Hesperian Health Guides

How to breastfeed

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HealthWiki > A Book for Midwives > Chapter 16: Breastfeeding > How to breastfeed

Help mothers start breastfeeding within an hour of the baby's birth. The first yellow-colored milk, called colostrum, is just what a new baby needs. It has the right nutrition and provides extra protection against infection. Colostrum also cleans the baby's intestines. There is no need to give teas or herbs to do this.

A baby will usually show she is ready to feed by moving toward her mother's breast or by smacking her lips. If the baby has a hard time breastfeeding at first, the mother can put a few drops of milk on the baby’s lips and on her nipple to encourage the baby to suck.

A mother should feed her baby whenever he is hungry, day and night. Many new babies will suckle every 1 to 2 hours. The more the baby suckles, the more milk the mother will make.

Babies should have only breast milk (drink no other fluids and eat no other foods) for the first 6 months. And babies old enough to eat still need to breastfeed until they are about 2 years old or older.

WARNING!    Breast milk is the best and only food a baby needs for the first 6 months. If a mother gives a baby formula, water, teas, or cereals before 6 months, the baby will suck at the breasts less. This makes the mother have less milk. These other foods can also cause diarrhea, allergies, or other problems in a young baby.

How to hold the baby

A woman may have a difficult time learning to feed her first baby. You can help by encouraging her to keep trying and showing her the right positions for breastfeeding. A good position helps the baby attach better to the breast, feed better, and prevents sore or cracked nipples.

The mother should support the baby's head with her hand or arm. The baby's whole body should face the mother so his neck is not turned. This position makes it easier for him to swallow.

When the baby opens his mouth wide, the mother should bring the baby onto her breast. The baby should have a big mouthful of the breast, with the nipple deep in his mouth.

This baby has a good
mouthful of breast.
This baby does not have
enough breast in his mouth.
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What the mother should eat while breastfeeding

To heal after a birth, and to make breast milk, a woman should eat as much or more as when she was pregnant. And she should eat a wide variety of foods including fruits and vegetables and foods rich in protein and fats — like nuts, beans, cheese, eggs, and meat.

She also needs to drink plenty of liquids. Water, herb teas, fruit juices, and milk will all help her stay healthy and make breast milk.

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This page was updated:11 Sep 2019