How to breastfeed
You may have heard people say that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. The truth is that breastfeeding isn’t always easy. It may take time and practice. Be patient and give yourself and your baby time to get comfortable with breastfeeding.
Most women can start breastfeeding within 1 hour after their baby is born. A nurse or lactation consultant can help you get started. A lactation consultant is a person with special training in helping women breastfeed.
Check out our interactive feature for step by step instructions on how to breastfeed. Our feature also includes information on how to hold your baby and how to breastfeed multiples.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. If it does, talk to your provider or lactation consultant. You probably just need a little help getting started. Don’t feel badly about asking for help.
There are different ways to hold your baby when you breastfeed. Our interactive feature shows you all the ways to hold your baby when breastfeeding. Try them all to find out which one you and your baby like best. You may want to use a pillow to help support your baby.
Yes. If your babies are healthy, you can start breastfeeding them one at a time. This helps each baby learn to latch on. Later you can feed two at once.
Most moms make plenty of milk for all their babies. Talk to your lactation consultant about feeding rotation. This means which baby eats first and from which breast.
Look for her feeding cues. Feeding cues are ways that your baby tells you that she’s hungry. Examples are:
- Rooting (turning her head toward anything that strokes her cheek or mouth)
- Sucking movements or sounds
- Putting her hand to her mouth
- Crying — This is a late feeding cue. Try to breastfeed your baby before she starts to cry.
Feed your baby when she’s hungry. For most newborns, this is about eight to 12 times over 24 hours. That’s about once every 2 to 3 hours. But each baby is different. Your baby may want to feed more often or less often. As your baby grows, her feeding patterns may change, and she may go longer between feedings.
To make nighttime feedings easier, put the baby’s crib in your room. Just don’t sleep with the baby in your bed.
Most babies feed for 15 to 30 minutes at a time at one breast. It’s OK if your baby takes more or less time. When she is finished with one breast, burp her. Then switch her to feed from the other breast. It’s OK if she only wants to nurse from one breast. Just be sure to start her on the other breast at the next feeding. Let your baby end breastfeeding on her own.
Lots of new moms ask this question. Your body is pretty amazing. As you breastfeed, your body learns when your baby needs more milk. Your body makes exactly the right amount for your baby. But what if you’re still not sure he’s eating enough? Your baby is probably getting enough milk if he:
- Is gaining weight
- Is making six to eight wet diapers a day by the time he’s 5 to 7 days old
Feed your baby only breast milk for at least 6 months. This means no water, formula, other liquids or solid food — just breast milk. At about 6 months, your baby may be ready to start solid food. Solid foods can be soft or mashed, like baby cereal or baby food. Keep feeding her breast milk even when she starts eating solid food. This can help make sure your body keeps making enough milk.
Any amount of breastfeeding is good for your baby’s health and development. Even breastfeeding for a short time is good for your baby.
No, but nursing bras have flaps that make breastfeeding easier than if you’re wearing your regular bra. You may want to get one or two while you’re pregnant so you have them when your baby is born. Get a nursing bra that is one size larger than your regular bra size so it will fit when your breasts get larger when your breast milk comes in.
You may find it easier to breastfeed in shirts that pull up, rather than shirts that button. Sometimes it’s hard to get buttons undone quickly when you’ve got a hungry baby wanting to eat!
You can breastfeed your baby for as long as you want. When you stop breastfeeding, it’s called weaning your baby. Some babies begin weaning on their own between 6 and 12 months as they start eating solid food and become more active. Weaning is a slow process that doesn’t happen in a few days. Taking your time can make weaning easier for you and your baby.
If you wean your baby off breast milk before she’s 12 months old, feed her formula. She can stay on formula until she’s ready to drink regular milk after she turns 1.
Last reviewed February 2012
See also: How to breastfeed: Step by step, Keeping breastfeeding safe, Using a breast pump, Breastfeeding and medications, prescription drugs, Breastfeeding: What dad can do, Breastfeeding your baby in the NICU, A visit with a breastfeeding support group