Breastfeeding is important for you and your baby. Breast milk is the natural food for newborns. It contains everything your baby needs; no questions, no debate, no doubt. Your baby needs only breast milk for the first six months. At six months, start solid foods and continue to breastfeed for up to two years and beyond.
Breastfeeding is important because:
- Everyone benefits from breastfeeding: you, your baby, your family and your community.
- Breast milk is convenient, always the right temperature, and available anytime.
- Breastfeeding is free.
- Breastfeeding promotes bonding between you and your baby.
- Breastfeeding is environmentally friendly.
- Breastfeeding reduces health care costs to your family and to society.
Breastfeeding is important to your baby because breastfeeding:
- Protects your baby from many infections and illnesses.
- Builds healthy eating habits.
- Promotes proper jaw development.
- Promotes healthy brain development.
Breastfeeding also helps you, because breastfeeding:
- Controls postpartum bleeding.
- Decreases rates of breast and ovarian cancers.
- Slows down the return of your period.
You can help get feeding off to a good start by practicing cue-based feeding. Your baby should nurse at least 8 times in a 24-hour period. Watch for your baby’s cues and respond to them. Your baby will tell you when they are ready to feed, if they need a break during feeding, and when they are finished feeding. If you are able to start a feed while baby is showing early feeding cues, you can reduce frustration of baby and of yourself.
How to tell if Your Baby is Latched Well
While your baby is nursing, you will know your baby is latched on well if these things are happening:
- Breastfeeding is comfortable for you.
- Your baby has a strong, slow, regular suck.
- You can hear swallowing.
- Your baby’s mouth is wide open and lips are flared out (“flanged”).
- Your baby’s ears or temple are moving while they suck.
When your baby is finished nursing:
- Your nipples will have a normal, rounded shape and shouldn’t look pinched.
- Your breasts may feel softer (especially noticeable in the first few weeks).
- Your baby should be relaxed and content.
- Younger babies might fall asleep at the breast, but when you take them away, they wake up again. This is a sign that baby is not yet finished feeding.
While you are in hospital, your nurse will help you ensure baby is latching well. She may want to see your baby feed and can offer you help or tips for improving your latch. If you need extra assistance, please ask your nurse; her job is to help you be successful in feeding your baby!
How do I know my baby is getting enough?
Many women feel like their baby is not getting enough, when in fact, they are. If you are feeding your baby 8 or more times in 24 hours, and feeding them whenever they cue to feed, you do not need to worry as long as your baby:
- Feeds often, 8 or more times in 24 hours, through both the daytime and night-time. If baby is going long stretches (5-6 hours) without feeds, seek assessment by a qualified health care provider.
- Feeds with strong sucking and swallowing.
- Has plenty of wet and dirty diapers, according to baby’s age.
- Gains weight appropriately (it is normal for baby to lose weight in the first few days after birth).
If your baby does not have enough wet and dirty diapers, get help right away! Click here to view guidelines for nursing mothers. If your baby is not yet latching well, you may want to express some of your breast milk and give your baby milk through a syringe or with a cup. Click here to watch a short video about how to express your breast milk. For more information on breastfeeding, please ask your nurse for a copy of Best Start’s booklet “Breastfeeding Matters” or click on the link to download it.
Breastfeeding is natural, but can take time to learn. There are times when you may need to get help from a professional. If you need help, contact your health care provider, a lactation consultant, or Southwestern Public Health.
Be sure to get help right away if you notice these signs:
- Your baby is nursing fewer than 8 times in 24 hours.
- After day 4, your baby has black or dark green stools (poop).
- After day 4, your baby has fewer than 6 very wet diapers in 24 hours.
- Your baby is unusually sleepy, fussy, or restless.
Other signs that something is wrong are:
- Your nipples hurt.
- Your breasts feel hard and painful.
- You feel like you have the flu.