IN THIS ARTICLE
Planning to Breast-Feed
With proper planning, preparation, and support, most women are able to breast-feed successfully.
At your prenatal visits, talk to your doctor or midwife about your plans to breast-feed. He or she can help guide you through the planning and get you started after the baby is born. You may also be referred to a lactation consultant. For more information, see:
How to Breast-Feed
To breast-feed properly and prevent problems, you will need to learn the basics of breast-feeding. You will want to get ready before each feeding and find a position that is comfortable for you and your baby. Doing this will help you get your baby to latch on, so that you can provide a complete feeding each time. If you do have trouble with breast-feeding, get support from family, friends, your doctor, or a lactation consultant.
Get ready for a feeding
Being ready for a feeding will help you relax. And being relaxed will help your let-down reflex, which occurs just before or soon after feeding begins. It's helpful to wear a loose blouse or a shirt that can be raised easily. If you want more privacy, use a lightweight blanket over your shoulder and chest to cover your breasts and your baby.
It is likely that you will have to breast-feed around other people, even strangers, when you are feeding your baby on demand. In many states and on federal property, your right to breast-feed in public is protected by law.
To get ready, you can also do things like:
Find a position
Breast-feeding in the proper position will help your baby latch on and breast-feed correctly. There are several breast-feeding positions, such as the cradle hold, the football hold, and the side-lying position.
As you start to breast-feed, try different positions to find those that are most comfortable for you and your baby. For example, use the cross-cradle hold at one feeding, and then use the football hold at the next. Feeding in different positions may reduce nipple soreness. Also, start each new feeding with the opposite breast you started with at the last feeding. This routine helps you to empty each breast completely.
To learn more, see the topic Breast-Feeding Positions.
Get your baby latched on
A proper latch helps prevent problems such as sore nipples, blocked milk ducts, breast infections, and poor infant weight gain. An improper latch is painful and frustrating. It causes some women to stop breast-feeding. View a slideshow on latching.
The steps to get your baby latched on are about the same for all breast-feeding positions. Latching on in the cross-cradle position is an easy one to start with.
When your baby is done breast-feeding, you can break the latch by using your pinky finger. Place one finger into the corner of your baby's mouth. This will gently break the seal. You can also use your pinky to break the latch if you experience pain after your baby first latches on. Then you can start again. If you don't break the latch before you remove the baby from your breast, your nipples may become sore, cracked, or bruised.
Provide a complete feeding
Let your baby feed until he or she is satisfied.
To learn more about babies' feeding patterns, see Feeding and Diapering Habits.
The first two weeks of breast-feeding usually are the most challenging. You may have other times when you need extra help. Know who you can contact, such as friends and family who have breast-fed or a lactation consultant. Other support is available through local hospitals or clinics and support organizations, such as La Leche League. For more information, see the Other Places to Get Help section of this topic.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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