Topic Overview

Some aspects of breastfeeding may come naturally. But learning some breastfeeding skills and techniques can help you be more successful. Before
your baby is born, take classes, read books, and watch videos that demonstrate
breastfeeding techniques.

If you have concerns about your ability to
breastfeed, talk to a lactation consultant while you are pregnant. After your
baby is born, it is helpful to have one-on-one instruction with a lactation
specialist or other knowledgeable health professional.

Get set up

Breastfeeding may go
more smoothly in the first days and weeks if you and your baby are
relaxed and comfortable.

  • Make sure the room is
    quiet and warm and that you are able to relax. Keep the room darkened. Bright light makes it
    difficult for newborns to open their eyes.
  • Keep something to drink nearby.
    Most women get thirsty as they breastfeed. Drink enough to satisfy your
  • Use one or more pillows to support your arms
    and the baby, support your back with a pillow, and use a stool to raise your feet. This will help you and your baby be more comfortable during
  • Do not bend over your baby when breastfeeding.
    Bring the baby to you-not you to the baby. Bending toward the baby can lead to back and neck
  • Find a position that is comfortable
    for both you and your baby. For all positions, make sure the baby’s head and
    chest are lined up straight and not turned to one side or tilted
    up or down while breastfeeding.

Wake up baby

Having an alert baby will make it easier to get your baby to latch on. To wake your baby you can:

  • Cool your baby off by taking off his or her clothes. Have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as you place him or her for feeding. Keep a light-weight blanket nearby.
  • Tickle your baby lightly wherever you get a reaction (on the feet, neck, top of the head, or stomach).
  • Change your baby’s diaper.

Get baby latched on

proper latch helps prevent problems.

  • Lightly touch the middle of your
    baby’s lower lip with your nipple until the baby opens his or her mouth. The
    baby’s mouth needs to be wide open, like a yawn, before attempting to
  • Support and narrow your breast with one hand. This will help you control your breast as you bring your baby onto your breast.
  • Bring the baby quickly onto the nipple
    and the areola (the dark circle around the nipple), so it goes deep into your
    baby’s mouth. If
    the baby does not immediately get the idea to suck, squeeze a little milk into
    his or her mouth.
  • Listen
    for a regular sucking and swallowing pattern while the baby is feeding. If you
    cannot see or hear a swallowing pattern, watch the baby’s ears, which may
    wiggle slightly when the baby swallows.
  • If the baby’s nose appears
    to be blocked by your breast, reposition him or her by raising the baby’s hips
    or relaxing the baby’s head back slightly, so just the edge of one nostril is
    clear for breathing.

Provide a complete feeding

Let your baby feed until he or she is satisfied.

  • Offer the other breast
    when the first breast feels empty and the infant sucks more slowly, pulls off,
    or loses interest. Usually the baby will continue breastfeeding, though
    perhaps for less time than on the first breast.
  • Anytime you need to
    remove your baby from the breast, put one finger into the corner of his or her
    mouth and push your finger between your baby’s gums to gently break the seal.
    If you do not break the tight seal before you remove the baby from your breast,
    your nipples can become sore, cracked, or bruised.
  • If your baby falls asleep
    before finishing breastfeeding, you may need to stimulate him or her to finish
    the feeding. After
    a while, you will learn your baby’s patterns and will know whether he or she
    needs rousing or has fed long enough.
  • When your baby is satisfied, gently
    pat his or her back to help him or her let out any swallowed air. After the
    baby burps, offer the breast again. Sometimes a baby will want to continue
    feeding after being burped.

Other Places To Get Help


La Leche League International

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Women’s Health

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD – Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Mary Robbins, RNC, IBCLC – Lactation Consultant

Current as ofMarch 16, 2017