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Getting Started and Feeding Cues

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father watching mother breastfeeding baby

If this is your first time breastfeeding, it may take some practice before you feel confident.

Here are some tips to get you off to a good start - and to help you prevent or overcome common breastfeeding challenges.

In the first hour(s) after birth:

  • Have your baby skin-to-skin on your bare chest right after your baby is born. Cuddling in this way encourages your baby to breastfeed, helps the two of you bond and is good for your newborn's health and development. It's good for dads/partners to also hold the baby skin-to-skin, especially if mom is unable. 
  • Have an uninterrupted introduction - Your baby will likely show an interest in breastfeeding within the first 30 to 60 minutes after birth. It's important to allow your baby to finish his or her first meal.

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In the first days:

  • Ensure you and your baby are constantly together.

  • Recognize behaviours and feeding cues - the signs that your baby is ready to feed.

  • Have your baby skin-to-skin frequently.

  • Feed your baby frequently - eight or more times in 24 hours.

  • Realize that babies wake up to feed very often during the night.

  • When babies are full, their arms and legs are relaxed and they tend to be 'sleepy'.  Arms will also be straight and often fall to the infant's side. 

  • In the first three to four days after birth, your baby may lose some weight. This is normal. Learn about the signs of a good feeding
  • Give your baby only your breast milk. The small amount of colostrum (baby’s first milk) your baby gets in the first two to three days is perfect until your milk supply increases. Most babies need to take both breasts at every feeding.

  • Be sure you are in a comfortable position to breastfeed and get your baby positioned on your breast well. This is called a good latch.

Signs that your baby is ready to nurse are called feeding cues. They may include:

  • bringing hands to mouth

  • rooting (moving head as if looking for your nipple)

  • mouth opening, lip licking and sucking

  • clenching fingers and fists over chest and tummy

  • bending arms and legs

  • fussiness

Crying is a late cue - this means you missed the other feeding cues. Try to soothe your baby first before breastfeeding. It can be more difficult to latch a crying baby.

Learning to Breastfeed Takes Time

Watch a video about Baby Feeding Cues and Behaviours.Since breastfeeding is natural, many new moms are not prepared for the learning that needs to happen. But even natural things take time and patience to learn. Just like learning to ride a bike or drive a car, learning to breastfeed is easier for some people than it is for others. Planning ahead can help. Read about preparing to breastfeed. Learning to breastfeed doesn't happen overnight. 

Resources & Links:
Breast-Feeding Positions

VIDEO: Admission to Postpartum - Keeping Your Baby Skin-to-Skin
VIDEO: Baby's Feeding Cues and Behaviours
VIDEO: Breastfeeding Positions
VIDEO: Cup Feeding and Other Feeding Methods
VIDEO: Hand Expressing Milk
VIDEO: Latching Your Baby

Last Updated: August 12, 2013