Breastfeeding: How to get started

817352_58786767Many new moms and dads have questions about breastfeeding, especially if they have never experienced anyone breastfeeding around them. New parents may want to attend a breastfeeding class, where they can get accurate information and ask questions.

For those new parents who aren’t sure what to expect, here are some of the basics of how to start breastfeeding.

The Golden Hour

Immediately after birth, plan to hold your newborn skin-to-skin on your chest for at least an hour. In some hospitals this time is known as the “Golden Hour.” Holding your baby skin-to-skin gives the baby an opportunity to latch and feed at your breast. Your baby can also hear your heartbeat and feel safe in your arms.

Soon you will notice that she will begin to thrust and move toward your breast. She smells something familiar – your colostrum, or the first milk your body makes before it starts producing mature breast milk, smells just like amniotic fluid to her, so she will seek it out. She will start “rooting,” which is a term for the movement your baby makes as she searches for your nipple, turning her head back and forth. Once she has latched, you can allow her to nurse for as long as she wants.

Hunger Cues

After this first feeding, watch your baby – not the clock – for her hunger cues. She will make sucking motions with her mouth, suck on her fist or fingers or just root when she is ready to eat again. Crying is the last sign that she is hungry. Watch her closely because these signs happen often. It is normal for your baby to want to nurse every hour at times. 

Signs of Satisfaction

You will know your baby is receiving enough of your breast milk if she has plenty of soiled diapers, she looks satisfied after a feeding and she is gaining weight well. If she is eating eight or more times each day, she is probably getting enough; however, just sucking on the breast doesn’t mean she is actually eating. You should hear her swallowing frequently during each feeding after the third day. Your baby’s doctor or lactation consultant can help you monitor her weight gain.

The Latch

One more important thing – the latch. Your baby’s mouth needs to cover more than just the nipple; her lips need to be flared out over the areola, or the dark brown skin around your nipple. Her chin will be tucked into the bottom of your breast, and you won’t really see much areola there. You may see some areola over her top lip.

Your baby will receive more of your milk with a deep latch, and it will feel more comfortable for you. Remember, your nipples may be tender from the baby nursing often, but they don’t need to be sore, bruised or cracked if the baby is latching well.

Ask for Help

A lactation consultant is willing to help you with any questions or difficulties you may have. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. You and your baby will have a better breastfeeding experience if you feel more confident and comfortable.

Last Updated: April 4, 2022

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About Author: Paula Hart, RN, BS, IBCLC, CCE

Paula Hart, OSF Saint Anthony - Center for Life

Paula Hart is a former certified perinatal educator at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Illinois. She is a registered nurse who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Arts from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois.

Paula held a national certification as a breastfeeding counselor for eight years before becoming an internationally board certified lactation counselor in 2010. She has been a maternal/child nurse in both the hospital and public health settings for most of her career and previously served as a prenatal classes educator at OSF Saint Anthony.

She really enjoys baking and cooking, as well as reading almost anything she can find.

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Categories: Birth & Maternity