Skip to main content

Breastfeeding Your Baby

We are here to promote, protect and support breastfeeding, help you learn to feed and take care of your baby, and support you to make informed choices about infant feeding.
Why it is important

Importance of breastfeeding

Breast milk contains everything your baby needs. It is the natural food for your baby and provides the best nutrition. 

The World Health Organization (WHO), Health Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society, recommend:
  • exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first 6 months;
  • offering your baby healthy solid foods starting at 6 months of age; and
  • continuing breastfeeding for up to 2 years or longer.

Breastfeeding is good for your baby

  • It helps your baby’s emotional and mental development.
  • It supports your baby’s healthy growth.
  • Breast milk is easy to digest and always the right temperature.
  • Breast milk lowers your baby’s risk of infection and illness.

Breastfeeding is good for you

  • It helps your body heal after birth.
  • It supports bonding with your baby.
  • It burns calories to help you reach and stay at a healthy weight.
  • It lowers your risk of diseases like diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers.
  • It’s convenient, free and always ready for your baby.
Breastfeeding is a skill you can learn. It’s almost always possible to breastfeed. Discuss your questions or concerns with your healthcare provider or community health nurse.

BC Women's is a designated Baby-Friendly Hospital. The Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) is an international evidence-based program launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. This program promotes policies and healthcare practices that give mothers and babies a healthy start.

You may choose not to breastfeed. If you have enough information to make an informed decision to formula-feed your baby, we want to support and help you to do so.

Sometimes parents who have decided to bottle-feed their babies wonder if the Baby-Friendly Initiative applies to them. The answer is yes. Skin-to-skin care (STS) is important for all babies. STS care immediately after birth helps babies recover from their birth – they are warmer, less stressed and cry less. It helps their heart rate and breathing. Regardless of how you feed your baby, cuddle your baby STS to enjoy the amazing benefits.

Info about formula use and preparation 


Learn more about the Baby-Friendly Initiative

Skin-to-skin holding

Skin-to-skin holding is the first step

Immediate, uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact within the first hour after birth is an important first step in breastfeeding. 

Hold your baby (wearing a diaper only) on your bare chest for at least an hour after birth or until your baby has their first feeding. During skin-to-skin contact your baby may look for your breast to feed. You can also hand express a few drops of colostrum to encourage your baby to latch. 

If your baby can't be with you after birth, you can hand express to help your body start to make milk for your baby.

Learn more about how to hand express breast milk.


The early milk your baby gets is called colostrum. It is nutritious, rich milk and is all your baby needs in the first few days. Colostrum strengthens your baby’s immune system to fight germs. Your mature milk usually comes in about 3 days after birth. 

  1. Sit upright, not flat, in a comfortable chair or bed.
    • Make sure your baby’s nose and mouth are visible and uncovered.
    • Make sure your baby is free to lift their head.
  2. Hold your baby chest-to-chest with their head turned to one side.
  3. Cover your baby with a blanket, leaving your baby’s head uncovered.

  • Makes breastfeeding easier
  • Helps your body make breast milk
  • Keeps your baby warm, calm and lessens crying
  • Stabilizes your baby's heart rate and breathing
  • Supports your baby's development
  • Helps you and your baby bond and recover after birth
  • Lessens your baby's pain during minor tests and procedures like vaccine shots
  • May reduce postpartum depression

As your baby grows, continue skin-to-skin holding every day for the first month or so and whenever your baby needs comfort. Your partner or another trusted person can hold your baby skin-to-skin and provide your baby with some of the same benefits. Always practice skin-to-skin care when you are wide awake and follow safer sleep practices

Premature babies also benefit from skin-to-skin care, called Kangaroo Care.

For more information

You can find professional and community support through your healthcare provider, public health nurse or community health clinic, and by calling Healthlink BC at 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse.

• Read Baby’s Best Chance
• Read HealthLink BC Breastfeeding
• Attend prenatal classes in your community.
• Join a breastfeeding support group such as La Leche League.  

