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Breast-Feeding: Planning Ahead

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Key points:

  • The foundation for breast-feeding is established in the first few weeks after delivery.
  • Planning ahead for breast-feeding can help you build a good breast-feeding routine.
  • Minor problems may occur during breast-feeding. But with proper planning, knowledge, and support, you can overcome these challenges and continue breast-feeding.

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Be patient. Some babies know how to breast-feed right away, but most need to learn just like you do. It usually takes several days to weeks before you both know just what to do.

To breast-feed successfully, it is important to:

  • Plan. Make sure to discuss your breast-feeding plans with all the doctors and nurses who are involved in the care of you and your baby.
  • Learn proper breast-feeding positions and techniques. Breast-feeding becomes easier with knowledge and skills.
  • Recognize and treat problems early. If you can anticipate and manage challenges right away, you are more likely to have a positive breast-feeding experience.
  • Have a support system. Know when and how to get help.
  • Take a breast-feeding class while you are pregnant, and join a support group to attend after your baby's birth.

Test Your Knowledge

Successful breast-feeding means I won't have any problems.


The first few weeks of breast-feeding typically are the most difficult. You are recovering from childbirth, adjusting to hormonal changes, and operating with little sleep. Many women are also mentally and emotionally exhausted. Minor problems, such as sore or cracked nipples, may seem overwhelming.

But most breast-feeding problems are easily prevented or solved. Overcoming these challenges during these first few weeks boosts your confidence, which makes you more likely to continue breast-feeding. Most women who persevere with breast-feeding have a great sense of accomplishment and recognize the importance of providing their child with the best possible nutrition.

Test Your Knowledge

Changes to your body and routine can make breast-feeding more challenging in the first few weeks.


Breast-feeding is a learned skill that becomes easier over time. You are more likely to succeed with long-term breast-feeding if you plan ahead, learn the basic techniques, and know where to get help and support.

Make plans during pregnancy

Plan ahead for breast-feeding while you are pregnant. Doing so before you deliver allows you time to think about how to manage the daily logistics of breast-feeding before you become too busy with caring for your newborn.

  • Talk to your doctor early in your prenatal care about your plans to breast-feed. Before each visit, write down your breast-feeding questions or concerns. While you are pregnant is the time to talk to your doctor about any plans you have to breast-feed both an older child and your newborn.
  • Arrange to attend a breast-feeding class and possibly join a breast-feeding support group. These are offered at many hospitals and birthing centers by nurses, nurse-midwives, or lactation consultants. Classes and support groups can help you anticipate and manage breast-feeding difficulties, should they arise.
  • Talk to friends and family members about your decision. Discuss how their support is important in your efforts.
  • Check the breast-feeding policies of the hospital and birthing centers you are considering. It is much easier to breast-feed when you are in a supportive environment, such as in a facility that has a lactation consultant on staff, encourages keeping the baby in the room with you (rooming in), and has a policy of not supplementing your baby's diet unless medically necessary.
  • Purchase breast-feeding items, such as breast pads, extra pillows, and nursing bras. Check with your hospital to see whether they have breast pumps available for you to use after your baby is born. And think about what type of breast pump you would use.
  • Plan to have help with chores, diaper changes, and other duties for the first few weeks after your baby is born. Getting help can let you focus on caring for and feeding your newborn.

Learn breast-feeding basics

Take a breast-feeding class while you are pregnant. These classes usually are offered through your local hospital or birthing center.

Be ready to start breast-feeding soon after you deliver. A baby is typically very alert during the first couple of hours after birth. This is the best time to start breast-feeding. A nurse or other doctor will help you with proper latching and getting started. View a slideshow on latchingClick here to see an illustration. to learn how to get your baby to latch on.

After this alert wakeful time, your baby will become sleepy and less likely to eat regularly for the next several hours. Be sure to try breast-feeding your baby every 1 to 3 hours (even if you have to wake your baby). Usually, a hospital staff person checks in with you routinely. If available, a lactation consultant may help you learn other breast-feeding tips and positions.

You'll want to plan to breast-feed your baby on demand rather than setting a strict schedule. Learn how to recognize your baby's hunger signs. For the first few days, be prepared to breast-feed every 1 to 3 hours, or about 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Wake a sleepy baby to feed, if necessary. More frequent breast-feeding stimulates your breasts to produce more milk.

Taking care of yourself will also help you to establish your milk supply. Eat right and get rest when you are able. Also, avoid bottle-feeding your baby breast milk until breast-feeding and milk supply are well established.

Know where to get help

If a minor problem arises that does not quickly resolve, get prompt assistance from a breast-feeding specialist such as a lactation consultant or other doctor who is knowledgeable about breast-feeding issues. Quickly addressing breast-feeding issues helps solve problems and increases your likelihood of successful long-term breast-feeding. If possible, arrange to have a specialist visit you at home, or make plans to visit the specialist's office.

Have a list of resources available to call, such as:

  • Your doctor.
  • A lactation consultant.
  • Friends and family who are experienced with and supportive of breast-feeding.
  • Breast-feeding support groups.

Test Your Knowledge

If I have problems breast-feeding and it just doesn't feel natural for me, I should consider switching to formula.


I should prepare a plan in case difficulties develop and I feel like giving up.


Ensuring my baby has a proper latch will help me prevent problems and improve my breast-feeding ability.


If you have more questions about getting started breast-feeding, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant. Many local hospitals also have telephone help lines that you can call. La Leche League International (LLLI) offers information and encouragement—mainly through personal help—to all mothers who want to breast-feed their babies. It is important to get help right away when you need it.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMary Robbins, RNC, IBCLC - Lactation Consultant
Last RevisedApril 3, 2013

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