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Breastfeeding > Breastfeeding Basics

Breastfeeding Basics

Breastfeeding is one of the most important things you can do for your baby. Here are a few guidelines and suggestions to help you.

Getting started

  • Wash your hands before starting.
  • Put the phone on message or arrange for someone else to answer it.
  • Find a comfortable position in a chair or bed.
  • Gently massage your breast in a circular motion for about 30 seconds before letting the baby begin to nurse. This will help the milk flow easier.
  • If you have flat or inverted nipples, ask a lactation specialist for assistance.

What is the right position for breastfeeding?

  • Basic positions: Cradle, cross-cradle, side-lying and football hold. Use different positions for each feeding so that you change where the baby puts pressure on your nipples. This will help all the milk ducts in your breast to empty.
  • Be sure you and your baby are comfortable and well-supported.
  • Shape the breast with your fingers to make it parallel to the baby's lips.
  • Position your baby so his head is at the level of your breast. Try to keep your baby’s head and chest facing the same direction, so that your baby’s head is not turned to the side.
  • Support your breast with a cupped hand by using four fingers under your breast and the thumb on top of your breast. This helps good milk flow and won’t block the milk ducts in your breast.
  • Help your baby to open his mouth by rubbing the nipple of your breast up and down over his lips.
  • When your baby opens his mouth wide, quickly bring your baby to your breast. He should get about ½ to 1 inch of the areola (brown area of your breast) in his mouth. The tip of your baby’s nose should touch your breast.
  • Start with the opposite breast each feeding.
  • Be sure to break the suction as you remove your baby from your breast. Gently insert your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth and gently push between your baby’s jaw and your breast. You will feel the suction on your breast stop.

How can I tell if my baby is sucking the right way?  

Babies are sucking correctly when you:
  • See the lips curled outward from your breast.
  • Can hear your baby swallowing.
  • Do not hear any clicking or smacking sounds.
  • Do not see dimpling or drawing in of the cheeks.
  • Are not having pain as your baby is sucking.

How often do breast-fed babies need to eat?

  • Breastfeed your baby as soon as it is possible. Some babies are ready to nurse as soon as they are born.
  • Newborn babies need to eat at least every 2 to 3 hours or at least 8 times in 24 hours.
  • Babies should be allowed to nurse at the breast as long as they want to. There is no set amount of time that they should nurse.
  • Offer both breasts at each feeding.
  • Pacifiers and bottles are not recommended for at least the first month when breastfeeding. This helps you get off to a better start and develop a good milk supply.

How do I know that my baby is getting enough to eat?  

Your baby will give you several clues that she is eating well. You will notice your baby:
  • Swallowing during feedings.
  • Has 6 or more wet diapers and several stools every day.
  • Is content (quiet or sleeping) between feedings.
  • Will gain about 4 to 7 ounces every week.
Babies go through growth spurts. During these times, your baby will want to nurse more often for about 2 or 3 days. It is your baby’s way of telling you that she needs your body to make more milk. These growth spurts are usually at the following times, but may occur at other times:
  • First few days at home
  • 10 to 14 days of age
  • 4 to 6 weeks of age
  • 3 months of age
  • 6 months of age

How do I take care of my breasts?

  • Keep your breasts clean and dry and bathe daily.
  • Avoid using soaps, sprays or creams on your nipples (and areola) unless recommended by your doctor or nurse.
  • After your baby nurses, apply some breast milk to your nipples and let them dry.

You will notice some things about your infant’s feeding:

  • When your milk first comes in, your breasts will become swollen as your body makes milk. After about one week, this swelling goes down. (This is not a sign of decreased milk supply.)
  • Your breasts will be fuller before feedings and softer when your baby is finished.
  • You may notice a “let down” sensation. This is a warm, tingling feeling when the baby starts to nurse. (It also is normal not to feel this.)

What should I do to take care of myself?

  • Eat a well balanced diet with a variety of foods. Keep your weight loss to about 2-4 pounds per month after the first month.
  • Continue your prenatal vitamins.
  • Drink enough liquids so that you are not thirsty. Try to limit the amount of caffeine or alcohol that you drink.
  • DO NOT SMOKE or let anyone else smoke around you or your baby.
  • Get plenty of rest — sleep when the baby sleeps.
  • Let your friends and family help with the cooking and housework.

Where do I go if I need help?

Our office encourages frequent visits with our physicians or nurse practitioner initially to insure adequate breastfeeding and weight gain. If concerns continue, there are many outside resources for help with breastfeeding:

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