Babies are born with the natural instinct to crawl and self-attach to their mother's breast. Give your new baby many chances to breastfeed by keeping your baby close and skin-to-skin on your chest.
When your baby is ready to feed, watch for these signs
- Increased alertness
- Bringing a hand toward the mouth and sucking on a fist or finger
- Rooting around or turning the head with searching movements of the lips and tongue
- Crying is a late feeding cue. If your baby is crying, calm and soothe him or her and then attempt to feed.
It is normal for babies to nurse frequently, 8 to 12 (or more) times every 24 hours.
Finding a comfortable latch
- Loosen your baby's blanket so arms can move. Breastfeeding will work better for both of you if your baby’s arms are free to move and touch your breast.
- Bring your baby to your breast. The chin should reach your breast first and your nipple should be above your baby’s upper lip, opposite of his or her nose.
- Be patient and wait until your baby opens the mouth very wide. You will see your baby’s tongue move down to cup your nipple as he or she latches to the breast.
- Your baby's lips should make a seal around the breast and he or she will begin to suckle.
Find a comfortable position that works for both of you.
What if breastfeeding hurts?
- You may have heard that breastfeeding is supposed to hurt in the early weeks and that the initial latch may be painful. This is not the case. Breastfeeding should be comfortable. Pain is a sign that your baby has not latched as deeply as needed. If there is any pain with breastfeeding, be sure to ask for help. Call your lactation consultant or care provider right away.
How do I know my baby is feeding enough?
- Your breasts will feel softer after your baby feeds well. The more your baby feeds, the more milk your body will make, so feed your baby often.
- Your baby will relax and look satisfied after a good feeding. Babies often "cluster feed" or want small frequent feedings several times throughout the day, but then may sleep for several hours after these small feedings.
- Your baby should have 4 wet diapers and 4 soft yellow poops by day 4 of life. By one week of age, expect your baby to have 6 to 8 wet diapers and at least 4 yellow poops each day.
- Your baby will return to birth weight by 10 to 14 days of life. Call your pediatrician with any questions or concerns about your baby’s feeding progress.
Skin-to-skin contact will allow your baby to:
- Smell you
- Hear you
- Feel your gentle touch
- Nurse from you
- Stay warm
- Be calmed and feel loved by you
Stay close to your baby. The first touch lasts a lifetime.
- Research shows that skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby for the first few hours after birth is essential. Here are some of the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for you and your baby:
- Skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth helps your baby maintain a normal body temperature.
- Your baby needs to be close to you after birth. Babies recognize their mother’s smell and calm and soothe more readily on their mother’s body. This makes them more responsive to feeding. This experience is an important part of your baby’s normal recovery from birth.
- Mothers and babies who have early skin-to-skin contact have more success with breastfeeding and breastfeed longer.
- When placed on your chest or belly, your baby will search around for your nipple. Your baby will bring the tongue forward and then open the mouth wide to latch to your breast. Your baby will learn to do this in the correct order by practicing at the breast.
- Your baby may find the way to the breast and latch and suckle all on her or his own, but you can also help your baby a little with positioning if necessary. Your nurse will help you with your first feedings.
- Be patient and give your baby time to learn the new skill of breastfeeding.
We support women who have had cesarean births with either spinal or epidural anesthesia to have skin-to-skin care with their well babies in the operating room. We also encourage them to begin breastfeeding when the baby is showing signs of interest and readiness to breastfeed.
If you had general anesthesia, we encourage supervised skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as you are able.
For the best start, nurse your baby in the first hour after birth and plan on rooming in.
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