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Breastfeeding Tips for New Parents

Breastfeeding has many benefits for you and your baby. Breast milk is rich in nutrients and helps protect your baby against illness. Nevertheless, learning to breastfeed can also be challenging and overwhelming for new parents. Whether you are currently breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed someday, consider these tips for a good start.

Know what to expect. If you want to breastfeed your baby, you must do so frequently in the first few weeks after your baby is born to establish your milk supply. Most babies breastfeed at least eight times in 24 hours, but it can range from seven to 19 sessions daily. Each feeding should last at least 10 minutes.

Get a successful latch. Hold your baby “tummy to tummy,” with your baby facing your breast. Use one hand to hold your baby against your breast and the other to guide your breast into their mouth. This position helps your baby to get the most milk and reduces nipple soreness. Your nipple and some of the areola (the dark area around the nipple) should be in your baby's mouth for a successful latch.

Know how to tell if your baby is full. While you cannot measure the amount of breastmilk your baby drinks, there are other ways to know if they’re getting enough.

  • Breastfeeding at least eight times in a 24-hour period.
  • Breastfeeding for 10 minutes or more in a suck/swallow/pause/suck pattern.
  • Satisfaction after a feed. If your baby is displaying feeding cues like rooting or sucking on fingers after they feed, they might still be hungry.
  • Wet diapers. A well-nourished baby will have an increasing number of wet diapers. On the first day of life, it is normal for a baby to only have one wet diaper, then three wet diapers on day three or four, and more on subsequent days. By day six, your baby should have at least six to eight wet diapers a day.
  • Stools. Your baby should pass soft stools by day five.
  • Weight gain. It is normal for a newborn to lose some weight after birth. By two weeks old, a well-nourished baby will begin to gain about one ounce per day.

Look for signs that your baby is having trouble latching.

  • Your nipples are creased or slanted when your baby comes off the breast
  • When the baby sucks you hear clicking sounds
  • The baby comes off your breast repeatedly after only a few sucks
  • The baby’s cheeks are dimpling in with each suck
  • The baby acts hungry after nursing
  • Your nipples are cracked or bleeding

Call your doctor if:

    • You think your baby isn’t getting enough milk
    • You see a white coating on your baby’s tongue and cheeks that does not come off
    • If your baby is not passing any stools by day five
    • Your baby has signs of jaundice—a yellow color to skin and whites of eyes
    • You have sudden flu-like symptoms, breast pain, and a fever

Breastfeed your child until they are at least one year old. While it is not always possible for a mother to breastfeed, research indicates that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life strengthens a baby’s immunity against certain diseases and illnesses. While one in four mothers stop breastfeeding their babies after 6 months, it is important to try to breastfeed your baby for as close to a year as possible.

Offering formula early on can make breastfeeding harder. Your baby’s demand increases with your milk supply. When you’re worried about your milk supply, you may want to give your baby bottled formula. However, these bottles fill your baby up, making them breastfeed less often and causing you to produce less milk. Bottle-feeding also causes problems with sucking at the breast. Suppose you introduce a bottle or pacifier while your baby is learning to breastfeed. In that case, your baby may stop breastfeeding because the shape of your nipple and the bottle nipple is different.

Not every baby breastfeeds successfully. When breastfeeding is not possible for you or your baby, infant formula can provide excellent nutrition. Do not dilute infant formula or make homemade formula—it can be dangerous for your baby. Share any concerns or difficulties you may experience with your doctor to determine what is best for you and your baby. If you decide to use infant formula instead, look for tips on choosing a formula, preparing it safely, cleaning and warming baby bottles, and scheduling your baby’s formula feedings.

For more information about breastfeeding, join Frederick Health’s Baby BEST Program, which offers breastfeeding education and support provided by our board-certified lactation consultants. Learn more about the program on our site or call 240-566-3880.