Ways to make breastfeeding easier

Making skin-to-skin contact in the first hours after the baby is born

Essential information to rememberThe first feeding will be etched in baby’s memory and will help her recall what to do next time.

Placing the newborn right on her mother’s chest, skin to skin, has a number of benefits for breastfeeding. The baby retains her heat better and is calmer. This contact also triggers her reflex to take the breast during the first hour of life, as well as later on (see Right after birth: Mother and child get acquainted).

It‘s good to take advantage of baby’s first few hours of life to start breastfeeding. After these first few hours have passed, the baby will enter a rest and recovery period during which her reflexes will “hibernate” for a few hours.

If your baby isn’t ready to start nursing, it’s a good idea to stimulate your breasts as soon as possible after giving birth to help start milk production (see How to express milk by hand). You can express milk in a spoon and offer it to your baby, placing a few drops on her lips at a time.

Staying close to baby and being attentive to hunger signs

It’s good to keep your baby near you day and night. Your newborn needs to be close and be reassured by your presence.

Being physically close to your baby allows you to get to know your baby and learn to detect the early signs of hunger (see Hunger signs). It’s an ideal time to give your baby the breast because he will probably be calmer.

Being close to your baby also allows you to quickly provide for her needs, which helps build a bond of trust.

Bringing your baby to the breast

Getting a good latch helps prevent breastfeeding pain and most nipple injuries. In the first few days of life, mom and baby learn together how to establish a pain-free latch and good suction (see Bringing baby to your breast).

When your baby is sucking effectively, you can see her pause and swallow (see How to tell if your baby is sucking effectively). The swallowing motion is harder to notice before your milk comes in, because your baby is only swallowing small amounts of colostrum.

Some women may be surprised by the sucking sensation at first. Some degree of sensitivity may be normal, but if nursing is painful, ask for help without delay.

Breastfeeding on demand or often enough to meet baby’s needs

The frequency and length of feedings varies from one baby to another. In the first few days of life, it’s normal for a newborn to nurse very often and to have feedings clustered together (see How often to nurse—and how long?). Frequent feedings stimulate milk production and reassure the baby during this important adaptation period. You can expect to nurse 8 times or more every 24 hours during this period, and afterwards as well.

Some babies frequently show hunger signs. Other babies don’t always give cues that they want to feed. If your baby isn’t showing signs of hunger or signs of wakefulness, you may need to wake her up to ensure she gets enough milk.

Information and precautions regarding bottles and pacifiers

If it’s necessary to feed your baby using a method other than breastfeeding, she can be bottle fed with expressed milk.

However, sucking at the breast isn’t the same as drinking from a bottle. Milk usually flows faster from a bottle than from the breast, and the baby’s mouth movements are different. As a result, using a bottle, especially for a prolonged period of time, can lead to problems with breastfeeding.

A trained breastfeeding support person can show you an alternative to bottle-feeding, if you wish.

If your baby uses a pacifier, it can be difficult to recognize her hunger signs. Your baby may end up skipping a feeding, which can affect milk production. To maintain milk production at a level that meets your baby’s needs, check first to see if she’s hungry or needs to be changed or cuddled before giving her the pacifier.

Breastfeeding accessories

There is an ever-expanding array of breastfeeding accessories on the market—everything from breast pumps and nursing bras and pillows to nursing pads and more. None of them are essential, although reusable or disposable nursing pads can be useful if your breasts leak milk. A nursing bra isn’t necessary either, but it can be very practical. If you do decide to wear one, it is best to get it toward the end of your pregnancy so that it fits your breast size.

Community groups are good sources of information when the time comes to choose a breast pump or other breastfeeding accessories.

Express: Pump or squeeze milk from the mother's breast.