"Human milk is the preferred feeding for all infants, including premature and sick newborns...It is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least the 1st 12 months, and thereafter as long as mutually desired." - Excerpt from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) breastfeeding guidelines.
Breastfeeding is one of the most important things you can do to give your baby the best start in life. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 years.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
View the benefits of breastfeeding brochure (PDF).
Before Baby Arrives
While breastfeeding is natural, technique is a learned skill. Most mothers are very capable of breastfeeding their baby. In fact, the majority of mothers produce more than enough milk for their baby. Breastfeeding should be easy and relaxing for both mother and baby. By learning to spot and avoid potential problems you will be starting on the road to a rewarding experience.
Plan to spend time educating yourself about breastfeeding. There are many great lactation resources available to you through local clinics, hospitals, libraries and bookstores. Consider taking a class on breastfeeding. Many hospitals and clinics offer these in addition to childbirth classes. Learn how to contact a Lactation Consultant (breastfeeding specialist) in your area. Joining a breastfeeding support group is another great way to learn more and create a support system for yourself. Consider applying for Women, Infant and Children (WIC), an income-based nutrition and food supplement program known for education and support of breastfeeding women.
Breast preparation is not needed for most women. Do discuss your plan to breastfeed with your healthcare provider. A breast assessment should be a part of your prenatal care. If you suspect that you have flat or inverted nipples discuss this with your healthcare provider. Generally speaking, the size of a woman's breasts does not affect her ability to breastfeed her baby. View the education, support and equipment for breastfeeding webpage for listings of local resources.
Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after birth. Most infants are in an alert state in the first couple of hours following birth making this an ideal time to begin breastfeeding. Your baby may lick or nuzzle your nipple at first, and then may latch on to your breast. The first milk your baby will receive is colostrum, a clear or yellowish fluid that helps your baby's body get ready to digest the breast milk your body will begin producing in a few days. Ask for help with comfortable positioning. Learn to recognize when your baby is latching on well. Getting off to a good start in the early days can help you to avoid pitfalls later on. Don't be discouraged if your baby's birth didn't go just as you'd hoped, and breastfeeding is delayed. Many women in similar situations have had very successful breastfeeding experiences.
Breastfeed Your Baby Often
A newborn baby will need to be fed at least 8-12 times in each 24-hour period. This will help you to build your milk supply and reduces your risk of breast engorgement. Offer your baby both breasts at each feeding. Watch your baby for signs of hunger. Early signs may include: rooting, nuzzling your breast, sucking on her fist, tongue, or lips, moving his head around or lip smacking. Later signs of hunger are fussing and crying. Feed your baby when you notice early signs of hunger. It's perfectly fine to offer your breast even if it's been just a short time since your baby last breastfed. Most feedings will last between 20-30 minutes, but your baby may breastfeed for a longer or shorter time. Listen to hear your baby's swallows. If your baby sleeps more than 3-4 hours at a stretch it's okay to wake your baby for a feeding.
Avoid Giving Your Baby Artificial Nipples or Pacifiers
These can interfere with your baby's hunger signals and letting you know when she is getting hungry! They also require a very different type of sucking motion than breastfeeding. Breast milk is complete and total nutrition for your healthy baby.
Law of Supply & Demand
The more often you feed your baby, the more milk your body will produce. Your body will produce milk based on how often your baby suckles as well as when milk is removed from the breast.