Breastfeeding Education

The First Few Days: Your Baby's First Feeding

Most babies are alert right after birth and are especially ready to suckle at their mother’s breast.

Almost all babies can be breastfed babies

Get skin to skin. Gaze into each other’s eyes. Relax and enjoy your baby. The earlier the baby goes to the breast, the better. Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t drink at the breast this first time. It is enough that your baby nuzzles your breast and nipple. This starts the hormones flowing that tell your body to make milk.

Remember that baby’s first feeding is a learning experience for you both. It is also a special time for you and your baby to get to know each other.

Finding a comfortable breastfeeding position and getting the baby well latched right from the start will help to make breastfeeding enjoyable for you both.

Besides professional help, it is also very important to have a support person to help you in the first few days and throughout your breastfeeding experience. This can be a partner, family member, or friend. Most importantly, this person should support your decision to breastfeed and be there to encourage you in the early weeks. Your support person might also be either experienced with breastfeeding or willing to take over household chores while you settle in with your baby.

Breastfeeding soon after birth is good for you and good for baby. But if you can’t breastfeed right after childbirth, then breastfeed the first chance you get.

If you will be separated from your baby for more than six hours after birth, then you will need to start expressing your breast milk. It is important to start expressing milk within the first six hours, because your body is most ready then. You will need to express your breast milk as often as you would be feeding your baby.

If you plan to use a bottle to feed your breast milk to your baby, wait until baby is six weeks old. Offering a bottle before six weeks of age may cause nipple confusion. This happens because the mouth and tongue action needed to get milk from your breast is very different from that needed to get milk from a bottle. An infant may become confused and refuse the breast. Wait until your baby gets really good at breastfeeding before introducing a rubber nipple, including a soother. There are other ways to feed expressed breast milk to your baby, such as cup feeding or finger feeding… contact Public Health, La Leche League or local breastfeeding support groups for more information. See the Support Resources section for more information.

Encouraging your milk to come in

Several days after childbirth, your milk starts to come in. You will probably feel unusually hungry and thirsty during this time. It is important to take extra good care of yourself, giving your body all the food, water, and rest it needs, so that it can make milk for your baby. To encourage your milk to come in, you can:

  • Breastfeed often.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Eat well and drink plenty of fluids to satisfy your thirst.

You will notice that your breasts become full and heavier as your milk comes in. You may feel your milk “let down.” You may have a tingly feeling, like pins and needles, or a feeling of warmth or pressure in your breast. Some women describe this as a pain in the breast. Your breasts may leak milk. You may also have plenty of milk without experiencing these things.

Your milk supply will soon adjust to baby’s needs. For your comfort, you can use warm moist cloths on your breasts, take a warm shower, or soak in warm water before a feeding. You can also express enough milk to soften the area around the nipple (areola) to help baby latch, or massage your breasts gently before and during a feeding. Feeding baby more often, before your breasts get too full, is also helpful. Wake baby to feed, if you need to.