Getting Started Breastfeeding

The first few weeks of breastfeeding are a learning period for both you and your baby. It may take time, patience and practice for you to feel confident in breastfeeding your baby.

Keep a simple chart of feedings and diaper changes for each day. Keeping track of your baby’s progress will help you know if your baby is getting enough breast milk. You can write the following information on a sheet of paper:

  • The time the baby started feeding at the breast
  • The amount of minutes the baby fed at the breast
  • Which breast the baby fed on. If the baby fed on both breasts, write that down.
  • Wet diapers and stools

Take the chart with you when you visit the baby’s healthcare provider.

The following guidelines will help you know what to expect for the first 28 days of breastfeeding your baby.

  • Term babies are usually ready to begin breastfeeding within the first hour of life
  • Babies are most active right after birth, followed by a sleepy stage
  • Put your baby to the breast as soon as possible after delivery
  • A baby should breastfeed several times on the first day
  • Baby may only have one or two wet diapers or stools during the first 24 hours
  • Your baby should begin to wake up for feedings and show signs or cues that he / she is ready to eat. Signs that your baby is ready to eat include rooting, smacking lips, sucking on a fist or fingers
    • Crying is a late sign of hunger
  • Babies will breastfeed every one to three hours or at least eight to 12 times in 24 hours
    • Newborn babies have small tummies, so will need to eat often
    • These frequent feedings provide your baby with the nutrient-rich early milk called colostrum and tells your breasts to make more milk
  • Your baby may suckle for 10-30 minutes on the first breast, before falling asleep or letting go
    • Try to burp the baby and then offer the second breast
    • Some breastfed babies don’t burp much
    • Some babies are content with only one breast per feeding
  • Your baby should have at least two to four wet diapers and stools per day
    • Stools should start turning from the dark tarry meconium to brown or green
    • Bowel movements should start becoming looser
  • Babies may lose some weight
    • As your milk comes in, your baby should start to gain weight
    • Talk to your healthcare provider about how often the baby should be weighed and how much weight is safe for your baby to lose
  • You may feel uterine cramping when breastfeeding the first few days
  • You may experience mild nipple tenderness while you and your baby are learning to breastfeed
    • Contact your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant if you have nipple tenderness that lasts longer than the first week or you have nipple pain, cracked or bleeding nipples
  • Your milk supply should increase quickly or “come in”
  • Your baby will nurse about eight to 12 times every day for about 10 to 30 minutes each feeding
  • When your milk comes in and the baby is feeding well, stools will be a mustard-yellow, loose and seedy
    • By day five, your baby should have six to eight wet diapers every day and several stools
  • Breasts may feel full, heavy and warm when milk comes in
    • The most important thing to do when your milk first comes in is to remove the milk out of your breasts by feeding your baby often
    • You can massage your breasts a little before feeding to soften them
    • For severe engorgement, you may need to use some cold packs to reduce swelling before feeding your baby
    • Hand expressing a few drops of milk may help soften the nipple so that the baby can latch easier
  • Contact your lactation consultant for assistance with latching the baby at the breast or other concern. 
  • Your baby will nurse about eight to 12 times per day for about 10 to 30 minutes each feeding
  • Let your baby decide when to come off the first breast, so that he / she can nurse long enough to get the higher fat hindmilk
  • Your baby should continue to have at least six to eight wet diapers and at least two or three loose, yellow, seedy stools each day 
  • Your baby should be back to birth weight by two weeks of age
  • When baby is gaining weight well and has the correct number of wet diapers and stools each day, let the baby decide his / her own schedule for feedings
  • Contact your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant for any breastfeeding concerns

For additional information on this Health Topic, call the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine at 513-636-2326.


Last Updated 09/2012