Videos

Keeping your baby skin-to-skin 
Kangaroo Care

How to breastfeed

Breastfeeding positions

Try different positions to find what works best for you and your baby. (Click to enlarge)

1.Cradle position for Breastfeeding.jpg

2.Modified Cradle position for Breastfeeding.jpg

3.Football hold for Breastfeeding.jpg4.Side-lying position for Breastfeeding2.jpg

Video

Watch a video on breastfeeding positions.

How often should you feed?

Breastfeed your baby early and often. While babies don't feed on a schedule, your baby needs to feed at least 6 times in the first 24 hours and at least 8 times in the second 24 hours as their stomach is very small and can only hold small amounts of milk. See the PSBC breastfeeding chart for more information.

During the first 24 hours your baby may feed soon after birth when left undisturbed and skin-to-skin on your chest, sleep, and then feed about 5 or more times.

In the second 24 hours your baby may be more awake and interested in feeding. Feed your baby at least 8 times in 24 hours. Cluster feeding is especially common on the second night.

Cluster feeding: Your baby may breastfeed frequently over a short period of time and then sleep for a longer period. This is called cluster feeding and often occurs in the first few days after birth and when your baby is having a growth spurt. Cluster feeding helps boost your milk supply to meet your baby's needs.

  • Follow your baby's hunger cues. Watch for these signs of hunger and feed your baby, even if they have just finished feeding. 

Baby's hunger cues 2.jpg

  • Feed your baby when they are awake in a quiet alert state. If your baby is crying or fussy, calm them with cuddling, rocking or burping, and then try feeding.
  • Offer both breasts at each feeding. As you get to know your baby, you may find your baby only needs the milk from one breast in one feeding.
  • Feed your baby more frequently if your baby is fussing after feeding. Seek help if your baby does not seem satisfied with more milk.
  • As long as you continue to feed your baby effectively, your breasts should make the right amount of milk for your baby.

  • Videos
  • Baby's sleep and readiness to breastfeed
  • Baby's feeding cues and behaviors

Latching is when your baby takes your breast into its mouth. Getting a good latch helps your baby suck well and get milk easily. It also helps prevent sore nipples. Some babies take time to latch well, but with patience and support, almost all babies can learn to get a good latch.

How to help your baby latch

  1. Make yourself comfortable.
  2. Hold your baby skin-to-skin.
  3. Place your baby in one of the five suggested positions.
    • If using modified cradle or football hold, place your arm on your baby's back with the palm of your hand supporting their upper back and shoulders.
  4. With your fingers stabilize your baby's head - don't cup or push your baby's head.
  5. Bring your baby close with nose to nipple.
  6. Stroke your nipple back and forth against your baby's upper lip.
  7. Wait for your baby to open their mouth wide (like a yawn).
  8. Bring your baby onto the breast or allow your baby to latch themselves.
    • Your baby needs to take a large mouthful of breast with your nipple going in high in their mouth.
    • Your baby's head should be tilted back slightly. This will help them to breathe more easily.
  9. Hold your baby close so they don't slide off the larger area of the breast and onto the nipple by itself (which may cause pain and ineffective breastfeeding). 
  10. Look to see if the baby’s bottom and top lip are spread out like fish lips. If they are not, use your finger to pull the bottom one down and open up the top one more.

Video 

Watch our video on Latching


Signs your baby has a good latch

  • Your baby sucks, pauses and starts sucking again for several minutes. 
  • You can’t easily pull your baby off of your breast.
  • You feel a gentle pulling sensation, rather than a pinching or biting sensation on your nipple. 
  • Your nipple looks pulled out but not creased or flattened when your baby lets go.
  • You hear a soft "ca" sound when your baby swallows and your baby’s suck becomes more deep and rhythmic.
  • Your breast may feel softer after your baby finishes feeding.

