Benefits of breast-feeding Giving your baby the healthiest start in life

There are several unique advantages to breast-feeding, the main one being that breast milk arrives on demand as the perfect food for your baby. Other benefits of breast milk include the following:

  • Breast milk protects babies from infection.

  • It reduces the risk of some diseases.

  • Breast-feeding is thought to increase a child's IQ later in life.

  • It can reduce the risk of allergies. It has also been reported that babies who are formula-fed are more likely to have breathing problems such as asthma, and gastric problems such as colic. Constipation is also more common among formula-fed babies, and hence there are more hospital admissions from bottle-fed babies.

  • There are greater benefits for the mother if she breast-feeds, such as increased weight loss.

Thinking ahead Being practically and emotionally prepared

It's wise to think about how to prepare for breast-feeding before the birth.

  • Address your feelings about breast-feeding and those of your partner and family, and deal with negative stories. This is because some of the problems associated with breast-feeding include embarrassment and a lack of confidence in your ability to produce enough milk.

  • Purchase nursing bras and try to attend your childbirth classes, where breast-feeding will be discussed.

Breast-feeding after a cesarean

Breast-feeding after a cesarean section can be more challenging than following a vaginal birth since your baby may be sleepy from the effects of the drugs and you will be feeling uncomfortable from the surgery. If your baby is asleep most of the time, encourage her to wake for a feeding every couple of hours. Finding a comfortable position to feed her is important for the letdown reflex. You may find lying on your side facing your baby easier and this is a recommended position after a cesarean. In the days following the surgery, when you are more mobile, you can try feeding sitting up with your baby lying on a pillow to alleviate pressure on your wound.

Football Hold:

Holding your baby so that she is lying alongside you, tucked under your arm with your hand supporting her head, can be a comfortable position after a cesarean since there is no pressure on your abdomen.

Troubleshooting How to alleviate discomfort and pain

Sore, cracked nipples are a common complaint among breast-feeding women and a source of great distress, often leading women to abandon breast-feeding entirely. Knowing what steps you can take to prevent this happening, or how to alleviate any discomfort, will help to make breast-feeding a more relaxing experience.

  • Make sure your baby latches on properly and is removed from the breast gently (see Latching on). If your breasts are engorged, expressing some milk first helps your baby latch on more easily.

  • Keep your nipples dry between feedings. Let the air get to your nipples and use breast pads to soak up leaks.

  • Relieve sore nipples with a chilled cabbage leaf. You can use a nipple cream if necessary, although most midwives suggest avoiding these if possible.

Avoiding mastitis An infection of the milk and surrounding tissue

Mastitis is a painful infection of breast tissue that occurs when the breasts are engorged (hard and swollen) and a milk duct is blocked. Dealing with engorgement often helps prevent mastitis.

  • Don't stop breast-feeding since you need to release your milk.

  • Express little and often to relieve some pressure (which also makes it easier for your baby to latch on), and feed little and often to empty your breasts.

  • Place a warm washcloth on a sore breast.

  • Begin each feeding from the sore side; your baby's sucking is strongest at the start.


For many, breast-feeding is an extension of pregnancy and birth. The benefits you give your baby are beyond measure

Getting started Establishing breast-feeding

Each mother has a different experience when starting to breast-feed. Both you and your baby will be learning and practicing together, which can seem quite strange for something that is supposed to be so natural. Some babies will simply attach themselves onto the nipple (“latch on”) right away, while others will take longer and may need help from a lactation consultant. Sometimes, the type of labor and birth that you experienced can affect how quickly you establish breast-feeding.

Q: How should I start the first feeding?
A: Many babies begin to breast-feed if left “skin-to-skin,” lying directly on or near your breasts, for about 45 minutes. Your baby can smell your milk and will naturally start to make mouthing movements and turn her head to your nipple. At first, your baby will need only a small amount of food because she has a reserve of water and fat in her body to provide nourishment until milk is available. She will, however, have a strong urge to nurse.
Q: How should I position myself for feeding?
A: For subsequent feedings, it is worth taking the time to check that you are in a comfortable position. It might help if someone holds your baby while you make yourself comfortable—perhaps with cushions behind your back, or a cushion to support your baby.
Q: How should I position my baby?
A: The key to successful breast-feeding is ensuring that your baby is in the right position and has a good “latch.” Move your baby so that her nose is opposite your nipple and “tummy to mommy” (your baby's tummy is lying across your tummy) in a straight line and held close to you (see Comfortable feeding positions). Wait until she opens her mouth really wide (this ensures her tongue is in the right position) and then move her mouth onto the breast.
Q: How do I know if my baby has latched on properly?
A: It is important to make sure that the entire nipple and areola are in your baby's mouth. This enables your baby to get a good sucking action and prevents your nipples from getting sore or cracked. The baby's bottom lip should be curled back, and sucking will be long and deep (rather than little chomping movements). You may also notice that her ears move as she sucks. When your baby has latched on correctly, you shouldn't feel any pain (or, possibly, only a slight pain when she first starts to suck). If it still hurts after she has begun sucking, she is not latched on correctly and you should ease her off the breast and start again after adjusting her position.
Q: How do I take my baby off the breast?
A: Do this by sliding your finger gently inside your baby's mouth—this will break the seal it forms around your breast.
Latching on
  1. Putting your baby on the breast:

    Hold your baby so that her head and body face you and she is level with your breast, with the nipple pointing to her nose.

  2. Latching on:

    Make sure your baby has the entire nipple and most of the areola in her mouth and that her bottom lip is curled back.

  3. Removing her from the breast:

    Gently slide your little finger into the corner of your baby's mouth to break the seal and remove her without pulling your nipple.

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