The first time you hold your newborn in the delivery room is a great time to start breastfeeding. At the beginning, your body will produce small amounts of a special milk called colostrum that will help protect your baby from infection. (Your baby’s tummy is very tiny, so she only needs these small amounts to fill up. As her tummy grows, your milk will change and you’ll produce more of it.)
Turn your baby’s whole body toward you, chest to chest. Touch her upper lip with your nipple, and, when she opens her mouth wide, pull her onto your breast, holding your breast for support. Her mouth should cover not just the nipple but as much of the areola (the darker part surrounding it) as possible.
Don’t panic if your newborn seems to have trouble finding or staying on your nipple. Breastfeeding requires patience and lots of practice. Don’t hesitate to ask a nurse to show you what to do, and request visits from a lactation consultant while you’re in the hospital (many hospitals have them on staff).
If you have a premature baby, you may not be able to nurse right away, but you should start pumping your milk. Your baby will receive this milk through a tube or a bottle until she’s strong enough to nurse.
Once you get started, remember that nursing shouldn’t be painful. Pay attention to how your breasts feel when your baby latches on. Her mouth should cover a big part of the areola below the nipple, and your nipple should be far back in your baby’s mouth.
If latch-on hurts, break the suction (by inserting your little finger between your baby’s gums and your breast) and try again. Once your baby latches on properly, she’ll do the rest.