Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(7):2103-2104

See related article on breast-feeding.

Breast-feeding helps prevent some problems in babies, such as ear infections, diarrhea, lung infections and urinary tract infections. Breast-fed babies go to the hospital less often. They are less likely to get adult illnesses such as diabetes. Mothers who breast-feed have less risk of getting breast cancer, and they lose weight more quickly after delivery. Breast-feeding can save you $600 to $800 for the cost of formula in the first year.

Planning Ahead for Breast-Feeding

Learn about breast-feeding early in your pregnancy. Many hospitals offer breast-feeding classes with the usual childbirth classes. Many childbirth classes talk about breast-feeding. You might also go to a La Leche League meeting in your area before you give birth. La Leche League is a mother-to-mother support group for breast-feeding moms. To find out about a meeting in your area, call 1-800-LaLeche (1-800-525-3243). Don't forget to ask for support from your friends and family. Talk with your baby's father about your plans to breast-feed. Ask your mother or grandmothers what they know about breast-feeding.

Nipple Confusion

Nipple confusion can happen when babies are given bottles or pacifiers too soon after birth. Nipple confusion causes the baby to prefer bottle-feeding to the breast. Plan to avoid using bottles and pacifiers for the first three weeks of your baby's life.

If your baby is premature or can't nurse right away after birth, you may have to feed the baby in other ways. There are many ways to feed a baby without giving a bottle, like cup-feeding, finger-feeding and syringe-feeding.

Successful Breast-Feeding

It is important to start breast-feeding as soon after birth as possible, even 30 minutes to one hour after giving birth. Even if you have had surgery (a C-section), it is possible to breast-feed soon after the birth. It is important to hold the baby the right way. The baby should be facing you, with its tummy against your tummy, facing in so that the baby will not pull at your nipple. Make sure the baby opens its mouth wide. You can tickle your baby's chin or lower lip so the baby will open its mouth. This is a normal reflex called “rooting.” When the baby has its mouth open, put as much of the nipple and breast in its mouth as you can.

Keep the baby with you in your hospital room so you can learn to know when the baby is hungry. Put the baby to your breast at least eight to 10 times every 24 hours.

How to Tell if Your Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk

Learn to tell when your baby is swallowing milk. You can tell a baby is swallowing by listening for a swallow sound after every one to four sucks. You may hear a puff of air from the baby's nose and see the breast being drawn further into the baby's mouth. You may also see and feel the baby's throat move with each swallow. Your baby should wet at least one diaper with clear to light-colored urine for every day of life (one wet diaper on day 1, two wet diapers on day 2, and so on) in the first six days. After six days of life, it is normal for your baby to wet six or more diapers a day.

Possible Problems

If any of the following happen, please call your doctor right away:

  • You do not hear or see swallowing while your baby is breast-feeding.

  • Your nipples hurt during the whole feeding.

  • Your baby is breast-feeding fewer than eight times in 24 hours.

  • Your baby has not regained birth weight by two weeks of age.

Remember to ask for help early if you have any problems.

Continue Reading

More in AFP

Copyright © 2000 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.