A mother breastfeeding her child.
When breastfeeding your child, try cradle holding them.

How to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding looks like the most natural process. Yet, for first-time moms, it is anything but that. It might not come naturally and it might feel awkward and foreign. That is okay. It is new. Give yourself the patience and time for you and your baby to adapt. Soon, you will be a pro and will love the way it brings you and your child closer. Below, we outline how to breastfeed.

How to Start

It’s usually encouraged to breastfeed in the hospital with a nurse or lactation consultant present. Trying to get your baby to latch for the first time may be difficult. You are both tired and they may not be in the right position to latch properly. An expert can help you out through this trial and error process. Try not to worry if it takes more than a couple of tries.

The main goal is to get that latching process down. This can prevent breast pain or discomfort. Ideally, your baby’s mouth should encompass the whole nipple and areola.

If you are struggling the first time, try these tips:

  • Position your baby so that he or she is facing your breast with their head in line with the rest of their body. This makes it easier for your baby to swallow.
  • Try tickling your baby’s lips to encourage him or her to open their mouth.
  • Gently graze your baby’s cheek closest to you. Their reflexes should cause their head to turn toward your breast.
  • Keep your eye out for suckling, that means it’s working!

How to Hold Your Baby

There are various ways to hold your little one when breastfeeding. The four main ways include the cradle hold, the football hold, the lying-down hold and the cross-over hold. For any of these positions, you may use blankets or cushions to make the hold more comfortable for both of you.

The Cradle Hold

Hold your baby’s bottom in one hand and his or her head with your other hand, while laying your baby length-wise in front of your abdomen.

The Football Hold

Hold your baby face-up along your arm and beside you. Gently bring his or her head toward your breast. This hold is often recommended for women who have had a c-section birth.

The Lying-Down Hold

Lay down in bed facing your baby. If you are on your right-side, your baby should be lying on his or her left. Guide your baby’s mouth toward your nipple closest to the bed.

The Cross-Over Hold

Use your opposite hand from the breast you will be nursing from to hold your baby’s head. Gently guide your baby’s mouth to your breast.

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How Often to Feed Your Baby

Usually, how often you should feed your baby depends on the baby and if they are hungry. At first, you may need to initiate the feedings, until their appetite catches up. This may take three days. Generally, a newborn should feed between eight and 12 times per day. This means you will likely be feeding your newborn about every two to three hours.

A typical breastfeeding session may last from 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on the baby, it may take more or less time. During each feeding, you should allow one breast to fully drain. If your baby is still hungry, switch to your other breast. If they are done feeding, make sure you start with the opposite breast at the next feeding. Typically, your baby will unlatch when they are done. If they do not, simply press in on your breast near your baby’s lips and they should let go.

When to See a Lactation Consultant

Perhaps you have questions, doubts, or maybe just general concerns. All of these are viable reasons to visit with a lactation consultant. Here are some other reasons to book an appointment:

  • You need encouragement. Breastfeeding has posed various frustrations. A lactation consultant can help you address them and overcome them.
  • Your baby is not putting on weight. Most babies lose a couple of ounces after birth, but it is more than that. If you are unsure whether or not your baby is latching or suckling correctly, or whether you do not have enough milk, a lactation consultant can help you find the answers.
  • Pain or discomfort. A lactation expert can determine whether your breast pain is due to engorgement, blocked ducts, cracked nipples, or mastitis. They will also determine an appropriate plan of action to address it.
  • You had twins. Whatever the case, a lactation consultant can help you overcome these challenges. From cleft lips to multiple babies, they will instruct you on what to do and how to handle each situation.

Preventing Infection and Injury

When it comes to infection or injury, engorgement is one of the most common problems with breastfeeding. Your baby may have trouble latching on to your breast because of it. If your breasts are engorged, try icing the area to help with the pain. Afterward, jump in a warm shower to help the milk circulate and move. You may also choose to pump a bit to make it easier for your baby to latch.

Further, regular pumping and feeding can prevent engorgement from happening, as well as prevent infection caused by engorgement. Know your risks and everything else about breastfeeding before you start. That way, you will know what to expect going into it and you will know that many of the problems you might face are completely normal.