Tips for Breastfeeding Success

Learn these breastfeeding tips before your baby is born to help you achieve success from the start:

Get an early start: You can start nursing your baby immediately, within an hour after delivery if possible. Your breasts won’t be producing milk yet but they will contain colostrum, a precursor to milk that contains antibodies to disease.

Proper positioning: Your baby’s mouth should be wide open while nursing, with the nipple as far back into his or her mouth as possible. This will minimize soreness for you. If you have any doubts, you should consult a nurse, midwife, or other knowledgeable person right away.

Nurse on demand: Your newborn will need to nurse often, every two hours or more. These frequent feedings will stimulate your breasts to produce all the milk your baby needs. Don’t expect a schedule at first. Your baby can settle into a routine later, but because breast milk is more easily digested than formula, your breastfed baby may continue to eat more frequently than bottle-fed babies. 

No supplements: If you breastfeed, your baby won’t need sugar water or formula. Supplementing with formula can reduce a baby’s appetite for nursing, which can in turn reduce the mother’s milk supply. The more your baby nurses, the more milk you will produce.

Delay artificial nipples: Babies need to learn how to breastfeed too! Artificial nipples require a different sucking action than real ones, so wait a week or two before giving your baby a pacifier or any other artificial nipple. Even sucking on a bottle can confuse some babies in the early days.

Air-dry: Air-dry your nipples after your baby nurses. This will help prevent them from cracking. If your nipples do crack, you can help heal them by coating them with breast milk, a natural moisturizer, or you can try vitamin E oil or lanolin, although some babies have allergic reactions to these. Sore nipples could be a sign that your baby isn’t properly positioned on the breast. Make sure your baby has the nipple far enough back in his or her mouth.

Watch for infection: If you experience symptoms of breast infection, including fever and painful lumps or redness in your breast, you should contact your doctor immediately.

Expect engorgement: Shortly after your baby is born you will probably start making lots of milk. Your breasts will become big, hard and painful. This is a natural response, and your body will soon adjust and produce only the milk your baby needs. Until then, continue to feed your baby frequently and on demand. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers, apply warm, wet compresses to your breasts, and take warm baths to relieve the pressure.

Eat right, get rest: Your diet while you are breastfeeding is very important. Make sure you’re getting a balanced diet with 500 extra calories and six to eight glasses of fluid a day. Also try to get plenty of rest to prevent breast infections, which are aggravated by fatigue.

—Rebecca D. Williams, United States Food and Drug Administration