During pregnancy, your body gets ready to breastfeed. In the fourth month of pregnancy, your breasts start making colostrum, the first milk for your baby. Colostrum can be yellow or clear. The colostrum that you feed your baby during the early few days after birth will boost his immune system and help him poop.
This lowers his chance of jaundice, a condition where the baby’s skin and eyes turn yellow. Your newborn baby has a tiny stomach – about the size of a small marble. On the first day, his stomach can only hold about one teaspoon of colostrum each time you feed him. Your baby’s tummy and appetite will grow as he grows.
How Breastfeeding works
When the baby latches on to the breast, he/she compresses the milk ducts under the alveoli and draws out the small amount of milk that collects there between feedings. This suckling causes the release of two hormones: prolactin and oxytocin.
Prolactin tells the alveoli (the milk-producing cells) to make more milk, and oxytocin causes the alveoli to squeeze the milk out into the ducts and down toward the nipple.
Breastfeeding works on the principle of supply and demand. The amount of milk removed from the breast determines the amount of milk produced. Milk production occurs between feedings as well as during feedings. How often, how long, and how well the baby feeds at the breast will impact how much milk will be made.
At the beginning of a feeding, the breast produces foremilk. This is higher in lactose and ﬂuid. The hindmilk that the baby receives later in the feeding is higher in fat and calories. It is essential to let the baby ﬁnish the ﬁrst side completely to ensure he/she receives the hindmilk needed to feel satisﬁed and for adequate weight gain.
Breastfeeding is a skill and may take time to learn. This booklet oﬀers information to help you and your baby get started. Call your local public health oﬃce if you have any questions.
How to breastfeed a newborn
See this short video on how you can easily breastfeed your baby
Getting Oﬀ to a Good Start with Breastfeeding
- Breastfeed Early: Breastfeed as soon as possible after birth. Your baby is most awake and ready to learn how to breastfeed during the ﬁrst 2 hours after birth. Breastfeeding early will also help you to make more milk.
- Breastfeed Right: In the hospital, ask your nurse to help you put your baby on to your breast. this will help create more bonds between you and your baby.
- Breastfeed Often: In the ﬁrst month, most babies will breastfeed well at least eight times a day. This can be everyone and a half to 3 hours. It is common for babies to have many feedings in a short period, and then sleep longer between feeds at other times. There are no set times to feed your baby. Feed your baby when he/she is showing signs of hunger (see next page).
- Breastfeed Only: Give your baby only breast milk. No extra drinks or food are needed for a healthy baby for the ﬁrst six months of life. Before this time, extra drinks or foods will slow down your milk supply and may aﬀect your baby’s health (for example, your baby may develop an increased risk for allergies).
Do not give your baby soothers or bottles. If you decide to use these, it is best to wait until your baby has learned to breastfeed. This often happens by 4 – 6 weeks. Giving a soother or bottle too early can cause your baby to have problems latching onto your breast and make breastfeeding painful or impossible.
Signs Your Baby is Ready to Feed
Your baby will show one or more signs of being ready to feed, even if still very sleepy.
- Fast eye movements under the eyelids as he/she begins to wake up to feed.
- Sucking and licking movements of the mouth.
- Putting hands into the mouth.
- Stretching and increased body movements.
- Making small sounds.
You will have the opportunity to notice these cues if the baby shares your room. They will start these activities in their sleep. If you wait until you hear the baby actively crying, getting the baby latched may be more diﬃcult.
Get comfortable, and ﬁnd a position that works well for you. Get clothing, yours and baby’s, out of the way. Skin to skin contact increases the baby’s ability to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding Positions for Newborn Baby
When preparing to feed your baby, check that:
- Your back and arms are well supported. A pillow behind your back and under your arms will help.
- Your baby’s head and body are raised to your breast. A pad under your baby will help.
- Place your baby on his/her side on your lap.
- Your baby’s chest is facing and touching your chest.
- Your baby’s nose is directly in front of your nipple.
- Place your opposite hand on the baby’s neck and shoulders.
- Bring baby to you using the opposite hand, the baby’s head should be slightly tipped back.
- When comfortably latched, ‘cradle’ the baby with the arm on the nursing side.
- Lie on your side with knees bent. Place pillows between your knees, under your head and neck, and behind your back, if needed.
- Put your baby on his side, facing your nipple.
- Support your baby by placing your arm, a pillow, or a rolled-up blanket behind him.
- Place your baby on his/her back or slightly turned to the breast.
- Your baby is lying beside you, your baby’s nose is directly under your nipple.
