Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

When can breastfeeding begin?

Breastfeeding can begin within minutes after birth for most babies. Most babies take a few licks or sucks and then pause at the beginning. Frequent bursts of sucking interrupted by pauses is the usual pattern for the first few hours and sometimes even the first few days.

The first milk the mother produces, called colostrum, is the best food for a newborn. The nipple stimulation that occurs during breastfeeding also helps the uterus contract and can help stop uterine bleeding.

When a baby begins to open its eyes, look around, and put his or her fist into his or her mouth, then it is time to offer your breast. Breastfeeding experts recommend that the baby not be given sugar water or other types of bottle feedings in the hospital unless specifically prescribed by the doctor. Some experts recommend not starting a pacifier until good breastfeeding is established.

What is the proper technique for breastfeeding?

Observing other breastfeeding mothers and talking with breastfeeding support organizations can help new breastfeeding mothers learn techniques for optimal breastfeeding that can help reduce the likelihood of any discomfort or complications. These techniques are briefly outlined below.

After the mother has assumed a position comfortable for her, she can nestle the baby in a cradle hold (cradling the baby with the mother's arm on the same side as the breast being presented). The baby's body should be on its side, so that the baby does not have to turn his or her head to reach the nipple.

  1. First, manually express a few drops of milk to moisten the nipple.
  2. Cup the breast with your hand and using the milk-moistened nipple, gently massage baby's lips, encouraging the baby to open its mouth.
  3. When the baby's mouth is opened, the nipple is inserted into the center of the baby's mouth while pulling the baby in very close. The baby's gums should take in at least a 1-inch radius of the areola.
  4. The mother may have to make adjustments for the baby's breathing by changing the angle of baby's position slightly or using the thumb to press gently on the breast to uncover the baby's nose.
  5. Hold the breast throughout the feeding so the weight of your breast does not tire your newborn's mouth.
  6. When feeding is over, to avoid trauma to your nipples, do not pull your nipple from baby's mouth without first breaking the suction by inserting your finger into the corner of baby's mouth.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/26/2016

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Pregnancy & Newborns Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors