You will be encouraged to feed soon after the birth of your baby. Some babies may feed right away, while others may want to be cuddled at the chest. Having an extended period of skin-to-skin at birth can help stimulate the release of breast/chestfeeding hormones and the baby’s feeding reflexes. Skin-to-skin is important to breast/chestfeeding. Continuing with skin-to-skin contact over the early days and weeks can help you recognize your baby’s feeding cues and help establish and maintain a good milk supply.
Feed your baby when you notice the following signs of hunger. Feeding cues can be shown verbally and non-verbally.
- Lip smacking
- Hand to mouth movements
- Sucking on hands
- Rooting (head bobbing with open mouth)
- Crying is a late feeding cue. You may need to calm your baby before breastfeeding if they are crying. Try to feed your baby before they start to cry.
When your baby is satisfied, they will:
- Come off the breast spontaneously or fall asleep at the breast.
- Be awake, quiet and alert without showing further feeding cues
- Calm your baby if they are crying. Babies feed best when they are quiet and alert. Unwrap your baby if they are wrapped in a blanket
- Your comfort is important. Sit up as straight and “tall” as possible. Lengthen your spine. Support your back, arms and feet by using pillows and a stool if your feet are not flat on the floor
- Support your baby at the chest level. Bring your baby to your breast, not your breast to your baby. Use pillows, towels or a rolled blanket
- Make sure your baby is facing you, tummy to tummy, face to breast and is tight against your body
- Hold your baby so they are lying on one side facing your breast and tucked in close to your body
- Your arm supports your baby’s body. Your hand supports your baby across the shoulders and at the base of the head (behind the ears)
- The cross-cradle position and football holds are often the most effective for correct latching in the first few weeks
- Feed on one side for as long as your baby is feeding actively. Then offer the other side. If your baby is sleepy at the breast, you can keep your baby awake by stroking the baby’s body or by massaging your breast
Getting a good latch
- support your breast with your hand by sliding your fingers under your breast and placing your thumb on top, well away from your areola (the dark area around your nipple). You may need to continue to support your breast during feeding
- bring your baby close to you and gently stroke your nipple against your baby’s lips. Wait until your baby’s mouth is open wide like a yawn. Tip your baby’s head back slightly so that the baby’s chin touches the breast first
- quickly bring your baby to your breast. Avoid pushing on your baby’s head. It may take several tries before your baby latches properly
- your baby’s chin needs to be pressed close in to your breast
- your nipple should be at the back of your baby’s mouth where it will not be damaged
- a good latch will feel comfortable. Although baby’s nose will be close to your breast, your baby will be able to breathe. Avoid pressing on your breast. This may cause a poor latch or plugged ducts
You may notice your baby has different patterns of sucking. At the beginning of each feeding, your baby may have short, quick sucks until the milk flow increases, then the sucking becomes slower and deeper.
Your baby will pause between these bursts of sucking. You will hear and see swallowing. At the end of a feeding, some babies come off the breast on their own. Others become very sleepy. Let your baby decide how long to feed.
After birth your breasts will become larger, heavier and possibly tender as they start producing more milk. This normal fullness occurs because of swelling of the breast tissue and increased milk supply. The swelling will gradually go away. When your breasts feel softer, they will continue to produce milk.
You can help the release of milk when your breasts are very full by:
- Applying heat to your breasts with warm, moist towels or a warm shower just before feeding
- Massaging gently from the top of your breast toward your nipple to help your milk flow before and during feeding
- Applying cold pack to your breasts for 5 to 10 minutes after feeding
- Feeding your baby often. You may need to express some milk to soften your breast so your baby can latch easier. If your baby cannot latch, get help
Breast and nipple care
- Always handle your breast with clean hands
- Bathe or shower as usual
- You do not need to wash your breasts before feeding your baby
- After feeding, leave a few drops of colostrum or milk on your nipples. The milk helps fight infection and lubricates your nipples
- A proper-fitting bra without underwire may provide comfort during the day
- If you use breast pads, change them as often as needed to keep your nipples clean and dry