Breastfeeding Basics

Getting ready to breastfeed

Being well informed will help you get breastfeeding off to a good start.  Breastfeeding may be as new experience for you.  It’s also new for your baby so you’ll learn together.  Your LMC will help you get off to a good start.

How you position yourself

How you hold your baby, and how you offer your breast all affect how baby latches on.  This will determine how comfortable you and your baby will be during breastfeeding read more.

Frequency of Feeds

There are no hard and fast rules.  It is advisable not to let your newborn baby sleep for longer than six hours at one time.  Follow your baby’s cues for feeding.  These might be:

  • rooting around with the mouth – opening the mouth and moving the head as if looking for the nipple
  • sucking movements or sounds
  • hand sucking
  • crying is usually the last cue for feeding.

Duration of Feeds

Don’t worry about timing your baby’s feeds.  Like adults, babies may take different amounts of food at different times of the day.  The volume of milk is higher in the early morning feeds and lower at night.  The emptier the breast the higher the fat content.  This is the rationale for baby’s feeding frequently later in the day to satisfy them for longer at night.

  • Allow your baby to suckle until satisfied at the first breast.  When your baby starts playing at the breast you can offer the other breast.
  • If your baby does not want any more do not persist.  Always start with the other breast at the next feed.
  • If baby falls asleep in the middle of a feed, changing her nappy, taking off a layer of her clothing or stroking her may wake her enough to finish the feed.
  • It is normal and very common for two-day-old babies to be very hungry and wakeful and feed constantly in short bursts.
  • When the weather is hot you may find your baby wants to feed more often because she is thirsty.

Growth spurts when breastfeeding

At times, your baby may want to breastfeed more often.  These times of extra feeding usually last two or three days and are due to your baby’s increased growth.  This is normal.  As your baby takes more milk through extra feeds, as more milk is ‘requested’ so your body will make more milk (it may take between 12-48 hours for your body to adjust) but then your baby will return to her normal feeding pattern.

Keeping up your milk supply

  • The more your baby drinks, the more milk you will make.  Baby’s suckling stimulates your breasts to produce more milk.  If baby is not feeding well or you start to use formula, your baby will be taking less from you and your milk supply will decrease.
  • Breastfeeding mothers need three healthy meals a day, plus healthy snacks and plenty of fluids.  Try and have a drink before you feel thirsty.
  • Stress and tiredness can affect your milk supply.  Trying to rest and relax as much as possible may help.
  • If your baby cries soon after feeding, the problem may be tiredness or wind and not hunger.

Spicy or ‘Gassy’ foods

Spicy or gas-producing foods eaten by breastfeeding mothers do not bother most babies.  A few babies will develop gas or act colicky when their mother eats certain foods.  However, there are no certain foods that create problems for all babies.  Unless you notice that your baby becomes unsettled every time you eat a certain food, there is no need to avoid any particular foods.

Vegetarian diet

If you are on a vegetarian diet you may like to discuss your diet with your midwife or discuss seeing a dietitian to ensure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals.  Providing vegetarian women are eating well-balanced diets, they are likely to have adequate nutritional intakes to maintain maternal and infant health.  Women eating vegan or macrobiotic diets may not have enough vitamin B12 and may require supplements.

Dummies and teats

Avoid using a dummy or teat in the early days of breastfeeding.  Your baby uses a different sucking action when sucking on a teat, and may become confused and find breastfeeding more difficult.  Expressed breastmilk can be given on a spoon, in a cup or with a syringe, if for any reason you are unable to put the baby to the breast.

Getting help for problems

You can get help from:

  • your LMC
  • your GP
  • your Plunket nurse
  • local Well Child/Tamariki Ora nurse
  • postnatal ward where you gave birth
  • Lactation Consultant
  • La Leche League
  • Family Centres.

Check these web pages for information on how to get help: and

A good diet, gentle exercise, sufficient rest and support from your friends and family will all help you breastfeed successfully.

No extra feeds of formula

If you are planning to breastfeed your baby, it’s important not to give extra feeds of formula milk, which can interfere with breastfeeding:

  • breastmilk is made on a supply and demand basis, the more your baby feeds from the breast, the more milk you will make.  Extra feeds interfere with this.
  • your breasts may become full (engorged); this is painful and can interfere with future milk supply
  • formula milk alters the normal condition of your baby’s bowel, which may increase the risk of infections
  • giving formula milk increases the risk of your baby developing allergies, especially if there is a family history.

Expressed breastmilk is much better than infant formula, both for your baby and for maintaining breastfeeding.  Your LMC will show you how to hand express, or you can use a breast pump.

Breastfeeding after a caesarean

If you have had a caesarean, you might need help with holding your baby for the first few feeds.  Use a pillow on your abdomen to cushion your wound and spread the weight of the baby, or ask your partner or LMC to help.

Skin-to-skin contact

Holding your baby close is a really important part of getting to know each other.  It also helps keep your baby warm and helps regulate his temperature, heart rate and breathing.  Ideally, this bonding should:

  • take place within 30 minutes of the birth
  • be in a calm, relaxed and unhurried environment
  • be for as long as you like, ideally uninterrupted for longer than an hour.