The ABC's of Breastfeeding

Simple steps of successful nursing

You may have heard that nursing is the most natural maternal activity there is, but unless you’ve done it before, you need to learn some basic techniques to get it right. This guide will help you get started.

Start Early

  • Breastfeed within the first hour of giving birth, when the baby is alert. Your nipples may be sore at first, but don’t despair; it gets easier. The first milk that comes out is called colostrum. It’s thick and creamy and consists of important substances that protect your baby’s health. Within days, the colostrum will become mature, thinner milk.
  • Avoid using artificial nipples — both those on bottles and on pacifiers — during the first two months so your baby will learn to suck properly on the breast. If you switch your baby from the real thing and use artificial nipples fairly often, he may not be able to breastfeed well. (This is called nipple confusion.)
  • The more you breastfeed, the more milk you will produce.
  • Try a breastfeeding pillow. You also can arrange regular pillows under your arms, on your lap and behind your back.
  • Use a footstool to raise your knees above your hips so your back won’t get sore.

Breastfeeding Positions

The Cradle Hold Cradling the baby with her head nestled in the crook of your arm, your chest should face hers, with her shoulders and back supported by your forearm and your hand holding her bottom. 1. Hold your breast with your free hand, with your thumb above and the rest of your fingers below the nipple and just behind the areola (the dark area that surrounds the nipple). 2. Squeeze gently so your nipple is accessible to the baby. 3. Gently touch the baby’s lips with your nipple. 4. When the baby’s mouth is wide open, center the nipple in her mouth, and move her toward you. Don’t lean forward; you won’t be able to maintain that position for long. 5. Continue holding and squeezing the breast until you’re sure she’s latched on, which means she has all of your nipple and about an inch of areola in her mouth. 6. It may take several tries, but once she’s sucking well — you should see her jaw, not just her mouth, move with each swallow — you can stop squeezing the breast, although you likely will need to support it throughout the feeding.

The Football Hold The football hold may be easier than the cradle hold, especially if the baby is having trouble attaching to the breast or was born prematurely, or if you had a Cesarean section and are uncomfortable with the baby pressing against your abdomen. Here’s how to do it: 1. Tuck the baby’s body under your arm and along your side (the same side as the breast she will use to feed). Her bottom and feet should be pointing toward the back of the chair, her head in your hand. 2. With your free hand, hold your breast, and follow the rest of the instructions above.

Side-Lying Position This position is great for nursing your baby in bed and also is helpful during Cesarean recovery, because it doesn’t put pressure on your stitches.

Lie on your side with a pillow under your head. Lift your breast to the baby’s lips with one hand, and when she opens wide enough, move her toward you and onto the nipple with the other hand.

Get Help Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Here are some resources: Lactation consultant: Your doctor or hospital may be able to recommend a lactation consultant who will come to your house and help you get started. Or you can call the International Lactation Consultant Association: (919) 787-5181. La Leche League International hot line: (847) 519-7730 or (800) La Leche. Or visit the Web site (