Breastfeeding can be one of the most precious ways to enjoy being close to your baby. There’s no greater feeling as a mom than knowing you are helping your baby grow and become healthy with your milk. It’s a gift that lasts a lifetime!

Babies were born to breastfeed. It’s not hard to get off to a good start when you follow some simple steps.

  • Hold your baby skin to skin as often as you can so baby can latch by himself.
  • Make sure baby is ready to latch. Calm him first if he is fussy. If he is sleepy, hold him skin to skin to wake him.
  • Try other holds while you are in the hospital and help is near. These holds include: cradle, cross cradle, clutch and side lying.
  • Hold baby so he is close to you and faces your breast. He should not have to turn his head to reach your breast.
  • Support baby’s neck and shoulders with your hand so he can tilt his head back. Do not put your hand against your baby’s head.
  • Watch until baby’s mouth opens wide (like a yawn). Bring him in close. Your nipple will be against the roof of your baby’s mouth.
  • If it doesn’t feel right, place your finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the suction and try again.
  • Give it time. You and your baby are learning a new skill!

Laid-Back Breastfeeding

It’s easier for baby to latch when you lie back semi-reclined. Hold your baby with his body fully against your body. This triggers special sucking and feeding instincts.

How to Latch the Baby

Ask your nurse to help you hold your baby so his head and body are in a straight line. Your baby should not have to turn his head to reach your breast. Baby’s nose should point toward your nipple. Wait until your baby opens his mouth wide before bringing him in close to latch. His chin will be against your breast and his lips will flare out like “fish lips.” You might also hear your baby swallow your milk.

Signs of a Good Latch

If baby is latched well it will not hurt or pinch. So go by how it feels. Your breasts may feel a little tender at first. This is normal. If you feel pain, ask your nurse for help!

Get Help if You Aren’t Sure

It is normal to need some help to latch your baby right at first. Ask your nurse for help. If things do not get better, ask to see a lactation expert.

When you keep me close, I show you when I want to eat.
I see your nipple near my nose. I smell scents that comfort me.
I start smacking my lips.
When I open my mouth wide you pull me in close.
I taste your sweet milk and my tummy begins to feel full.

Breastfeeding goes better when mom’s champion is there to support her.

  • Learn all you can about how to hold and latch the baby.
  • Help mom see that the baby is latched well. Look for baby’s wide open mouth, flared lips, and his chin pressed against mom’s breast.
  • Help mom keep track of baby’s feedings and dirty diapers.
  • If baby is crying or upset, help mom calm him first.
  • Give her praise!

Be Her Eyes!

It’s very hard for a new mom to easily see how her baby is latched. That’s where your support is crucial! While mom and baby are learning how to breastfeed in the early days, you can watch to see if baby is latched well.

Watch for a Good Latch

When mom nurses the baby, look to see that the baby’s chin is against her breast. Most of the dark area under her nipple should be in the baby’s mouth. Baby’s lips should be flared out like fish lips. If baby is latched well, he will swallow and be content.

Get Help

If mom says breastfeeding hurts, remind her to break the suction and try again until it feels better. Letting the baby nurse when it hurts will only make things worse. Ask your nurse for help.

When your baby is positioned and latched well, feedings are comfortable for both of you!

  • You will make plenty of milk for your baby.
  • Your baby will be able to get more milk so he can grow.
  • It helps you prevent sore nipples.
  • It will prevent your breasts from getting engorged.
  • Both you and baby will be satisfied and content.

It’s all about the Latch!

A good latch makes breastfeeding comfortable. It also helps your baby get plenty of milk so he can gain weight and grow. When baby is latched well, his tongue will press against the dark area under your nipple. This area is strong enough to take the pressure of baby’s tongue. This is what keeps your nipples from getting sore. It also helps your baby get more milk. When baby gets more milk, your breasts are better drained so you do not get engorged.

How to Know Baby Gets Enough

It is normal for babies to lose a little weight right at first. You’ll know baby is getting enough if he feeds at least 8-12 times every 24 hours and you see more and more poopy diapers. What goes in must come out! Watch for at least one poop on day 1, two on day 2, and three on day 3. By the fourth day, the poops should start to turn yellow in color.

You Had Your Baby by C-Section

You can breastfeed your baby no matter how you gave birth. If your incision is sore in the first few days, try holding your baby in the “clutch” hold. You can also lay your baby across your chest sideways so his knees and feet do not push against your belly.

You Want to Do “Both”

If you want to breastfeed and use bottles later, try to start out just breastfeeding at first. Your baby will need around 3 or 4 weeks to learn how to breastfeed the right way. If you give bottles too soon he may prefer the faster flow of milk from a bottle and get frustrated at your breast.

Your Baby is Crying and Upset

When a baby cries it can be hard for him to focus on latching. Don’t try to force the baby to latch. Instead, calm the baby first. Hold him skin to skin. Sway him gently. Talk softly. Ask your champion to help you calm the baby. Once he is calm, he will be able to latch more easily.

