Wake County’s Maternal and Child Health team is here to help you and your family on your breastfeeding journey.
The choice to breastfeed offers many health benefits for both mom and baby. You may have heard that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. The truth is that breastfeeding isn’t always easy. It may take time and practice. Be patient and give yourself and your baby time to get comfortable with breastfeeding. We hope the following resources, tips and connections will help you through this life-changing experience.
Breastfeeding Basics – Tips on How to Breastfeed
If you’ve decided to breastfeed, you can feel confident that your milk will offer many health benefits for both you and your baby. Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, and at least partially for the remainder of the first year. This is because there are certain benefits for both mom and baby that go along with breastfeeding.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for baby?
Breastfeeding provides the best mix of nutrition to help your baby grow, and it can be easier for her to digest than infant formula. Your breast milk contains antibodies that support your baby’s immune system. The physical closeness that comes with breastfeeding is also a natural way to bond with your baby.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for mom?
Breastfeeding burns calories and can help you lose pregnancy weight. When you breastfeed, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin that helps reduce stress and promote uterine contractions to help shrink your uterus after pregnancy. Breastfeeding also saves time and money because you won’t need to buy and prepare formula.
Should I change my diet while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding requires even more energy and nutrients than pregnancy, so it’s important that you eat a healthy diet and continue taking your prenatal vitamins. Most people breastfeeding should consume a total of 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day, or about an additional 500 calories. This will give you enough energy to help with breast milk production.
What you eat and drink can affect the quality of your breast milk, so proper nutrition plays a critical role in your health and the health of your baby.
Here’s a guide for what to eat each day while breastfeeding:
- Grains (at least half as whole grains) – 8 oz.
- Vegetables (choose a variety) – 3 cups
- Fruit (whole or cut up) – 2 cups
- Dairy (low-fat or fat-free) – 3 cups
- Protein (lean meats and beans) – 6.5 oz.
How often should I breastfeed?
According to the CDC, how much and how often your baby feeds will depend on your baby’s needs. On average, most exclusively breastfed babies will feed about every two to four hours. Some babies may feed as often as every hour at times, often called cluster feeding, or may have a longer sleep interval of four to five hours.
As babies grow, their bellies also grow. Your baby will gradually be able to drink more breast milk at each feeding. If you are concerned about meeting your baby’s needs, talk to a lactation consultant, or your baby’s nurse or doctor, right away. They can help you address any breastfeeding problems and determine the best way to meet your baby’s needs.
Get Help with Breastfeeding
You can get breastfeeding help from a lot of different people:
- Your health care provider and your baby’s provider
- Lactation consultant. You can find a lactation consultant through your health care provider or your hospital.
- For lactation consultants in our region, visit the North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition.
- WIC Breastfeeding peer counselor. This is a woman who breastfed her own children and wants to help and support mothers who breastfeed. She has training to help women breastfeed, but not as much as a lactation consultant. You can find a peer counselor through your local WIC nutrition program, by visiting womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding or calling the National Breastfeeding Helpline at 800-994-9662.
- Learn more about Wake County’s WIC program.
- Friends and family members who have had good experiences breastfeeding
- Your partner. Have your partner feed your baby a bottle of expressed milk (milk that you pump from your breast). This can help your partner share in the feeding experience. Learn more about this here.
Learn more about community resources available to you
- Wake Network of Care Breastfeeding Support
- Triangle Breastfeeding Alliance Local and Regional Resource
- US DHHS Office of Women’s Health Breastfeeding Resources
Asian-American Breastfeeding Resources
African American/Black Breastfeeding Resources
Hispanic/Latinx Breastfeeding Resources
LGBTQIA+ Breast/Chestfeeding Resources
Breastfeeding Positions and Holds
There is no "best" position for breastfeeding, but feeding is always easiest when both you and your baby are comfortable and relaxed. Some positions may work better for you than others. Another reason to try different positions: It can help reduce breast tenderness if your baby isn’t latching on and applying pressure to the same spot every time.
Your breastfeeding position might change over time. Even if one position works at first, many find different positions work better for older babies than for newborns. You might find that as your baby grows, changing your breastfeeding position helps to relieve strains put on your body by repetitive motions.
The Cradle Hold
Sit in a comfortable chair that supports your arms and back. Try not to hunch your shoulders. Support your breast with your hand in a cupped C-shape. Place your baby across your stomach, tummy to tummy.
Your baby's head should be in the bend of your elbow, and their mouth should be directly in front of your nipple. Use a pillow to support your arm. Tuck their lower arm around your waist, out of the way. If correctly positioned, your baby's body should form a straight line from their ear to shoulder to hip.
The Football Hold
Like a football player cradles a football, cradle your baby over your arm while you’re seated in a chair. This lets you see if they are latching on properly. Place pillows at your side to support your elbow and your baby’s bottom. Then, tuck them into the side of your waist and place their head in the palm of your hand, supporting the base of their head between your thumb and forefinger.
You may like this position best if you:
- Have large breasts;
- Are concerned about latch on;
- Have a small or premature baby; or
- Are sore from a cesarean birth.
The Cross-Cradle Hold
This is a good position for those with premature babies or who have trouble getting their little one to latch on. It makes it easier to see them latch on compared to the traditional cradle hold.
Hold your baby across your body in the arm opposite the breast from which they will be feeding. Their position will be the same as in the cradle hold, but you will use your other arm to hold them. Your baby should be level with your breast, with their body turned toward you. Some find they can tuck the baby's bottom into the crook of their arm. When they open their mouth wide, pull them onto the breast far enough that the tip of their nose, cheeks and chin are all touching your breast.
This is a comfortable alternative position when sitting is uncomfortable. Lie on your side, using one pillow to support your head and another along your back. Your head and neck should be comfortably propped up with pillows.
You can also lie on your side with one arm bent under your head and the other hand supporting your breast. Lay your baby next to you on the bed so their mouth is aligned with your nipple. Put a pillow or rolled-up blanket behind your baby's back.
WIC has wonderful resources to teach you how to find the hold that works for you. Learn more here.