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Getting ready to breastfeed

Starting to breastfeed your baby can be challenging at first.  There are many basic tips and positions that will help you ease into breastfeeding.

Your position

Choose a comfortable sitting or lying position to avoid getting cracked nipples from poor attachment, or stiff muscles in your back, shoulder or neck.

Have things you may need ready beside you like a cold drink, snack, phone, and toys or books for an older child.

Baby’s position

Hold your baby across your front, not quite tummy-to-tummy. Bring your baby up to the breast from below, not the breast to your baby, so that your baby’s eye makes contact with your eyes.

Baby at the breast

The way your baby attaches to the breast is important for successful breastfeeding. Here are some tips:

  • Support your baby’s neck and shoulder with your fingers and thumb spread out so their head can tilt back slightly. This raises their chin off the chest so that they can open their mouth wide, and keeps their nose clear for breathing. 

  • Tickle your baby’s upper or lower lip with the nipple or a finger and wait for them to open their mouth wide with the tongue forward. 

  • Bring your baby onto the breast. Their chin and lower jaw touch the breast first.

  • Your baby’s lips should be flared (turned outward), and cover more of the areola (the darker skin around the nipple) with the bottom lip than with the top lip.

  • Their head should be tilted slightly back, not pushed into the breast so the nose is clear for breathing. In this position your baby should be able to have eye contact with you.

When your baby is getting milk, they have a sucking-swallowing pattern. The baby opens their mouth wide, then they pause as they get a mouthful of milk, then they close their mouth. The longer the baby pauses with their mouth open, the more milk they’re getting. You can also see their ears wiggle as their jaw moves.

It is not always easy, and some women take up to 6 weeks to fully establish breastfeeding. Your midwife, lactation consultant, La Leche League, Plunket nurse or PlunketLine will help you if you need more support and information.

Breastfeeding as your baby grows

It’s best for your baby if you breastfeed only (not giving them any solid food) until they’re around 6 months old.

You can continue to breastfeed after your baby has started solid food, until they’re at least 1 year of age or older.

Between 6 weeks and 6 months you may notice some breastfeeding changes:

  • Your baby may feed for a shorter time and less often.

  • Your breasts may feel softer but not so full. This is normal as your breasts and milk supply settle and become more efficient. It doesn’t mean that you have less milk, as long as your baby is sucking and swallowing when on the breast, feeding regularly, and growing well.

  • Your baby may be distracted by voices and noise during feeding and come off the breast to look around. This is normal.

If breastfeeding hurts, read more about common problems and solutions.

More information

Get tips from an expert on how to latch your baby on correctly on the Raising Children In New Zealand website

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