Your Baby is too Sleepy to Feed

Newborns often sleep a lot in the hospital, especially if you had medications during labor. If the baby does not wake to feed on his own after about 3 hours, go ahead and wake him. Your milk is digested after an hour and a half or so, and he needs your milk to grow. Watch for baby’s active sleep phase when his eyes flutter or he moves his mouth. Hold him skin to skin. Change his diaper. Talk to him, or gently try to wake him.

You’re Shy Nursing in Front of Others

It’s natural to feel a little shy about exposing your breasts in front of other people. Speak up about what you want. Or ask your champion to help you get the privacy you need. Once you and baby get used to nursing, you may feel better about feeding in front of others.

What if my baby won’t latch?

Both you and your baby will learn how to breastfeed together. It may take a little time! If baby will not latch easily, try holding him on your chest skin to skin and lie back a little. Most babies will latch on their own when they are on mom’s chest skin to skin. If baby still has trouble figuring it out, ask your nurse to help you.

How often should I feed the baby?

A new baby needs to eat often to gain weight and grow. Watch for baby’s cues he is ready to eat. When he sucks on his hands or shows other signs he is hungry, offer the breast. Offer the breast at least 8-12 times every 24 hours.

How long should I nurse the baby?

New babies often take a while to nurse at first. As they get a little older they get better at getting the milk. Rather than timing your baby’s feeds, watch your baby instead. When he gets sleepy, gently compress or squeeze your breast to make the milk flow a little faster. Once he falls off the breast on his own, he is through with that side. Change your baby’s diaper or wake him gently and offer the other breast.

Will it hurt to breastfeed?

Some moms say their breasts are a little tender at first. But pain is a sign that something is wrong. If you feel pain or pinching, it may be a sign that your baby is not latched well. Ask for help!
  • Support practices that keep mothers and babies together during the hospital stay.
  • Explain to mothers the importance of breastfeeding, and encourage them to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months.
  • Teach mothers the importance of frequent feedings, at least 8-12 times every 24 hours.
  • Conduct physical exams in the mother’s room to enable mothers and babies to remain together.
  • Urge mothers to seek help from lactation experts if questions or concerns arise.
  • Encourage mothers and babies to remain in continuous skin to skin care during the hospital stay.
  • Teach mothers how to watch for feeding cues.
  • Encourage mothers to feed their baby 8-12 times every 24 hours.
  • Teach mothers that the baby receives small amounts of colostrum in the early days.
  • Show mothers how to position and latch their baby properly at the breast.
  • Advocate for policies that allow mothers and babies to remain together where possible.
  • If mother must be separated from her infant, help her begin pumping or hand expression, preferably within an hour.
  • If mothers experience problems beyond basics, refer them to lactation experts on staff.
  • Teach mothers how to be sure they are making enough milk.
  • Encourage continued exclusive breastfeeding when the mother and baby are discharged.
  • Provide assistance to ALL mothers, regardless of any prior experience she may have with breastfeeding. (Each dyad is a new experience.)
  • Provide anticipatory guidance upon discharge: fussy baby, milk sufficiency, normal infant behavior states, and comfort measure for the baby.
  • Assess for potential breastfeeding challenges – flat/inverted nipples, history of breast surgery, multiples, preterm infant, tongue tie, congenital anomalies, etc.
  • Connect the mother to local resources for follow-up care upon discharge.
Women have been breastfeeding since the beginning of time! You have everything you need to do it, too.

Your best tools as a nursing mom are as simple as your own hands. Expressing your milk by hand helps you make more milk and keeps you comfortable. Best of all, you’ll soar with pride when you see those first drops of milk and know you are giving your baby your very best.

Expressing your milk by hand is easy to learn. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and no fancy gadgets are needed. You only need a free hand. Here’s how.

  • After washing your hands with warm water, place a warm towel over your breasts. A newborn diaper wet with warm water works great!
  • Gently massage your breasts. This helps your breasts relax so milk can flow.
  • Pretend the dark area behind your nipple is a clock. Place your thumb at 12 o’clock and your index finger at 6 o’clock so they are opposite each other.
  • Press your fingers back toward your chest wall. Roll them toward your nipple.
  • Gently squeeze your breast as you roll your fingers forward. Repeat until you see milk drops. Stop when the milk no longer flows.
  • Move your fingers to other areas to find your “sweet spot” where the milk flows best.
  • Be patient! Hand expression takes practice.

Why it Works

The power of touch helps special hormones to flow. These hormones help release your milk so it will flow more easily. Some moms roll their nipple between their fingers a few seconds to help release the milk.

Giving the Milk to your Baby

Your first milk will be small in volume at first. You will only express drops at a time, but each one is precious! Use a clean spoon to collect the milk you express. You can use the same spoon to gently feed the milk to your baby. That way not a single drop of your milk will be wasted. If you put the spoon up to his mouth, your baby will lap up the milk with his tongue. In a few days, when your body makes more milk, you can use a larger container with a wide mouth. Larger amounts of expressed milk can be stored in the fridge or freezer.

