A woman plays with her child

Breastfeeding Basics

While lactation may come naturally for many moms, that doesn’t mean breastfeeding will. Although some circumstances may require the intervention of a doctor or lactation specialist, there are a few tricks that can help you get started feeding your baby.

Learn Your Baby’s Cues

Most importantly, pay attention to when your child is hungry. Newborns usually need to breastfeed every one and a half to three hours. Watch their behavior when it’s getting close to time. They may move their mouth and tongue in certain ways or begin sucking fingers. Knowing these signals can help preempt crying, which is often a last ditch effort to get your attention and milk. 

Get in Position

Find a comfortable place to sit, and learn to position yourself so that you’re not only comfortable, but your child is in the right place to learn how to nurse. Place pillows behind you and in your lap, to not only support your back and prevent aches and pains, but also to allow you to rest your arms so you don’t have to support your child's full weight the entire time while nursing. Your baby's nose should be lined up with your nipple, with the body facing yours. 

Teach Your Baby to Nurse

You’re not the only one who has to learn how the ins and outs of breastfeeding. Babies don’t pop out with a total comprehension of nursing. To teach your child the proper way to latch, cup your breast from the bottom with a C-shaped hand. Then use the nipple to tease the mouth until they open wide; the breast should go far enough into the mouth that the nipple is past the hard part of the roof. The amount of nipple or flesh past the nipple that goes in is dependent on your own anatomy. 

Other Tricks

If your baby dozes off before they've eaten enough, softly tapping under the chin can encourage continued feeding. To get your baby to unlatch, you can slip your finger into the corner of the mouth, thus breaking the suction so they can be gently removed. Initial feedings generally last about 20-45 minutes. For the first few weeks or months, pediatricians generally recommend waking your child every four hours to make sure they get enough to eat through the night. Lactation experts at the hospital you gave birth at, as well as programs like Women Infants Children (WIC) can be great places for support and information if you're struggling.

Last Updated: June 30, 2017