Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date.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. 2008;78(2):233-234

See related article on breastfeeding.

How soon should I breastfeed my baby?

Unless your baby needs immediate medical attention, you should have skin-to-skin contact with your baby right away. You should breastfeed your baby within the first hour after giving birth, even if this means you have to wait to weigh or bathe your baby.

How long should I breastfeed?

You should breastfeed for at least the first six months of your baby's life. You should not feed your baby other foods or liquids during this time. You can breastfeed for as long as you and your baby want, but you are encouraged to do it for one year.

Are there any reasons why I shouldn't breastfeed?

Very few mothers can't breastfeed. Women who have breast implants, breast reductions, infections after delivery, or who have babies who are tongue-tied, have jaundice, or are in intensive care can all try to breastfeed. If you or your baby has an issue that may affect breastfeeding, talk to your doctor right away. Sometimes, a breastfeeding expert can work with you before your baby is born to help you breastfeed.

What is a lactation consultant?

A lactation consultant is someone who specializes in breastfeeding. He or she can help you if you have problems breastfeeding (for example, if your baby has trouble latching onto your nipple, if you have pain with breastfeeding, or if you don't make enough milk to breastfeed). The consultant may even be able to help you at home once you leave the hospital.

What if I don't have enough milk for my baby?

If you think you are not making enough milk, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. Be sure to drink a lot of fluid and feed your baby whenever he or she seems hungry. You should feed your baby about 10 to 12 times every day (at least every three hours). Each feeding should last about 20 to 30 minutes (10 to 15 minutes on each breast). Feeding your baby whenever he or she is hungry will help you make more milk.

What if I have nipple or breast pain?

During the first week of breastfeeding, it is normal for your nipples to be sensitive for the first 30 seconds to one minute after the baby latches on. If you have nipple or breast pain longer than the first week, or if you also have a fever, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. You could have pain because the baby has not latched onto your nipple correctly. You could also have pain because your nipples are cracked, your breasts are overfilling with milk, or you have an infection in your breast. Even if you have these problems, you should continue to breastfeed.

If your breasts are painful because they are overfilling with milk, some medicines, massage, moist heat, or pumping out breast milk could help. If you have nipple pain or dryness, you can use breast milk or moisturizers to soften the nipple.

What do I do if I am going back to work and still want to breastfeed?

You should breastfeed your baby during your time off. When you go back to work, you should start pumping and storing your breast milk.

Am I allowed to breastfeed in public?

Currently 38 states allow women to breastfeed in any location, public or private. No state specifically bans public breastfeeding, but laws may vary. To learn more about the laws in your state, go online to:

Should I give my baby vitamins while breastfeeding?

Unless your doctor tells you to, you do not need to give your baby vitamins. If you do not have enough vitamin D in your breast milk, your doctor may recommend that you give your baby vitamin D drops until he or she is eating at least 16 ounces per day of milk or formula fortified with vitamin D. This will help prevent your baby from getting rickets (a bone problem usually found in children).

What medicines can I take while breastfeeding?

Most medicines that are used after giving birth are safe. Ibuprofen (one brand: Motrin), acetaminophen (one brand: Tylenol), antibiotics, and other medicines are also safe to use while breastfeeding. Always be sure to tell your doctor that you are breastfeeding so that he or she can help you choose a medicine that is safe.

Where can I get more information?

The American Academy of Family Physicians

La Leche League International

The National Women's Health Information Center

Promotion of Mothers Milk, Inc.

  • Web site:

Women, Infants, and Children Information

Continue Reading

More in AFP

More in PubMed

Copyright © 2008 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.