11, and his next feeding was around 4:30 in the morning.

That was 5 or 6 hours my body was not being demanded to make milk. And breastfeeding is all supply and demand. My supply dropped drastically when I dropped that middle of night feed. And I didn’t realize I should still be pumping during that night feed because I was so happy to be able to sleep.

If I could do it all again (or if I ever need to), the Haakaa and that middle of night pumping session would be the two breastfeeding mistakes I would be sure to fix.

Related: Necessary Products for Pumping Moms

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Breastfeeding Mistake #12: Not Using Breastfeeding Products

There are many breastfeeding products out there to help you be successful. Get a supportive pillow and supportive nursing bras or tanks. Make sure you have a dedicated space for breastfeeding, whether it’s your couch or a new glider.

And the number 1 item I recommend to anyone having problems is a nipple shield. I saw these while setting up my baby registry and had no idea what they were. It wasn’t until the nurse saw me struggling in the hospital that I was introduced to this breastfeeding life saver. While it’s not recommended that you use this during your entire breastfeeding journey, it saved me from giving up completely and also came in handy again when my son started teething.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking these products are not important or thinking that you’ll only use them for a short period of time. Sometimes it’s the convenience of these items that helps continue breastfeeding.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #13: Being Stressed

This very common breastfeeding mistake can cause a lot of problems. If you are not comfortable with breastfeeding (either the position you’re using or the actual act of breastfeeding), this can be stressful to your body. If you’re worried that you are not making enough milk, that can put stress on your body. If your baby just cries for food nonstop and you’re not getting enough sleep, that’s more stress on your body.

And just like stress can mess up your period, it can mess up your breastfeeding success. (This was especially true for me when I was pumping at work.)

So, take your time before starting a breastfeeding session. Take some deep breaths. Use some affirmations (your body can do this, and you will be successful). Put on some relaxing music. Get you and your baby into a comfortable position. And do your best to remain calm. Once you find your rhythm, it will get easier every time.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #14: Worrying About What Others Think

This was one breastfeeding mistake I didn’t make, and I think that comes with a mom of advance maternal age (ok, who came up with term?). I can’t tell you what to think or feel, but I can tell you if this is the way you choose to feed your baby, then let people think what they will. It’s really not about them.

If you need to feed in public (which is your legal right), then do it, if you’re comfortable. If you need to pump at work (which is also your legal right), don’t let the negative people keep you from your job as a mother. And if it’s someone in your friend or family circle giving you a hard time, maybe take a break from them while you choose what’s best for your family.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #15: Giving Up Too Soon

So, you’ve taken note of all the breastfeeding mistakes you’re not going to make. And now you’re in the thick of it. And you’ve found out THIS. IS. SO. HARD. Yes, momma. I hear you! It is hard, especially when you’re making all the breastfeeding mistakes. (I know because I’ve made plenty of them!)

But even if you’re doing everything right, it is still exhausting. Let me ask you to not give up before you’ve given it a fair shot. Don’t make the decision to quit at 3 in the morning after a long, hard night during your first week home from the hospital. Get some sleep, get some support, and make the decision with a clear head.

I had one of those 3 am nights with my son. He had been eating in those 30-minute cycles and at 3 am he was crying, and I was crying because I couldn’t help him. And then I realized, he was just hungry, and I had what he needed. The next day, I knew I didn’t want to quit, and shortly after that I talked to my lactation consultant and found out all the things I was doing wrong and was able to continue to breastfeed for 11 months. Get the help. You don’t have to do this alone!

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Breastfeeding Mistake #16: Not Knowing When to Quit

This breastfeeding mistake may seem to contradict what I just talked about. However, there may come a point in your breastfeeding journey when it is better for you, your baby, or your body to quit and try an alternative way of feeding. And that’s okay. I know this may have been your ideal way to feed your child, but if it starts to affect someone’s health, remember that fed is best. And it doesn’t reflect on your ability to be a good mom.

You can try formula, keeping in mind you may have to try a few options to find one that agrees with your baby (here’s the one that worked for me). Or talk to your doctor to see if donor milk might be right for your baby.

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Breastfeeding Mistake #17: Not Taking Care of Yourself

This is not only a breastfeeding mistake, but a new mom mistake. You are so busy caring for that new little bundle of joy that you might not even have time to think about the last time you showered. I know I was walking around in a sleepless fog for the first two months. That haze does wear off, and you will sleep again. I promise! Although I know it doesn’t feel like it now.

You need to make time for yourself, especially when breastfeeding and taking care of small children. The stress of everything you’ve been going through may eventually affect your supply, especially if you’re returning to work and starting to pump on top of everything that’s going on at home.

A nice massage or even a hot bath may seem like crazy indulgences right now, but at least take five minutes for yourself every day. Even if it’s just sitting in your car before stepping back into your house after work. And if you’re a SAHM, run those errands, but then leave that car parked and take a minute to breathe and relax, maybe with a treat from your Target run.

And find your mom tribe. When you don’t know what to do, these are the people you can count on that are going through the same crazy things you are.


There you have it: the 17 breastfeeding mistakes you could be making as a new mom and how to fix them. Many of these mistakes could be avoided by simply taking a breastfeeding class to learn what to do right from the beginning.

And don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. Whether it’s from a nurse or lactation consultant or family and friends, having a support system in place makes breastfeeding as a new mom much easier. And it’s more likely that you will succeed.

Good luck on this journey to breastfeeding your baby!

Were there any breastfeeding mistakes that I didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments.

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17 Breastfeeding Mistakes Most New Moms Make and How to Fix Them

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