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Breastfeeding: How do I start breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is natural. However, it is also a learnt skill that may take time to get used to. This fact sheet may help you to prepare for and start breastfeeding.

Remember…

  • Making sure your baby is attached and positioned right can help to avoid problems.
  • Painful feeding means something might be wrong. A breastfeeding-trained health professional can give you help.
  • All babies have different feeding patterns. Feed when your baby demands it.
  • You may need to feed baby often as your baby’s stomach is still very small and can hold only a small amount of breastmilk. Also, breastmilk is easily broken down in your baby’s stomach.
  • As your baby grows and sucks more, she or he may have shorter feeds and sleep longer between feeds.

How to help a baby attach to the breast

This section is currently being reviewed and some outdated content has been removed. Please refer to the available resources for parents, families and carers listed below in the interim.

How will I know my baby is correctly attached to the breast?

Making sure your baby is attached to your breast right can help you avoid problems. You can check some signs to see if your baby is attached right. Listen and watch your baby during a feed:

  • The baby’s cheeks should not be sucked in and you should not hear clicking.
  • The baby will look relaxed and not tense or frowning.
  • After a feed, your nipples may look a bit longer. Your nipples should not be squashed, flat, white or ridged.
  • Breastfeeding should not hurt. If it hurts when the baby sucks, this could mean the baby is not attached right.

If the baby is not attached right you can put your finger in his or her mouth to break the suction. Burp your baby and then try to attach him or her again.

If you are finding it hard to attach your baby right, there are people that can help you. You can get help from a breastfeeding-trained professional, a lactation consultant, or the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

How often should I breastfeed my baby?

Newborn babies need to feed often. They can feed 8 to 10 times in 24 hours. However, all mothers and babies are different. How often your baby feeds and how long it takes to feed will be different to other babies.

  • Your baby knows when he or she is hungry and will let you know.
  • Feeding times vary from feed to feed. As babies get older they are able to suck better. This means they may have shorter feeds and may sleep longer between feeds.
  • Breastmilk is easily broken down and emptied from your baby's stomach in around 90 minutes. This is why babies feed often.
  • Let your baby finish the first breast before offering the second breast. At the next feed, swap the order.
  • It is fine to give your baby an extra feed to settle him or her when needed.
  • Some babies will have a rest at the breast and then start sucking again. Let your baby decide when to come off. As a guide, try to keep your baby's feeds to no longer than 1 hour.

Tip

If your baby often feeds for longer than 1 hour, it may mean something is not right (e.g. baby not attached right). You can contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association or other local child health services for help.

For assistance

Qualified child health nurses are available to provide information and support from 6:30am to 11:00pm, 7 days a week. Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) and ask to speak to a child health nurse.

Contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association:

Contact a lactation consultant:

Resources for parents, families and carers

Breastfeeding and your baby, Queensland Government

Poster: Baby feeding cues, (PDF, 425kB)Queensland Government

Growing Strong—Breastfeeding: good for Baby, good for Mum, (PDF, 673kB) Queensland Government

Healthdirect Australia—Breastfeeding, Australian Government

Raising Children Network—Newborns nutrition, Australian Government

Raising Children Network—Breastfeeding videos, Australian Government

Booklet: Breastfeeding and postnatal care, New South Wales Government — available in English, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi and Tamil languages

Booklet: Breastfeeding your baby, New South Wales Government

Brochure: Breastfeeding tips for new mothers (PDF, 110kB) New South Wales Government

Breastfeeding, Better Health Channel, Victoria Government

Brochure: Breastfeeding (PDF, 1.3MB) Victoria Government

Related content

The importance of breastfeeding

Preparing for breastfeeding

Managing common breast concerns

Acknowledgements

This fact sheet is consistent with the National breastfeeding strategy 20102015.

Information is drawn from:

  • Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service 2015, Child health information: Your guide to the first 12 months.
  • National Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Infant feeding guidelines.
  • Preventative Health 2008, Growing Strong: Feeding you and your baby, Queensland Health.
  • Preventative Health 2010, Breastfeeding and your baby, Queensland Health.
  • Queensland Maternity and Neonatal Clinical Guidelines Program 2010, Breastfeeding initiation.

This fact sheet is also the result of input and effort from many health professionals in Queensland. Their assistance with the content is greatly appreciated.

This information is provided as general information only and should not be relied upon as professional or medical advice. Professional and medical advice should be sought for particular health concerns or events. Best efforts have been used to develop this information, which is considered correct and current in accordance with accepted best practice in Queensland as at the date of production. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not accept liability to any person for the information provided in this fact sheet nor does it warrant that the information will remain correct and current. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not promote, endorse or create any association with any third party by publication or use of any references or terminology in this fact sheet.