Skip to content

Health & Baby

Font Size

Breastfeeding Basics

What every new mom needs to know about baby's first feeding, latching on, and letting down.

Breastfeeding Right After Baby's Birth continued...

If possible, experts say you should also try to position your baby to your breast yourself, rather than have a nurse or midwife do it for you. A recent survey highlighted in the British Medical Journal revealed that 71% of new mothers who put their own baby to their breast for the first time were still successfully nursing six weeks later, compared to just 38% of mothers who had someone else position their baby for them.

But if your baby is having problems latching on, or if you simply don't feel physically comfortable while trying to breastfeed, do ask a nurse or attendant for help. Professionals can help you adjust your position or that of your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises every new mother to make sure a trained caregiver observes her breastfeeding in order to offer tips.

Breastfeeding and Your Body: What to Expect

Beginning right from your baby's very first feeding and each time you breastfeed, your body will have a natural reaction called the "let down" reflex -- the process that starts your milk flowing.

 For the first few feedings, "let down" can actually take a few minutes. But after a day or two, the process should go much faster. Sometimes only seconds are needed before your baby can begin to feed.

During your first week of breastfeeding, the "let down" reflex might also cause you to feel some cramping or contractions in your uterus, similar to light menstrual pains. Sterna says this is because nursing involves the natural release of oxytocin, a hormone that stimulates the contraction of cells inside the breast that in turn help push your milk from the ducts into your nipples. But oxytocin has another effect: it can cause uterine contractions, which may initially cause some cramping.

The comforting news here: "Not only is the cramping normal, it's a sign that your uterus is beginning to shrink down to its prepregnancy shape and size, which means you're on your way to a flatter tummy," says Sterna.

All breastfeeding-related cramping should diminish in about a week or 10 days. If it doesn't, talk to your doctor.

To help make "let down" faster, particularly during your first week of breastfeeding, experts from La Leche League International offer these tips:

  • Choose a comfortable chair with good back and arm support for each nursing session. Many women report a rocking chair works well.
  • Make certain that your baby is well positioned on your breast for optimum milk flow.
  • If you are feeling tense or nervous, put on some relaxing background music while you nurse, or sip a nutritious drink, such as a fruit smoothie or yogurt shake while baby eats.
  • Make certain not to smoke, drink alcohol, or use recreational drugs while nursing. All can interfere with milk production and make "let down" more difficult.
  • Invest in a nursing bra and, if possible, some nursing tops with flaps that snap open and make positioning your baby easier.
  • Think about nursing. Sometimes just the thought of feeding and nurturing your baby will help stimulate milk to flow.
Reviewed on August 28, 2006

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
Mother with baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.

mother holding baby at night
mother with sick child
baby with pacifier
Track Your Babys Vaccines
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Woman holding feet up to camera
Father kissing newborn baby
baby gear slideshow