Breast-feeding tips: What new moms need to know

Breast-feeding can be challenging. Consider breast-feeding tips for new moms, from asking for help right away to letting baby set the pace. By Mayo Clinic Staff

You know the benefits of breast-feeding. Breast milk contains the right balance of nutrients for your baby. Breast milk is easier to digest than is commercial formula, and the antibodies in breast milk boost your baby's immune system. Breast-feeding might even help you lose weight after the baby is born. Still, breast-feeding can be challenging. Use these breast-feeding tips to get off to a good start.

Ask for help right away

Reading about breast-feeding is one thing. Doing it on your own is something else. The first time you breast-feed your baby — preferably within the first hour after delivery — ask for help. The maternity nurses or a hospital lactation consultant can offer breast-feeding tips, starting with how to position the baby and make sure he or she is latching on correctly. Your doctor or your baby's doctor might offer breast-feeding tips, too.

Start by getting comfortable. Support yourself with pillows if needed. Then cradle your baby close to your breast — rather than bending over or learning forward to bring your breast to your baby. Support the baby's head with one hand and support your breast with the other hand. Tickle your baby's lower lip with your nipple. Encourage your baby's mouth to open wide, and he or she will take in part of the darker area around the nipple (areola). Your nipple will be far back in the baby's mouth, and the baby's tongue will be cupped under your breast. Look and listen for a rhythmic sucking and swallowing pattern.

If you need to remove the baby from your breast, first release the suction by inserting your finger into the corner of your baby's mouth.

Let your baby set the pace

For the first few weeks, most newborns breast-feed every two to three hours round-the-clock. Watch for early signs of hunger, such as stirring, restlessness, sucking motions and lip movements.

Let your baby nurse from the first breast thoroughly, until your breast feels soft — typically about 20 minutes. Then try burping the baby. After that, offer the second breast. If your baby's still hungry, he or she will latch on. If not, simply start the next breast-feeding session with the second breast. If your baby consistently nurses on only one breast at a feeding during the first few weeks, pump the other breast to relieve pressure and protect your milk supply.

Hold off on a pacifier

Some babies are happiest when they're sucking on something. Enter pacifiers — but there's a caveat. Giving your baby a pacifier too soon might interfere with breast-feeding, since sucking on a breast is different from sucking on a pacifier. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to introduce a pacifier until breast-feeding is well established, usually three to four weeks after birth. Avoiding pacifiers shortly after birth can help protect your milk supply as well as promote healthy weight gain for your baby.

Apr. 06, 2012 See more In-depth