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Breastfeeding Beginnings – 7 Tips For Getting Breastfeeding Off To A Good Start

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Breastfeeding is normal. It is not special, and it is not scary. It is the natural, biologically normal way to feed our children. That said, it does not always come naturally – particularly since many of us have grown up in a culture which has normalized formula feeding and in which we may have few breastfeeding role models among our close friends and family.  

Here are seven tips which can help you and your newborn learn to breastfeed effectively, and establish a breastfeeding relationship that can continue for as long as you and your child wish. 


1. Initiate breastfeeding within the first hour: A full-term healthy baby is born with strong instincts to breastfeed, which peak at about 20 to 30 minutes after birth, and then begins to wane. After this time it may be more difficult for baby to take the breast, but it is absolutely not impossible. So don’t give up, if circumstances dictate that your little one is unable to breastfeed straight away.  

2. Feed frequently: Babies tummies are very small at birth and they can only take 5-7ml of milk at one time. They fill up quickly, but also empty quickly. Therefore, you will need to feed a newborn at least 8-12 times in 24 hours Learn your baby’s hunger cues, and put your baby to the breast every time they display readiness to feed. These cues include: 

  • Opening/closing mouth
  • Sucking on lips or anything in proximity to mouth
  • Rooting
  • Fidgeting
  • Fussing
  • Looking around

Crying is sometimes included in lists of hunger cues; however, be aware that this is a late cue occurring after baby has been hungry for a while, and at this point it is often harder for a distressed baby to take the breast.

Bear in mind that after a medicated or traumatic birth, babies may be too sleepy to display these cues.  Do not let your baby go without a feed for more than 2-3 hours during the day and 4-5 hours at night. Wake and stimulate baby to feed, if necessary. 

Night-time feedings are particularly important for your newborn, not only because your baby will need regular feeding just as during the day, but also because maternal levels of prolactin (the hormone which produces milk) are highest at night.  Night-time feedings therefore help to establish a good milk supply. 

3. Keep baby in close contact: Keep baby close, skin-to-skin where possible. Close contact helps to stimulate prolactin, and also allows baby unrestricted access to the breast. 

4. Feed for as long as baby needs: Allow baby to come off one side of their own accord, then offer the second (which they may or may not take). 

5. Try different positions: Experiment with positioning and find something which works for you. Some mums find the cross-cradle hold comfortable in the early weeks. Side-lying may also be helpful in allowing you to rest while your baby feeds (and very useful after a C-section).  Many mums also find that semi-reclined positions (with mum leaning back, well supported, and baby lying tummy down on mum’s front) can also be very relaxing and can allow baby’s natural latching instincts to kick in. 

6. Avoid artificial nipples for the first few weeks: While some babies will have no problems taking the breast after bottle or dummy use, around 50% of babies will find it more difficult.   This is because breastfeeding entails a suckling action quite different from that used in bottlefeeding or sucking on a dummy, and “nipple confusion” can prevent baby breastfeeding effectively.  Lactation consultants recommend waiting until breastfeeding and milk supply are well established at around 6-8 weeks before introducing a bottle or dummy (if at all).

7. Have help lined up: A “breastfeeding buddy,” who is essentially a friend with experience of breastfeeding, can be invaluable to cheer you on and support you.  Peer support groups are another great source of information and encouragement.  And if things don’t go according to plan, call a helpline or contact a Breastfeeding Counsellor or Board-Certified Lactation Consultant for help.


You may find that breastfeeding goes swimmingly from the very beginning, or you may find that it takes you and your baby a little time to find your groove.  After all, you’ve never done this before, and neither has your baby!  I hope that these suggestions above will help you and your baby learn the art of breastfeeding together, and discover the beauty and enduring power of breastfeeding. And don’t forget to share your wisdom with our readers. Comment on this article or write about your experiences with breastfeeding on our forum. Your ideas and experiences might be just what the next mom needs to hear.

Photograph credit: christyscherrer; www.Flickr.com

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Contributed by Sian

Sian is a devoted mother of two children and a registered Breastfeeding Counselor with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers. She is a founding member of Breastfeeding Q&A in the UAE, a peer support group for breastfeeding mothers. You can find her articles in the Gulf News and ABM:the magazine of the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers.

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