It’s wonderful that you want to breastfeed.
Your baby will benefit so much from receiving your milk – and there are lots of pluses for you too.
But there are also pitfalls and challenges when you’re breastfeeding a newborn – though some ladies breeze through it and hopefully you’re one of them!
In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to get started on your breastfeeding journey. From getting a great latch and taking care of your own comfort, to spotting potential problems early on, we’ve got you covered!
Please note that this is not medical advice. If you are having difficulties with breastfeeding, consult a qualified Lactation Consultant.
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When will my milk come in?
Perhaps you’re sitting there with your lovely new baby, heart full to bursting – and breasts empty and sad.
Don’t despair! These first couple of days breastfeeding a newborn, you are producing liquid gold – colostrum. I know it seems like the tiniest amount and you’re wondering how it can possibly be enough but it is.
Your baby’s tummy is tiny right now so a couple of millilitres really do make a difference. And colostrum has vital roles to play in preparing your baby’s gut for the milk to come and passing over your immunities to protect them.
If you’re worried baby isn’t getting enough, like I was, then think about how your baby seems in general. Babies that are having several wet nappies per day and seem to be content are most likely fine*. Your milk will come in by day five and possibly before because it varies from woman to woman.
If it seems an impossible task, take heart – on day two I expressed for an hour. I got 1ml of colostrum. By day seven, I could pump 100ml in one go.
*But if you are worried at all, speak to your midwife or a lactation consultant to get a professional view.
How to get a great latch when breastfeeding a newborn
So I just pop my nipple in my baby’s mouth, right?
Welllll, there’s a little more to it than that – unless you’d like to experience agonising pain, of course.
When you can see that your baby is giving you hunger cues, such as rooting and opening their mouth, feed them right away before they get upset. Any wriggling and stretching can also be signs of hunger so, if in doubt, get the boob out!
Latching on a baby
To get a great latch for breastfeeding a newborn, you need to hold your baby very close with their body against yours. Get your breast out before you pick baby up so you don’t have to do it one-handed.
Line baby up so that their nose is next to your nipple and wait for them to give you a big gaping mouth. I know this isn’t easy – newborns’ mouths are tiny, even when gaping. Just wait for the biggest mouth you can get, tickling their chin or touching your nipple to their nose if that helps.
Baby to breast – chin first
When you see that gape, move fast! Move your baby forward so your nipple and a big mouthful of breast goes into their mouth. They should come towards you chin first and scoop the breast into their mouth with their tongue.
This can be tricky to master – you must bring your baby to your breast. Don’t ‘post’ your nipple into your baby’s mouth – they are not going to latch well and have a big enough mouthful of breast that way.
What does a good latch look like?
When your baby is latched on, check these things:
- Are baby’s lips splayed outwards?
- Has baby got a big mouthful? When latching is complete, most of your areola will be in their mouth – but you may see a bit above their top lip.
- Is baby sucking rhythmically and swallowing? You will get used to listening for their quiet sucks.
- Does baby seem contented? Drifting off to sleep at the breast at the end of a feed is a good indicator of contentment.
- Are you in any pain? Nipple soreness tells you that something isn’t right. Break the latch and try again – keeping going with a bad latch will make the pain worse. You can break baby’s latch by slipping your pinky into the corner of their mouth to break the suction and release your nipple.
How to recognise a poor latch
If you are in pain or if your nipples come out of baby’s mouth misshapen or lipstick shaped, your latch is likely to be to blame.
Other signs are stinging pain when you latch baby on that subsides after a short time. In more severe cases, your nipples might crack and bleed.
Similarly, if your baby isn’t having many wet nappies, pops on and off the breast a lot or just doesn’t seem contented, get your latch checked.
Sometimes, it seems you are doing everything right but breastfeeding still hurts.
That’s when you need to get help. A lactation consultant will watch you feed and see what you can’t. With two of my children, I needed to get help and in both cases doing so helped me keep feeding beyond a year.
Poor latch isn’t just painful for you – it can prevent your baby getting enough milk to thrive so don’t suffer alone. It’s a very common problem.
If nipple pain gets really bad, get checked out in case you and baby have thrush or baby is tongue tied.
When your nipples are very sore, nursing your baby isn’t the pleasure it should be, so here’s a post all about how to soothe sore nipples. (Pin it for later!)
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We all love a freebie – and these are items you’d probably pay more than $19 for!
How long should a newborn feed?
Your new baby is just learning the skill of breastfeeding so feeds will probably be pretty long. I loved watch box sets while nursing because a 40-45 minute episode was the perfect length for me and my baby.
Not every baby takes that long to feed though – but you can expect at least 20 minutes per feed. Once your baby starts to look satisfied on one side – perhaps becoming sleepy or sucking less – you can offer the other breast.
Newborn babies are often very sleepy and it might feel like hard work just getting your baby to feed in the early days.
How many times a day do you breastfeed a newborn baby?
Brand new babies feed very frequently because their stomachs are so small and your milk is quickly digested. To keep your baby satisfied and build your milk supply, feed your baby on demand.
