Breastfeeding tips for less than perfect beginnings

All major global pediatric groups agree that breast milk is best for babies and exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life is recommended. Many hospitals have programs to promote breastfeeding and support mothers who want to breastfeed. Yet, sometimes there are issues or complications in the beginning that can make moms feel unsure or scare them into thinking that their bodies can’t produce enough milk to feed their baby. This may lead moms to stop breastfeeding and give formula. However, by looking at ways to manage breastfeeding, milk supplies, and some common hiccups that can happen in the beginning, there are ways to manage and breastfeed successfully.

To start off right, the recommendations are to:

  • Put baby to breast within 30 minutes of birth, if possible
  • Breastfeed baby whenever they show signs of hunger
  • Keep baby with you at all times, if possible
  • Only give breast milk
  • Do not use a pacifier or dummy
  • Pump breasts if separated from baby

These activities are normally all that is needed to start moms and babies on a successful breastfeeding journey. However, sometimes things happen that make completing these activities more difficult. Here is a short list of things that frequently happen and what to do.

First feed is delayed

Some babies need to be separated from mom after birth for monitoring. Some moms have a cesarean birth and closing the incision takes time. When these issues happen, just put baby to breast as soon as possible. Don’t worry that the 30-minute window has passed, just focus on baby in this moment and getting them to eat.

Not sure when baby is showing signs of hunger

Some babies cry loudly to let you know they want to eat while others seem to sleep a lot. Don’t worry about knowing your baby’s cries and norms yet. You just met! Offer your baby your breast frequently during the first 48 hours of life. Over a few days, you will start to understand their cues more and feel more comfortable.

The hospital does not allow the baby to stay in your room

Some hospitals have policies that move babies to the nursery for the night so mom can sleep. If this is the policy where you deliver, just tell the nurses to bring you the baby to eat. Be clear that you don’t mind being woke up and that you expect to exclusively breastfeed your baby.

Your doctor has suggested supplementing with formula

Almost all mothers can make enough breast milk to feed their babies. However, some mother’s breast milk is slower to come in and this can put your baby at risk for dehydration or hyperbilirubinemia. If this is the case, allow supplementation with formula until your breast milk comes in fully. Keep stimulating your breasts by feeding your newborn and using a breast pump afterwards. Once your milk supplies are well established, you can go back to exclusively breastfeeding.

Your baby is crying and your nipples hurt, is it okay to use a pacifier?

Having your baby become accustomed to the feel of skin in their mouth is a big part of being successful at breastfeeding. To soothe your baby, instead of using a pacifier, insert a clean pinky finger in their mouth. They will be able to suck and calm but still feel the warmth and texture of human skin.

Knowing a few tricks can help manage small hiccups that may happen when you begin breastfeeding. Remember to reach out to your doctor or lactation consultant to help you manage other issues that may arise. Breastfeeding is a learned skill, so be patient and know that it will come. Both you and your baby will be happy that you stuck with it.


Flaherman, V., Narayan, N., Hartigan-O’Connor, D., Cabana, M., McCulloch, C., & Paul, I. (2018). The effect of early limited formula on breastfeeding, readmission, and intestinal microbiota: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Pediatrics 196, pp. 84-90.

Lewis, J. (2017). Breast-feeding friendly, but not formula averse. Pediatric Annals 46(11), pp. e402-e408.

World Health Organization/UNICEF. (2007). Ten steps to the baby-friendly hospital initiative to promote successful breastfeeding. Journal of Perinatal Education 16(1-Supplement), pp. S79-S80.

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