Breastfeeding: How to feed
The suckling instinct
A newborn baby is born to suckle. But it may take the two of you a little while to get the hang of breastfeeding. So the sooner you put her to your breast, the sooner you'll feel comfortable.
You can nurse right away
Many moms nurse their babies for the first time right in the delivery room. The newborn baby is usually alert and eager right after birth. Plus, the breastmilk your baby gets during her first feedings, called colostrum, is full of infection-fighting antibodies. Breastfeeding also releases oxytocin, a hormone that helps shrink a new mom’s uterus back to its normal size.
Relax into your own style
For the first few days of nursing, feeding may last about 10 minutes. Every baby and every nursing mom are different. With time, the two of you will relax into a feeding style and schedule that is uniquely your own. Here’s how to get into the breastfeeding groove:
- Get comfortable. Use lots of regular pillows or a pillow specially designed to support breastfeeding. Whether you're sitting up in a chair or bed or lying down, you'll need pillows to support your back and arms.
- Position your baby right. Hold your baby close to you so that her whole body is facing you and her head is in the crook of your elbow. It's important to bring your baby to your breast instead of leaning over to bring your breast to her.
- Get your baby to open wide. Cup your breast in your free hand and try tickling your baby's lower lip or chin with your nipple. Once her mouth is wide open, gently bring her to your breast.
- Watch for correct latch-on. You'll know your baby is latched on correctly when her mouth covers most of your areola (the brownish-pink circle around your nipple) and your nipple is on top of the baby's tongue. You'll also notice that her nose is right up against your breast.
- Listen for sucking. Newborn babies are known to fall asleep after a few sips. So watch her jaw for sucking motions and listen closely for gulping or swallowing noises.
- Break the grasp. When you finish the feeding, gently break the grasp of the nipple by putting a finger into the corner of your baby's mouth. Slowly pull your baby away from you.
- Feed baby when she's hungry. Your baby will let you know when it’s time to eat. She will be awake, alert, and smack her lips. If you don't notice her subtle cues, she may alert you by crying, which means she's been hungry for a while. Some moms worry about not making enough milk. Remember: How much milk your breasts produce is a matter of supply and demand—the more you nurse, the more you make.
Your baby's nursing schedule
It's normal for a baby to nurse every 1 1/2 to 3 hours for the first few weeks. Eventually, the time between feedings may extend to every 3 or 4 hours. For proper growth and development, a newborn generally needs to feed about 8 to 12 times a day. With frequent checkups at the pediatrician’s office, you'll know whether your baby is growing and developing properly.
You can also count used diapers. During the first month, your baby should wet 6 to 8 times a day and have at least 2 bowel movements daily.