Breastfeeding for Beginners

You may be reading this booklet because you have decided to breastfeed or you are still trying to decide and want to know what is involved. In either case, this booklet can help you. Since breastfeeding is not something you were born knowing how to do, this booklet was written to give you detailed information on how to start your baby breastfeeding, how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk, how to keep your milk flowing, common problems mothers may have with their breasts and nipples and how to treat them, and much more.

Breastfeeding gives your baby many health benefits. It also provides a special way to bond with your baby. The best thing you can do now is to read all about it and then decide if it’s right for you.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

  • Nutrition! Breast milk is loaded with all the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, sugars and fats that are needed for a newborn to grow.
  • Breast milk can be easier for newborns to digest.
  • Immune booster! Antibodies are passed from mom’s body to baby’s through breast milk which help the baby to fight off bacterial and viral infections.
  • Health benefits! Studies have shown fewer doctor’s visits, fewer hospitalizations, less chance of asthma, allergies, respiratory issues, and ear infections in breastfed babies (among other health issues).
  • Breastfeeding promotes healthy weight gain. (Less obesity)
  • Bonding! Breastfeeding encourages bonding between mother and child as you can increase skin-to-skin time, eye contact and physical contact with infant.
  • Breastfeeding has been known to decrease the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Booklet Chapters

Click on the following chapters to read more information on various themes of breastfeeding in fuller detail!

Overview of Breastfeeding
When to Feed Your Baby
How to Feed Your Baby
Breast Care While Breastfeeding
Breast and Nipple Problems While Breastfeeding
Expressing and Storing Breast Milk
Keeping up the Milk Supply
Nutrition While Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding in Special Situations
Returning to Work While Breastfeeding
Resources for Support While Breastfeeding

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know my baby is getting enough breastmilk?

This is a common concern for new parents–if you can’t see and measure the amount they are getting, how do you know they are getting enough?

  • Women produce something called colostrum that nourishes the baby in the first few days before milk comes in. Colostrum is loaded with nutrients and calories that are sufficient to give your newborn what they need.
  • You will be able to hear your infant swallow while feeding–this is a reassuring sign as you know they are getting something! If you are unsure if you are hearing them swallow or not, ask your nurse to help you listen for it.
  • When your milk comes in, the amount the baby intakes will increase.

The best indicators of knowing if your baby is getting enough are the following:

  1. They are gaining weight. (This is after the normal initial weight loss that happens in the first 48 hours.)
  2. They are content after feeding. Baby’s will normally pull themselves off, or fall off, the nipple once they have completed their feeding in a spirit of utter relaxedness. Unless your newborn is struggling with blood sugar, low birth weight, high birth weight, or prematurity it is a good sign to see the infant satisfied after a feeding.
  3. Their blood sugar is within the normal limits. At your hospital, a routine blood sugar check will likely be done on your baby. If those results are normal, you can rest knowing that your baby is getting the calories he/she needs.

How often should I feed my newborn baby?

General rule of thumb is to attempt a feeding every 2-4 hours. As your infant grows, you will learn to read his/her cues. Some babies may eat more frequently and some less frequently, but a good goal is to have 6-8 feedings per day.  

Should I wake my baby to feed him/her?

If your baby has slept for more than 4-6 hours without waking to feed it is a good idea to wake the baby to feed. You can start by undressing the baby, changing its diaper and placing him/her skin-to-skin with you. Oftentimes this works to arouse the baby enough to want to eat.

Does each breast count as a feeding?

It is always a good idea to offer both breasts in one feeding, even if the baby seems satisfied after the first side. The baby may or may not take the second side, just follow his/her cues!

For how long is it recommended to breastfeed your baby?

Feeding times can vary from baby to baby and the age of the baby. Sometimes they will be satisfied after 5-10 minutes of feeding, and other times they will nurse for 20-40 minutes–or even an hour! This can change a lot, especially in the first few days as your milk comes in.

  • Cluster feeding– This is common as milk comes in. Basically the baby will do many short feeds back to back.

Should I be pumping? How should I be pumping?

The decision to pump can be made with you, your support person and your health care provider. There are some general guidelines about who should pump, although the decision really is fairly individualized (depends on each individual mother and baby).

  • If your baby was born premature, has low birthweight, low blood sugar, or is considered ‘sick,’ it may be recommended to begin pumping.
  • If your baby is for some reason unable to maintain a good latch or has other issues breastfeeding, pumped breastmilk can be fed by cup, syringe or bottle.
  • If your baby is struggling to gain weight appropriately, pumping and feeding the baby breast milk by bottle may be recommended.
  • If the mother needs to return to work and wants to continue giving breast milk it is recommended to begin pumping. It is recommended to begin pumping about three weeks before returning to work in order to begin saving and storing the right amount of breast milk.

Pumping tips and recommendations:

If you are pumping to maintain a steady stored supply, the recommendation is to pump for 15-20 minutes every 3 hours.

If you are pumping and breastfeeding, pump after the breastfeeding so as not to rob your baby of the milk he/she is after!

How do I know if my baby’s latch is correct?

Breastfeeding is teamwork between mom and baby! You want to help your baby have a good latch so that he/she is able to have an efficient suck and so that your nipples are protected.

Here are a few tips to look for a correct latch:

  • The baby’s tongue should be below your nipple.
  • The baby’s lips (top and bottom) should be flanged (like a ‘fish mouth’).
  • Your nipple and most of the areola should be inside the baby’s mouth. (If it is just your nipple you will be very sore!)

Is nipple confusion a real thing?

Some breastfed babies can be very affected by nipple confusion. Nipple confusion is when a breastfed infant is introduced to other nipples such as a pacifier or bottle. Babies’ suck patterns are different on a bottle and pacifier than they are on a human nipple. Using other nipples can cause their latch, suck and feed to change.

The information in this article is not meant to replace the personal advice of your pediatrician or any member of your health-care team.

Newborn breastfeeding