Breastfeeding basics: Getting off to a good start

Moms often describe the hours, days and weeks following their babies’ arrival as a wonderful yet overwhelming time. It’s also an important time to surround yourself with helpful information and support for breastfeeding success.

A rewarding breastfeeding experience starts with education, like AAMC’s Breastfeeding Basics class. Getting familiar with the basics will help you get off to a good start.

The Early Weeks

You may feel like all you’re doing in the first week of your baby’s life is nursing – and it’s probably true! This is how your baby helps your body create a plentiful milk supply. Newborns generally nurse eight to 12 times a day. Nursing this often doesn’t mean your baby isn’t getting enough milk. Rather a newborn’s stomach, just like the rest of them, is tiny! At day three, it’s about the size of a walnut. At two weeks, it’s about the size of a large egg.

Newborn Stomach Size from Medela

Newborn Stomach Size from Medela

In the early weeks of frequent nursing remember that all your hard work is encouraging your body to create a good milk supply. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand activity. Your body learns to supply exactly what your baby is demanding.

Nursing your baby at the first sign of hunger cues– rooting, smacking lips, stirring, hands in mouth—also helps minimize engorgement that can happen two to five days after birth when your milk “comes in” or increases in supply.

Some moms worry about their milk supply. If your baby is gaining weight and having frequent wet and dirty diapers, then your baby is getting enough milk.

In those early days and weeks, remember you’re learning something new. Like all new skills, it may take some time to feel like you’ve gotten the hang of it. Trust your body, your baby and yourself. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Importance of Skin-to-Skin

Studies prove that skin-to-skin contact, which you may also hear called ‘kangaroo care,’ offers many benefits. Among them, skin-to-skin can help regulate your baby’s temperature, heartbeat, breathing and blood sugars. It can enhance bonding with parents (Yes, dad can do it too!) and reduce baby’s cries.

Babies who are kept skin-to-skin immediately after birth may latch better, and are more likely to nurse sooner and longer.

Getting a Good Latch

A good latch is key to baby effectively and comfortably removing milk, and helps create a successful and enjoyable breastfeeding experience. A good latch can look different to every mom. To latch your baby:

  1. Sit comfortably in a slightly reclined position, supported by pillows if you’d like.
  2. Have baby lie belly down on you with their nose aligned with the nipple.
  3. If baby is not rooting with a wide mouth, tickle baby’s top lip with your nipple to stimulate rooting.
  4. As baby opens wide, allow baby to self-latch or guide baby on so that most of your areola is covered by the baby’s mouth, especially at the bottom lip and chin.
  5. Watch for signs of sucking from baby’s jaw motion and ear movement, and for periods of swallowing.
  6. If you’re experiencing pain, break the latch by inserting your finger into the corner of baby’s mouth and re-latch as needed. Persistent pain should be assessed by a lactation consultant.
Latch Guide

Images from La Leche League International

Breastfeeding should feel comfortable and you should be able to hear sounds of swallowing. Don’t worry if it feels awkward at first. Before long getting baby to latch will feel so second nature you’ll be able to do it with your eyes closed– or at least in a dark room, say around 2 am.

For more information, I recommend the Latching and Positioning Resources from Kelly Mom.


Kim Knight is a board-certified lactation consultant with Breastfeeding Works which offers home consultations and workplace lactation support. She has provided support to thousands of breastfeeding moms during the course of her career.

Breastfeeding Resources

AAMC offers several breastfeeding support classes, all of which have gone virtual due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. See a complete schedule here.

Breastfeeding Warm LineAnne Arundel Medical Center’s lactation staff is available to answer any questions you might have about breastfeeding. You can reach our consultants seven days a week via our Warm Line at 443-481-6977. Simply leave a message and they’ll return your call between 9 am and 4 pm the same day. You can also e-mail our lactation staff anytime at

Find a Lactation Consultant: A board-certified lactation consultant can help address your breastfeeding concerns or challenges. You can find one in your area through the United States Lactation Consultant Association directory.

AAMC Smart Parents: Join our Facebook community focused on the journey of parenthood. This is a safe, non-judgmental group to ask questions and get answers from local moms and dads, and AAMC experts.

Originally published April 14, 2016. Last updated Aug. 10, 2020.

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