- Place your nursing side hand under the baby’s neck and shoulders.
- Bring baby to you using the nursing side hand; the baby’s head should be slightly tipped back.
Laid Back Hold
- Lay back and use pillows for support and comfort.
- Place your baby faces down between your breasts.
- Let your baby search, crawl up, nuzzle, and attach to your breast. Help your baby in whatever way feels natural.
- Place a blanket across your baby’s back, if needed.
Once you are in the proper position, you are ready to get the baby ‘latched on.’
Breastfeeding Latch Trick
While holding the baby in position with one hand, support your breast with your other hand. Cup the breast in a “C” shape by putting your four ﬁngers around your breast with your thumb on the other side.
Keep hand and ﬁngers closer to the rib cage so that baby’s chin can be touching the breast.
Touch the baby’s upper lip with your nipple. Wait for wide “ahh” mouth, (1st image) tongue on ﬂoor of mouth, and roll your breast onto his/her tongue so that your nipple is the last part to enter his/her mouth. (2nd image) As his/her upper lip comes over the nipple, bring baby’s shoulders extra close, so you are moving the baby to breast, not moving the breast to baby.
Comfortable? Baby should be so close that his/her cheeks touch your breast and hide his/her mouth. If you could, you would see (3rd image):
- Mouth open wide
- Lower lip rolled back toward the chin
- Lower lip farther from nipple than the upper lip
- Baby’s head slightly tipped back, chin ﬁrmly on the breast, nose lightly touching or free of breast
If the latch feels comfortable and no damage is done to your nipple, it is a good latch. Resist the urge to peek as poking about trying to see can unlatch your baby.
RELAX!! Once the baby is on the breast well, put your feet up, and get comfortable.
Feed on the ﬁrst breast as long as the baby is actively nursing before oﬀering the second breast. When the baby is ﬁnished on the ﬁrst side, he no longer has strong “deep and slow” sucks, and your breast feels softer, oﬀer the second breast. The baby may only feed a short time on the second breast. At the next feeding, oﬀer this ‘second’ breast that you did not oﬀer ﬁrst at the last feeding. This is often the breast that feels the fullest.
If you want to take baby oﬀ your breast, slip your ﬁnger into the corner of the baby’s mouth and between the gums to break the suction.
Signs That Your Baby Is Breastfeeding Well
- How Often and For How Long?
- Expect at least eight feedings in 24 hours
- Some babies like to breastfeed every 2 – 3 hours, day and night
- Other babies will feed every hour for 4 – 6 feeds, then sleep 4 – 6 hours
- If necessary, wake a sleepy infant for feedings until your milk supply is established and baby is gaining weight
- You can expect the baby to feed less often as he/she gets older except during growth spurts.
Signs that baby is getting milk
- Sustained, rhythmic suck/swallow pattern with occasional pauses
- Swallowing you can hear
- Relaxed arms and hands
- Moist mouth
- Satisﬁed after feedings
- Wet and dirty diaper
Signs that baby is getting adequate milk from the Mother:
- strong tugging at the breast which is not painful
- contractions of the uterus or increased lochia (bleeding) ﬂow during or after feeding for the ﬁrst few days after birth
- relaxation or drowsiness
- milk leaking from the opposite breast while feeding
- breast softening while feeding
- nipple looks longer after feeding, but not pinched or raw
How do I take care of myself as a nursing mother?
Forget about housework and try to sleep when your baby sleeps. When you are tired, lie down for feedings. Have snacks and drinks beside you each time you sit down to nurse. Keep meals simple — like a sandwich, soup, and fruit. Limit drinks with caffeine to no more than three a day. Most medicines are safe to take when you are breastfeeding but check with your doctor to make sure.
Many women have mildly sore nipples for the first few days of breastfeeding. If the discomfort only happens at the beginning of feedings and goes away when your milk starts to flow or within 30 seconds, this is probably normal.
To soothe sore nipples, rub breastmilk into them or use a lanolin cream that is made for breastfeeding mothers. If the soreness lasts the entire feeding or is severe, see a breastfeeding counselor right away. If you have soreness at the beginning of feeding only and it does not go away within two weeks, see a breastfeeding counselor. Call your local WIC clinic for breastfeeding help.
Most likely, you are sore because of the way the baby is positioned or the way the baby is latching on. Once this corrected, any soreness should go away. Hang in there. Breastfeeding gets easier. Take it one day at a time and be proud of what you are doing for your baby. You are giving your baby the best possible start in life.