How to Breastfeed

Babies use their lips, gums, and tongue to suckle (take milk from the breast). Your baby is born with an instinct for suckling. But it takes time for you and your baby to learn how to breastfeed. There are steps you can take to support your baby’s natural instincts.

Skin to skin

If possible, you should hold your baby bare against your skin (skin to skin) just after giving birth and for a few hours after. You can continue to do this in the first few weeks after birth, too. 

How often should I feed my baby?

Newborns should nurse 8 to 12 times a day. You should feed your infant whenever he shows signs of hunger. When your baby is hungry, your baby will appear more awake and might root (turn his head toward you when you stroke his cheek). Your baby might also make a sucking sound or suck on his hand. Crying is a late sign of hunger and this may make breastfeeding harder. Older infants will often eat at regular intervals, but younger infants may not. Sometimes they might eat several times in a row (called cluster feeding) and then take a break. Unless your baby’s healthcare provider has recommended it, you do not have to wake your baby to feed him. If your baby seems sleepy or too fussy to nurse, undress him and place him bare against your skin.

Alternate which breast you offer first with each feeding. For example, if you started nursing on the right side with the last feeding, offer the left side with this feeding. Always offer the other breast after your baby stops nursing on the first side.

Woman offering her breast to baby

Offering your breast

Hold your breast with your thumb on top and fingers underneath in a loose grip. Gently stroke your nipple on your baby’s lower lip. When you see your baby open his mouth wide, quickly bring the baby to your breast. As you get ready for the baby to latch on, take slow, deep breaths. This will help the milk flow.


Baby latching onto breast

Latching on

The way your baby connects with the breast is called the latch. The nipple and as much as possible of the areola (the dark ring around your nipple) should be in your baby’s mouth. Turn the baby’s entire body toward you, with her nose and chin against the breast. If a latch pinches or hurts, gently slide 1 finger into your baby’s mouth to release the latch and try again.


Mother gently releasing the latch

Releasing the latch

You should let your baby nurse until satisfied. But you may need to release the latch sooner if you feel pain or for some other reason. Slip your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth. You should feel the suction break. When the seal is broken, move your baby off your breast. Don’t take the baby off your breast until you’ve felt a decrease in suction.

Burping your baby

Many breastfed babies do not need to burp. They get less air than bottle-fed babies. If your baby seems uncomfortable, you can try to burp your baby after each breast:

  • Hold the baby at your upper chest or slightly over your shoulder. Gently rub or pat the baby’s back.

  • Or hold the baby sitting up on your lap. Support your baby’s head and chest in front and in back. Slowly rock your baby back and forth.


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