Mild nipple soreness is common in the first week. If you feel pain when your baby latches or you need to stop a feeding, unlatch your baby by sliding your finger past their lips and between their gums on the side of their mouth and press down slightly against the skin of your breast. This will break the suction and allow you to pull your baby off your nipple. 

If your nipples have scabs, blisters or are bleeding, these may be signs you need to help your baby get a better latch. Discuss with your healthcare provider, nurse or a lactation consultant if you are having difficulty.

Burping can help bring up air bubbles and prevent your baby from spitting up after feeding. Burping can be helpful but it’s not necessary. If your baby seems content after feeding, you may not need to burp them.


How to burp your baby

  1. Allow your baby to finish feeding.
  2. Lay your baby on your lap on their tummy, or hold your baby with their head peering over your shoulder (remember to support their head), or support your baby to sit upright on your lap and gently rub their back.
  3. Gently rub or pat your baby’s back (not too hard so your baby doesn’t spit up all the milk they just drank).

If your baby doesn’t burp after a minute or two and is content, your baby likely doesn’t need to burp.

If your baby is content after feeding, alert and active at other times and growing well, your baby is likely getting enough milk.


Signs to look for

• You can see and hear your baby swallowing. 

• Your baby feeds at least 8 times in 24 hours.

• Your breasts are full before feedings and softer after feedings.

• Your baby starts to gain weight. Your baby may lose some weight in the first few days (7-10% of their birth weight). As your milk comes in, your baby may start to gain weight (120 -240 grams each week).


Count the number of wet and soiled diapers (pees and poops) they have. The number of wet diapers your baby has during the first week should match how many days old your baby is. 

  • Day 1: One wet diaper or more (pale yellow pee) and 1-2 dirty diapers (black or dark green poops). 
  • Day 3: Three wet diapers or more (pale yellow pee) and 2-3 soiled diapers (brown, greenish or yellow poops). 
  • Day 5 to Week 3 and beyond: Five to 6 wet diapers (pale yellow pee) and 1-3 soiled diapers (1 large poop or 3 smaller poops golden yellow in colour).

The PSBC Breastfeeding chart may help you determine  if your baby is getting enough breast milk.


If you had a caesarean birth with IV fluids during labour and delivery, ask your healthcare provider about expected weight loss and pees and poops.

 

You can build your milk supply by:

  • holding your baby skin-to-skin;
  • breastfeeding your baby frequently, at least 8 times or more in 24 hours, including at night;
  • using both breasts at each feeding;
  • hand-expressing after each feeding and giving your baby the expressed milk.

If your baby is unable to breastfeed or is not sucking well on your breast, express your milk to help build your milk supply. Give your baby any milk you express


Sometimes medications and herbs are used to increase milk production. Not all herbal preparations are safe to take while breastfeeding. Discuss your options with your healthcare provider to increase your milk supply. 


If you are worried that your baby isn't getting enough milk, or your baby loses more than 10% of their weight in the first few days, talk to your healthcare provider or call Healthlink BC at 8-1-1 for help. 

As a parent of multiples, you may be wondering how you will make milk for more than one baby. Learning to breastfeed twins or multiple babies takes time. Get help from your healthcare provider, lactation consultant, or public health nurse.


Tips for breastfeeding multiples

  • Start skin-to-skin contact as soon as you can, holding your babies against your bare chest wearing only diapers.
  • Feed, hand express or pump your breasts often (8 or more times in 24 hours) to help you make more milk. It helps to hand express for a few minutes after each feeding in the first few days after birth to build your milk supply.
  • Start by feeding one baby at a time. If you feel ready, you can try tandem feeding – breastfeeding two babies at the same time. Tuck one baby under each arm using the football or underarm position. 
  • Ask for help. If possible, have someone with you to help position your babies, change diapers or settle your babies after feeding.

Resources






Tab Heading
SOURCE: Breastfeeding Your Baby ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Women's Hospital. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2020 Provincial Health Services Authority.