How to Breastfeed Your Baby

Feeding your baby is more than just a matter of nutrition, it's also about nurturing and comfort. Using feeding time to make eye contact and hold your baby are great ways to increase that bonding time. It's also a great time to talk to your little one.

Breastfeeding provides you and your baby with many health benefits. It also costs less money than other feeding methods in addition to the health benefits.

From a healthier baby with a higher IQ to a mom who tends to lose her pregnancy weight faster and has more time free, breastfeeding is often best for everyone involved.


Choosing a Breastfeeding Position

Getting Breastfeeding Help

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You can choose any position you wish to nurse in, whether that be a seated or laying down position. It should be one that gives you the best feeding position for your baby and their needs. This may vary with the baby's age, your comfort level and even the time of day. Many people use the cradle hold, with mom seated upright, holding ​the baby like a cradle. This allows you to hold the baby with one hand and use the other to support or move your breast


Supporting the Baby While Nursing

Mom and baby doing side-lying breastfeeding

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No matter what position you decide on, get some support! A nursing pillow or using couch or bed pillows to help you hold baby up will save strain on your neck and back. Ask for help from others if you're just learning.

You can purchase fancy pillows to do the same job, but most moms find that anything that lifts their arms, saves on ​the strain. This makes the pillows made for nursing a luxury for most mothers.

If you're breastfeeding twins, a specifically designed pillow may be a great option


Baby Placement at the Breast

Mom breastfeeding in cradle hold

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A good latch is one of the most important parts of breastfeeding comfortably. This directly goes back to a good position of the baby. Your baby should be belly to belly with you and chin to breast. If ​the baby is twisted or has their head turned it can make it not only more difficult for them to get milk, but it can make your nipples sore.

Older babies are more likely to move around while nursing. This does not seem to cause most mothers any pain. But don't let your newborn learn the sloppy habits of nursing older babies, they simply can't get away with the same types of positions as nursing acrobats do at later stages.


Latching Your Baby On

Baby breastfeeding
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Use your one hand to cup the breast and offer it to the baby. Baby should open his or her mouth wide enough to take a good portion of the areola tissue (the darker portion of the breast) into the mouth. As baby does this pull them closer to the breast and watch them nurse.

If you didn't get a good latch the first time, don't be tempted to leave the baby on anyway.

An improper latch can be a source for sore nipples and other complications. Just remove the baby from the breast and try again. It may take several tries before you get a good latch. As your baby learns to breastfeed, it will get easier.


What to Look and Listen for While Baby Is Nursing

Mother breastfeeding her child
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While the baby is nursing you want to look for a few things to ensure all is well. The baby should have their lips flared around the breast. If you pull the lower lip down a bit (while they are nursing) the tongue should be curled around the breast. You can also usually hear baby swallowing and watch their ears wiggling when actively nursing.


Finishing a Feeding

Mother breastfeeding baby
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When baby needs a break, it's time to change sides or is finished, simply slip a finger in the corner of their mouth to gently break the suction. If you don't do this you will cause yourself a lot of pain. You can then offer the other side following the same steps.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.