Every mom, baby and situation is different, but these Basic Breastfeeding Tips should help get you off to good start.

  • Line up potential support before the baby comes and if you have questions or challenges, get help early.
  • Take a breastfeeding class.  Yes, breastfeeding is instinctual, but technique and rhythm are a learned dance.  Pay particular attention to proper positioning and latch instruction.
  • Feeding with skin-to-skin contact is great for everyone involved.  Aim to have the baby go skin to skin with mom as soon as possible after birth.
  • Newborns may normally lose between 5-10% of their birth weight.  The goal is for them to regain this by two weeks of age.  There is some flexibility with timing after the baby gets back to birth weight.
  • In the first few days after birth, your milk is colostrum, which is high in protein and beta-carotene.  This stuff is ideal for helping baby immunologically, digestively and for growth.  Within the first 3-5 days after birth, your milk should begin to transition to mature milk, which means greater volumes and changed composition based specifically on your baby’s needs.
  • Look for baby’s early feeding cues like increased body movement, rooting and licking of the lips.  Crying is a late hunger sign and makes latching more difficult for everybody.
  • Newborns need to feed frequently, so baby should go to breast at least every 2-3 hours, with some exceptions.  This will help increase or maintain milk supply, facilitate bonding and ensure calories and nutrition for baby.
  • You may have to wake baby to feed before they get back to birth weight.  Start to wake 15 minutes before feed time so that there are no more than 3 hours between the start of one feed to the next.  If babies are waking on their own before 3 hours, follow their cues as it is normal for infants to cue hunger anywhere between 1-3 hours after the start of their last feed.
  • Find a comfortable position where your body is well supported. Baby should be snug against your body, tummy to tummy, starting at natural breast level with the nose across from the nipple.  You should be able to relax your shoulders and lean back a bit, rather than forward into baby.
  • Practice a deep, off-set latch (pay attention to this one in breastfeeding class).  A shallow latch can cause pain and damage to the nipples.  Moms who are on pain medication may be unaware this is happening, so proper focus is key. Just because it “looks good”, doesn’t mean it feels good.
  • When correct, the latch at the beginning of a feed can be intense and uncomfortable, but it should subside within 20-30 seconds.  You may or may not feel tugging at this point.
  • Keep baby active on the breast by rubbing the baby and with breast compressions.  During the first few days, a good gauge is 10-15 minutes per side, but soon you should follow baby’s cues and feed one side well and then offer the second side.
  • Active, nutritive swallows look like the jaw is dropping lower and pauses there for a second.  You may even hear a puff of air.  Babies have a non-nutritive need to suck as well, and may do so intermittently for periods of time on the breast.
  • Your breasts may get engorged, particularly in the early days.  Frequent feeds and cold compresses can alleviate discomfort.  Engorgement can make it hard for baby to get a deep latch.  I often see the most nipple damage during this time.  Hand-expression can make the breast a little softer so baby can get a  deeper latch. 
  • Keep track of poop and pee.  What goes in, comes out and it should start to change color from black to green to yellow as your baby's system gets flushed of meconium.  This transition in the first few days is one way to know baby is getting milk.
  • Utilize your care providers.  Call the pediatrician if you are unsure of anything.  Definitely call if the baby is excessively sleepy or lethargic, is feeding less than 8 times in 24 hours and/or takes on a yellow cast to the skin.
  • Babies tend to cluster feed at times – it seems like they are on the breast constantly and insatiable.  Be aware in the early weeks this may happen around day two, week two and week six.  Generally though, you may notice similar behavior on random afternoons and evenings.
  • Try and limit visitors as you will be getting to know your baby. There are some pretty incredible emotional and chemical things going on that make it important to have focused time together.
  • Flexibility with your desires and intentions is key.  There may be need to pump early or supplement the baby based on evaluation by your pediatrician and/or lactation consultant. 
  • You have choices.  My philosophy is “Happy mom, happy baby” – The adage “Breast is Best” puts a lot of pressure on moms who may have different ideas.  With comprehensive, proper and clear evidence-based information, you should make the choices for your baby.

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