Some aspects of breastfeeding may come naturally. But learning some breastfeeding skills and techniques can help you be more successful. Before your baby is born, take classes, read books, and watch videos that demonstrate breastfeeding techniques.
If you have concerns about your ability to breastfeed, talk to a lactation consultant while you are pregnant. After your baby is born, it is helpful to have one-on-one instruction with a lactation consultant or other knowledgeable health professional.
Get set up
Breastfeeding may go more smoothly in the first days and weeks if you and your baby are relaxed and comfortable.
- Make sure the room is quiet and warm and that you are able to relax. Keep the room darkened. Bright light makes it difficult for newborns to open their eyes.
- Keep something to drink nearby. Most women get thirsty as they breastfeed. Drink enough to satisfy your thirst.
- Use one or more pillows to support your arms and the baby, support your back with a pillow, and use a stool to raise your feet. This will help you and your baby be more comfortable during feeding.
- Do not bend over your baby when breastfeeding. Bring the baby to you—not you to the baby. Bending toward the baby can lead to back and neck problems.
- Find a position that is comfortable for both you and your baby. For all positions, make sure the baby's head and chest are lined up straight and not turned to one side or tilted up or down while breastfeeding.
Wake up baby
Having an alert baby will make it easier to get your baby to latch on. To wake your baby you can:
- Cool your baby off by taking off his or her clothes. Have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as you place him or her for feeding. Keep a light-weight blanket nearby.
- Tickle your baby lightly wherever you get a reaction (on the feet, neck, top of the head, or stomach).
- Change your baby's diaper.
Get baby latched on
A proper latch helps prevent problems.
- Lightly touch the middle of your baby's lower lip with your nipple until the baby opens his or her mouth. The baby's mouth needs to be wide open, like a yawn, before attempting to latch.
- Support and narrow your breast with one hand. This will help you control your breast as you bring your baby onto your breast.
- Bring the baby quickly onto the nipple and the areola (the dark circle around the nipple), so it goes deep into your baby's mouth. If the baby does not immediately get the idea to suck, squeeze a little milk into his or her mouth.
- Listen for a regular sucking and swallowing pattern while the baby is feeding. If you cannot see or hear a swallowing pattern, watch the baby's ears, which may wiggle slightly when the baby swallows.
- If the baby's nose appears to be blocked by your breast, bring your baby's body closer to you. This will help tilt the baby's head back slightly, so that just the edge of one nostril is clear for breathing.
Provide a complete feeding
Let your baby feed until he or she is satisfied.
- Offer the other breast when the first breast feels empty and the infant sucks more slowly, pulls off, or loses interest. Usually the baby will continue breastfeeding, though perhaps for less time than on the first breast.
- Anytime you need to remove your baby from the breast, put one finger into the corner of his or her mouth and push your finger between your baby's gums to gently break the latch. If you do not break the latch before you remove the baby from your breast, your nipples can become sore, cracked, or bruised.
- If your baby falls asleep before finishing breastfeeding, you may need to stimulate him or her to finish the feeding. After a while, you will learn your baby's patterns and will know whether he or she needs rousing or has fed long enough.
- When your baby is satisfied, gently pat his or her back to help him or her let out any swallowed air. After the baby burps, offer the breast again. Sometimes a baby will want to continue feeding after being burped.
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology