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Breastfeed Your Baby

woman breastfeeding her newborn

The Basics

Try hard to breastfeed your baby for the first 6 to 12 months after birth. Breastfeeding is very healthy for you and your baby.

If you have a health condition or are taking any medicines, talk with your doctor or midwife about breastfeeding before your baby is born.

To learn more:

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is a healthy choice for both you and your baby.

Benefits for baby
Breast milk:

  • Has just the right amount of protein, fat, sugar, and water to help your baby grow
  • Helps protect your baby from infection and illness
  • Is usually easier for babies to digest than formula

Benefits for mom

  • Gives you and your baby time to be close, get to know each other, and bond
  • Can save your family thousands of dollars
  • Burns calories and may help you lose some of your pregnancy weight
  • May help lower your risk of diabetes, depression, and some types of breast and ovarian cancers

When is my baby ready to eat other foods?

  • From birth to age 6 months:
    • Feed your baby breast milk only (no water, no juice, no nonhuman milk, and no foods).
    • It’s okay to give your baby vitamins, minerals, and medicine that your doctor recommends.
  • From ages 6 months to 12 months:
    • Keep breastfeeding your baby.
    • You can start feeding your baby cereal or other baby food, like mashed fruit.
  • For age 12 months and up:
    • Continue to feed your baby new foods that are recommended by your doctor.
    • If you can, keep breastfeeding.

Take Action!

Here are some tips for breastfeeding success.

Talk to your doctor or midwife about breastfeeding.
While you are pregnant, tell your doctor or midwife that you plan to breastfeed.

Many health centers, clinics, and hospitals have lactation (breastfeeding) experts to answer all your questions and help you get started. These experts are usually called lactation counselors, consultants, or specialists.

After you begin breastfeeding, you may still have questions. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or lactation counselor as often as you need to.

What about cost?
Some help to support breastfeeding is covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. This help includes counseling and access to breastfeeding supplies for pregnant and nursing women.

Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get help with breastfeeding at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out what this means for you.

For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

Make a plan for after your baby is born.
If you plan to go to work after pregnancy, a lactation counselor can help you plan to keep providing breast milk for your baby while you are away.

Talk to your supervisor about where you can pump and store your breast milk at work. Most employers are required by law to give you time and a place to pump milk for your baby.

Get more information about:

Try to nurse your baby right away.
Tell your doctor, midwife, or nurse that you want to breastfeed within 1 hour of your baby’s birth. After the first hour, your baby will be sleepy.

At first, your milk will be yellow. This is called colostrum (“coh-LOSS-trum”), and it’s very good for your baby. Your regular milk will come in after a couple of days, and your breasts will feel full.

Nurse your baby whenever he wants to eat.
Newborn babies need to nurse often (about every 2 hours). Watch your baby for signs of hunger, such as:

  • Moving his head from side to side (called rooting)
  • Being more alert
  • Acting fussy

Put your nipple as far back in the baby’s mouth as you can.
Nurse with the nipple and the brown area around the nipple (called the areola) in the baby’s mouth. This will make you more comfortable.

Try out these different breastfeeding positions.

Ask for help if breastfeeding is difficult.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it isn’t always easy. It may take time and practice for you and your baby to get it right. Some women may experience problems with breastfeeding at first, but these problems can usually be solved.

Talk to your doctor, nurse, or lactation counselor if you have pain in your nipples or any other problems. Ask for help so that you and your baby get the most from breastfeeding.

Eat healthy.
If you are breastfeeding, eating healthy will help you and your baby get the nutrients you need. Get tips on eating healthy while breastfeeding.

Give your baby vitamin D.
Babies need vitamin D for healthy bone growth. Even if you take extra vitamin D, your breast milk won’t provide enough vitamin D for your baby. Talk to your baby’s doctor or nurse about how to make sure your baby gets enough vitamin D.

Learn more about getting a flu shot and newborn screening.

Start Today: Small Steps

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Content last updated on: September 27, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133