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Starting Out


Starting Out

Many of us have an expectation that breastfeeding 'should' be easy, or second nature. In reality it takes patience and practice to learn to breastfeed. Here are some steps that you may find helpful. Each day talk with your midwife until you can confidently tick each box.


Image courtesy of NZ Ministry of Health

  • Baby should sleep on her/his back with face clear and hands free as this allows baby to show feeding cues i.e., beginning to stir, rapid eye movement, soft cooing or sighing sounds, sucking fingers, turning head searching for breast, licking out with tongue.
  • If you're swaddling unwrap baby so you can tuck her/him in as close as possible to you. There are many different positions to hold your baby at the breast. Use one that feels comfortable for you.
  • Sit comfortably, make sure you have some comfort supplies to hand eg a drink, snack, mobile phone, book, the remote control (you might be there a while!)
  • Position your baby’s nose to your nipple, chin to breast, tummy to tummy. Baby’s ear, shoulder and hip should be in line.
  • Bring baby to the breast with her/his head gently tilted back over your forearm or falling back into your hand as in the ‘football’ hold. This encourages a wide open mouth and her/his chin touches the breast first as you bring her/him in.
  • Cup your breast, in its natural position with your hand, fingers well back from the areola so they are not stopping baby from getting a good mouthful of breast tissue.
  • Tickle your baby's cheek to elicit her/him to open mouth wide
  • Touch your nipple from her/his nose to top lip
  • Bring baby into your breast firmly.
  • The nipple should roll along the roof of baby’s mouth to the back of his throat; her/his tongue will cup the areola so he can milk the breast efficiently.
  • Baby should have a large mouthful of breast, lips will be wide open (flanged), chin will be tucked into the breast and nose just touching.

Look for effective feeding.

  • Slow rhythmical sucking and swallowing, including pauses
  • baby’s cheeks are not sucked in.
  • Sometimes a newborn requires gentle prompting by rubbing his hand or stroking his head.
  • During the first few days breastfeeding can feel tender when baby first latches.
  • If feeding is painful, gently remove baby from breast by breaking the suction in the corner of his mouth with your finger.
  • Sore, painful or damaged nipples are not a normal part of breastfeeding – get help!
  • Let baby finish on the first breast before offering the second.
  • Your baby will let the breast go or push the nipple out of his mouth when he has finished.
  • When baby is well latched feeding should be comfortable.
  • Your nipple should not look squashed, white or ridged when it comes out of baby’s mouth.

Remember it may take some time for you to get it right. Go back and begin the steps again, and ask for guidance if you need to. The more your baby suckles effectively, the more milk you will make. If you are having any trouble breastfeeding, or are unsure if your baby is feeding correctly seek the support of a Lactation Consultant for assistance.

Breastfeeding Support in the community:
La Leche League
New Zealand Lactation Consultants Association
Plunket Family Centre


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