Breastfeeding (and chest feeding) offers fabulous benefits for parents and for babies. But, it isn’t always easy. Some families face lots of challenges with lactation. Learning about feeding before birth is the best preparation. On this page, I summarize the basics, and provide links to lots more details on every topic.
When to nurse: It is best to begin nursing within one hour after birth. After that, you should nurse whenever baby displays hunger cues – turning head side to side, mouth movements, and sucking. Most babies will ask to eat every one-and-a-half to three hours throughout the day. Under 6 weeks, you baby needs to nurse at least 8 – 12 times a day. At each feeding, feed on the first breast till the baby shows full cues – lets go, falls asleep, or looks content. (Note: nurse a minimum of ten minutes per feed – if the baby falls asleep sooner than that, wake them up to nurse more.) Then give them an opportunity to burp, and offer the second breast.
How to nurse: You can use “baby-led breastfeeding” where you lie in a semi-reclined position, place baby on your chest, and encourage them to find the nipple on their own. Or you could use the position and latch techniques that lactation consultants have recommended for many years. Once baby is latched on, check for a good latch: baby’s mouth will be open wide, they will have taken much of the areola (not just the nipple) into their mouth, the nose and chin will be right at the breast, and nursing doesn’t hurt you.
How you’ll know baby is getting plenty (more details here)
- At the end of the feed, baby seems satisfied.
- Baby is peeing and pooping: 6 – 10 wet diapers, and 3 or more poopy diapers a day (for a baby between 6 days and 2 months old)
- Baby is gaining weight
If you want to increase your milk supply, it helps to know how milk is made, and remember the basic rule: the more frequently you breastfeed, the more milk you will make.
Preventing and managing challenges: To prevent nipple soreness, feed baby frequently – as soon as he shows hunger signs, ensure a good latch every time, and keep nipples clean and dry between feedings. To prevent engorgement, nurse frequently. To prevent clogged ducts, vary your positions as you nurse. To treat engorgement or clogged ducts, use warm water and massage. Click here for more info on breastfeeding challenges.
You do not have to have a perfect diet to make perfect milk for your baby. Learn more about nutrition for lactating parents.
Pumping, storing, and feeding expressed milk. If you need to be away from your baby, you can express milk by hand, with a manual pump, or with an electric pump. It can be stored for 8 days in the refrigerator. You can feed milk to the baby with a bottle, or with a spoon, syringe, tube or other options. Learn more about pumping, storing, and feeding.
How long to nurse: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding (nothing but breastmilk) for the first 6 months of life, then solids are introduced. But breastfeeding continues throughout the first year, then as long as it works for mom and baby. Learn more about breastfeeding after 6 weeks.
Within each of the articles linked above, I include links for great resources on that topic.
My favorite for all-the-info-you-need-all-in-one-place is this page: https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/learning-breastfeed
My two favorites for looking up answers to specific questions are Kelly Mom and La Leche League International.