Schedule vs on demand breastfeeding
Can you imagine if someone told you that you couldn’t have anything to eat or even a drink until a specified time? If you’re like me, you wouldn’t like that very much. Breastfeeding a newborn gives them food and drink – but also comfort so forget scheduling and snuggle up.
Daily routines can are great when your baby is a little older. For the best chance of succeeding with breastfeeding and to maximise your milk supply, let your baby tell you when it’s time to feed.
It can be inconvenient – it can feel like it’s all you ever do – but if breastfeeding your baby matters to you it’s worth it.
It’s also worth it every time you look down at that milk-drunk baby asleep in your arms.
Is night-time nursing important?
Yes. To keep that tiny tummy filled up and your baby’s weight gain on track, you need to nurse your newborn day and night. Sometimes this may mean waking your baby to feed them when you would rather get some sleep yourself.
How to build your breastmilk supply
Over the first month of breastfeeding, your baby will rapidly build your milk supply with their regular on-demand nursing. All those times you have to feed your baby AGAIN even though you just did or even though your poor boobs are soft and empty feeling – that is your baby building up your supply.
You could also try breastmilk-promoting recipes like this lactation smoothie.
There are several breastfeeding positions you can try. The best one is the one that is most comfortable and convenient for you. Give them all a try and see what works – and if one doesn’t work at the beginning, come back to it later because things change once your baby grows a little.
The classic mother-and-baby hold! Lie your baby across your lap and hold them close in to your body. Baby’s head rests gently in the crook of your arm with your opposite hand free to stroke them or reach the remote control. When feeding is going well, this is a lovely, easy way to hold your baby and much gentler on the wrists than cross cradle.
Cross cradle hold
It can be a little hard to distinguish between this hold and cradle position but it’s all in where your hands are. As with cradle, your baby is in your lap and lying across your body but this time the baby’s head is resting in your opposite hand.
This is great for extra control of what your baby is doing and I recommend it if you are experiencing sore nipples and need to latch baby on very carefully.
That said, I ended up with very sore wrists with my second baby because I used cross cradle all the time and spent hours each day holding that little head firmly where I wanted it. It turned out that he had tongue tie but my wrists took months to recover. (These wrist supports really helped.)
Football / rugby ball hold
This hold is great for breastfeeding twins or if you’re trying to find a way to get a deeper latch. Your baby is not in your lap for this position – instead they are placed around the side of your body, tucked under your arm like a football.
Once baby is settled and comfy with their legs round the side of you, you can support their head with your hand and bring them to the breast. This can be a little hard on your wrists and hands because you need to keep baby there for a while but many mothers find it a comfortable way to nurse.
Lying down to breastfeed
This is my favourite position because my hands don’t have to do anything and I can relax! It was not great in the early days, however, because my daughter’s mouth was tiny and we couldn’t get latched well lying down. By ten weeks it was the position I used the most and probably still is.
Nipple and baby mouth size and shape are so varied that it’s impossible to suggest a best position. Try them all and then try again later if one doesn’t work out in the beginning.
How will I know if breastfeeding is going well?
Output (what a great euphemism!) is a great guide to how breastfeeding is going. If your baby is wetting around 10-12 nappies (diapers) per day and passing stools, then it’s likely that they are fine. Check with your healthcare professional to know exactly how many you should be getting for your baby’s age and weight.
Your baby should regain their birth weight by the time they are two weeks old and keep gaining from there. Have your baby weighed regularly by your healthcare professional to ensure they are on track and to catch any problems early.
Does your little one doze off after feeding and seem generally contented? If so, they are probably getting enough milk (assuming that they are also having consistent weight gain and output.)
Taking care of your own comfort
Mama matters too!
If you are uncomfortable or in actual pain, you’re going to be miserable and that can lead to switching to formula. Of course, you can do that it you want – it’s your baby – but if you really want to breastfeed you need to take care of yourself.
Support your baby to avoid wrist and back pain
Try to avoid breastfeeding hunched over. It’s easy to do because babies are heavy – even newborns after holding them for a long time! Support that baby to be right up at the level of your breasts with regular pillows or a specialist nursing pillow like this one.
You can read my review of the Ergo nursing pillow here – it totally changed my breastfeeding experience for the better with my last baby.
Try wrist supports if you end up with sore wrists. When you’re a new mama you have to lift that baby dozens of times a day so if you’re in pain, those wrists need a chance to heal. Wrist supports with splints are a bit cumbersome but they take the strain off the wrist and allow healing to happen. So worth it.
A few final words of breastfeeding encouragement!
This is up to you – of course it is! You can formula feed if you like but if breastfeeding matters to you, know that these tough early days will pass soon. It might not feel like it right now when you need 17 items to be comfortable and it takes all day every day – and all night. But I promise it will get better soon. And you will be glad you stuck it out.
And if it’s REALLY tough – if you’re crying when you latch your baby on and your nipples are in agony – you NEED to get professional help. Get in touch with a lactation consultant and have them watch you feed and give you advice. Sometimes you just can’t see yourself what you’re doing wrong but it’s obvious to someone else.
Good luck, mama.
Don’t forget to jump over and sign up for The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class from Milkology.
There’s nothing like the feeling of knowing you’re prepared for what’s to come.