  • I am hungry and ready to eat.
  • The nice, soft breast I love feels strange and hard now. When I try to latch, I cannot get it into my mouth and I get upset.
  • Dad holds me and sings to me a few minutes while mom is busy expressing a little milk. I begin to calm.
  • Mom lets me try again and this time it is easier. Best of all, my food is already waiting on me!
  • I also get to drink the milk that Mom collected for me.

Hand expression is often much easier with the support of mom’s champion.

  • Monitor visitors when mom needs privacy.
  • Help her relax so her milk can flow.
  • Make warm compresses by wetting a wash cloth, hand towel, or newborn diaper.
  • Praise her and celebrate every drop she is able to express.
  • Learn to feed the baby by spoon so that not a drop of the milk is wasted.

Ahhh! Relaxing Helps!

Many new moms do not know the power of relaxing. When mom is relaxed, a special hormone called oxytocin is released. This hormone causes her milk to “let down” so the milk can flow easily. This helps her express more milk more quickly. As mom’s champion, your crucial role is to help her relax.

How You Can Help

As mom’s champion, there are lots of ways you can help her relax. Make the room restful by dimming the lights and turning down the TV sound. Help her get comfortable with extra pillows. Massage her back or shoulders if she is tense. Bring her a glass of water. Oxytocin causes women to feel very thirsty when they are nursing the baby or expressing milk.

Prepare to be awed when your golden drops of milk first appear right before your eyes. That’s when you’ll know you have just what your baby needs!

  • Hand expression helps you get quick relief if your breasts feel full or engorged.
  • It softens your breast so your baby can latch better.
  • Having the milk right there can also help a sleepy baby be more interested.
  • It may be easier than using a breast pump.
  • It helps your body start making more milk faster.
  • The milk you collect can be given to your baby by spoon so not a drop is wasted!

Soften Full Breasts

Your breasts might feel a little full when your body starts making more milk. That can make it harder for your baby to latch. When you move some of that milk out, your breasts will soften so baby can latch. It also helps you feel more comfortable.

Your First Milk

Your first milk is thick and yellow in color. Because it is thick, it can be harder for a breast pump to remove it. You might find it easier to just use your hands right at first.

Making More

The sooner and more often milk is removed from your breasts, the faster your body will start making more. Your baby will do the best job of removing your milk. If he is not able to nurse often enough, you can express milk by hand. This signals your body to start making more milk!

You’ve Never Handled your Breasts

It can feel a little strange the first time you express milk by hand. Your body is amazing, and it will get easier with practice!

You’re Worried it might Hurt

Expressing milk by hand should not hurt if it is done right. A common mistake some moms make is pinching their nipple to squeeze out the milk. Milk is not stored in the nipple, so pinching it might hurt. Instead, place your fingers further back near the outside of the dark area.

You Are Shy

Most moms do not want others to see their breasts. Ask your champion to help you monitor visitors. They can step out of the room for a while to give you some privacy. You can also ask your nurse to put a sign on the door to ask visitors to wait.

You don’t plan to breastfeed

Hand expression is a great tool no matter how you are feeding your baby. Nearly all moms will bring in milk after a few days, even if they do not plan to breastfeed. This can be very painful if the baby is not nursing to remove the milk. Hand expression will help you get some quick relief from overfull breasts.

When should I hand express?

If your baby is not able to breastfeed in the first hour, you should hand express for the first time then. This tells your body to start making more milk. The milk you express can be fed to your baby when he is able. Your nurse can suggest other times to hand express your milk.

Why does so little milk come out?

Each time you breastfeed the first day or so, your baby gets about a teaspoon of milk. This is perfect for your baby’s very tiny belly because it can only hold that much. That means when you express milk you will only get drops at first. The more you practice, the more milk you will be able to express.

What if nothing comes out?

Your milk needs to “let down” or release before you can express it. To help it release, relax and take slow, deep breaths. Place a warm (not hot) compress on your breasts. Massage them. If none of that works, gently roll your nipple between your fingers.
  • Advocate for policies that support normalizing hand expression as part of in-hospital teaching.
  • Educate mothers about the benefits of hand expression and when it is indicated.
  • Demonstrate the proper technique for hand expression.
  • Reassure mothers that it is normal to only express a small amount of milk at first.
  • Encourage moms to practice hand expression to gain confidence.
  • Advocate for policies that support normalizing hand expression as part of in-hospital teaching.
  • Show mothers the proper technique for expressing their milk by hand.
  • Reassure mothers that it is normal to only express a small amount of milk at first.
  • Assist mother with spoon feeding her expressed milk to her infant.
  • Provide mothers with options for storing their expressed breast milk.
  • Praise every drop of milk you see to help moms feel proud and confident.
  • Encourage moms to practice hand expression to gain confidence.
Hand expression is a simple skill that’s easy to learn and do. Moms the world over have expressed their milk by hand for centuries. Your amazing body will give you what you need, too!
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