Learning how to breast-feed

The start of breast-feeding also marks the start of your life with your new baby. Preparing for breast-feeding and the first few days with your baby can help you avoid any surprises and challenges. It’s natural to become a parent and breast-feed a baby, but it’s not always easy.

Learning to breast-feed is like learning anything new. Think back to what it was like to learn to drive, dance, ride a bike, or play a new sport. First you learn the theory, and everything seems simple enough. Then you try to do it, and that’s when you realize it isn’t as easy as you thought. That is often when you need help, advice, and encouragement.

You get better little by little, and with time you start to feel more confident. Then it starts coming automatically— everything feels easy! And that’s when it becomes enjoyable. Eventually you can show someone else how to do it. Breast-feeding is like anything else. It takes practice!

Remember that everyone’s breast-feeding experience is a little different and that every baby is unique. If your neighbour’s experience or your first breast-feeding experience was difficult, that doesn’t mean you will have trouble. It can often take four to six weeks to feel comfortable breast-feeding. It is normal to need time to get used to the experience. As you are learning, it’s a good idea to surround yourself with people who can support you and to know who to turn to if you are having trouble.

10 tips to make breast-feeding easier

  • Learn about breast-feeding and breast milk before the baby is born.
  • Establish skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as she is born. This will waken her senses and encourage her to take the breast.
  • Offer the breast as soon as baby starts to look for it, ideally in the first hour after birth. This will help get breast-feeding off to a good start.
  • Learn to recognize the signs indicating when your baby is hungry or satisfied.
  • Feed as needed whenever baby is hungry. Frequent feeds stimulate milk production and comfort the baby during this important transition period.
  • Room-in with your baby, both day and night. Keep baby nearby so you can get to know each other and you can quickly respond to his needs.
  • Make sure baby has a good latch and suction. This helps baby eat well without hurting mom.
  • Avoid skipping feeds, using a pacifier, and giving a bottle in the first four to six weeks. Exclusive breast-feeding (not giving any other kind of milk or food before six months) encourages good milk production and ensures that baby gets the full benefits of breast milk.
  • Get support and avoid isolation. The support of your partner, a friend or loved one, or a community group can often make things better.
  • Trust yourself and enjoy being a parent!

For more information about breast-feeding, see the Breast-feeding your baby chapter.