Tips on Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your baby has many advantages for both you and your baby. Breast milk is perfectly formulated with everything your baby needs to grow and develop, and is more convenient and cheaper than formula. Breastfeeding is also beneficial to you as a mother by helping your uterus return to its normal size more quickly, and helping you to burn more calories. Breastfeeding is associated with lowering your risk for osteoporosis as well as some forms of breast and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding is natural, but it does not always come naturally for mother and baby. Breastfeeding is a learned skill and takes patience and practice. Success with breastfeeding takes time, but here are some tips to help make the process go more smoothly.

  • Be prepared:
    Take a breastfeeding class before your baby is born or talk with friends or family who have successfully breastfed. This will help you to know what you need to get started as well as help you to avoid some common problems.
  • Nurse soon after the baby is born:
    In the first few hours after birth, the baby is often most alert and her suction reflex is ready for nursing.
  • Get comfortable:
    Support the baby with several pillows and sit in a comfortable position. This will allow you to work with the baby without straining your arms or back. There are several different positions including cradle hold, football hold, and side-lying position. Have the nurses in the hospital show you these positions and work with you to find the best positions for you and your baby.
  • Get the baby latched on properly:
    If the baby latches on improperly, it is painful and frustrating. When the baby is latched on correctly, he will have all of your nipple and a good deal of the areola in his mouth and will not be making clicking or smacking noises. In order to get the baby latched on correctly, first tickle the baby’s bottom lip with your nipple. The baby will open his mouth. Center your nipple in his mouth and bring the baby towards you.
  • Switch breasts:
    Alternate which breast you start with and try to feed out of both breasts at each feeding. Keep your baby on the first breast for as long as he/she is showing signs of active sucking. When they slow down or stop, then swtich to the other breast. Burp the baby between breasts and after he is done eating.
  • Break the suction:
    To remove your baby from the breast, put one finger in the corner of her mouth to gently break the seal.
  • Wake baby up:
    If your baby falls asleep before finishing nursing, you may need to stimulate him by tickling his feet, undressing him, changing his diaper or using a cool damp washcloth to keep him alert enough to get enough food.
  • Nurse on demand:
    Your baby will tell you when he is hungry by nuzzling against your breast, making sucking motions, or crying. Putting a baby on a schedule can deprive him of the nourishment he needs and tell your body to make less milk. Breastfeeding works on supply and demand. The more your baby eats, the more your body knows to produce. When your baby eats when he is hungry, your body will begin producing the correct amount of milk.
  • Drink plenty of fluids:
    Many breastfeeding mothers get thirsty while they are nursing. Keep a glass of water nearby. Getting enough water will also help you as you are starting to build your milk supply.
  • Be patient and keep trying:
    Breastfeeding can be frustrating when you first start. You are tired and want to make sure your baby is not starving. Try to stay relaxed and if you feel yourself getting too frustrated, take a break. The more relaxed you are the more easily you and your baby can work together to get the hang of breastfeeding.
  • Give yourself time:
    For many women, it takes a week or so before breastfeeding is running smoothly. Don’t give up too quickly. Ask for help if you are having trouble or if breastfeeding hurts. Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at first, but it should never hurt. The post-partum nurses, a lactation consultant, or a woman who has been through it before and succeeded can encourage you and help you to get everything working properly.

“Breastfeeding,” Planning your Pregnancy and Birth, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2000.
“Feeding your Baby,” Complete Book of Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year, Mayo Clinic, 1994.
“Breastfeeding,” Encyclopedia of Women’s Health and Wellness, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2000.

Last updated: 12/2006