Breastfeeding – Getting Started

Updated December 28th, 2023

It can take time to learn how to breastfeed. You and your baby are learning something new and there may be some bumps along the way. Keep at it, and know that by breastfeeding, you are giving your baby a great start.

First feedings

  • Put your baby on your bare chest (skin-to-skin) so you can feed your baby right after birth.
  • To get you started, the nurse, midwife or doula can help you with positioning and latching your baby.
  • Your first milk is called colostrum. This thick, yellow fluid often called “liquid gold.” It is full of antibodies to help protect your baby from getting infections.
  • After your baby’s first feed, he may sleep for a few hours and then wake to feed often. This is called cluster feeding. It is normal and helps your milk come in.
Hot parent tip:
  • A lot of moms worry that their milk isn’t coming in. Colostrum is all your baby needs for the first few days. When your baby cluster feeds it tells your body to make milk. Within two to four days your breasts will feel firmer and your milk supply will have increased.
  • Be patient with yourself and trust your body.

A good latch is key to breastfeeding

A good latch helps your baby get milk easily and reduces any breastfeeding pain that you might have.

Check out this video on latching your baby from Healthy Families BC


wide mouth to take the breast

lips flanged open

baby latched on

Photos reproduced with permission from the Manitoba Government

How to get a good latch:

  • Bring baby to your breast
  • Baby’s mouth should be open wide
  • Her chin touches your breast and her nose is slightly away from the breast.
  • Baby’s lips are rolled out and relaxed. Baby’s chin and tongue under the areola (the circular area around your nipple). Nipple is not centered in baby’s mouth, but off-center.
  • Baby will suck quickly, then more slowly with short pauses; you feel a tug on your nipple after the baby is latched on.
  • If your baby has a deep latch, your nipples will look round, (not flat-like the end of a “lip stick tube”) after feedings.
  • After the first few days of feeding, you will hear soft “kaa kaa” sound when your baby swallows.
  • If you need to take your baby off your breast, it hurts way less if you break the suction first. This is easily done by slipping your finger into the side of baby’s mouth between the gum and press down on the area of your breast closest to your baby’s mouth and gently pull down on your baby’s chin.
Hot parent tip:
  • When starting out breastfeeding, is it common to have initial latching soreness as your nipples get used to the sensation of breastfeeding.
  • As your baby learns to have a deep latch you should not have any pain while breastfeeding. Initial latching tenderness should go away within a week.
  • If you have pain throughout the entire feed this is not normal and you should seek help. Call your public health nurse, lactation consultation or health care provider!

How do I know when my baby is hungry?

signs of hunger

Your baby will “tell you” they are hungry by:

  • waking, stretching and stirring from sleep
  • sucking on fingers or hands
  • clicking or sucking on tongue
  • opening mouth and looking for the breast

It’s best to watch your baby’s signals and feed them when you see that they are hungry, rather than waiting until they cry. This link will show you photos of what babies look like when they are hungry, very hungry and extremely hungry.

How often should I feed my baby?

  • Always let your baby take the lead. While the actual number of feedings depends on your baby, all babies need to feed at least 8 times in 24 hours.
  • Feed your baby whenever they are hungry (called cue-based feeding).  In the first few weeks and during growth spurts it is normal for a baby to want to feed every 30 minutes or hourly.

How long does it take to breastfeed?

  • Feeding time is usually 20-30 minutes, but can be shorter or longer.
  • Let baby feed on the first breast until baby stops sucking and swallowing
    • Then try to burp baby.
    • Then offer baby the second breast.
  • If baby feeds on only one side, start baby on the other side at the next feeding.
  • If baby falls asleep during a feeding, wake her up if she has not fed enough.

How do I know if my baby is getting enough breast milk?

  • He is sucking strongly, slowly and steadily.
  • You can hear baby swallowing.
  • Your breasts feel softer and less full after breastfeeding.
  • Baby is gaining weight (5-7 ounces or more per week).
  • Baby regains birth weight by 14 days.
  • Your baby has wet and dirty diapers as described in the chart below.

How does my baby show me that she is full?

  • Stops, let’s go of your breast and may turn head away
  • Feels settled and relaxed
  • Arms and legs are stretched out
  • Fingers are spread

What can I expect with growth spurts?

As your baby grows and develops you may notice that your baby seems more hungry than normal. This is likely due to a growth spurt. You will probably notice your baby wants to feed more often. This is your baby’s way of telling your body to make more milk.

Growth spurts are common when your baby is:

  • 10 days
  • 2-3 weeks
  • 6 weeks
  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • other times (when your baby seems hungrier than usual)

Feed your baby according to their hunger cues and your body will quickly increase milk production to meet your baby’s needs.

When should I get help with breastfeeding?

  • You have nipple pain that won’t go away (could be thrush)
  • Your baby makes clicking or smacking sounds during breastfeeding
  • Your nipple is squished or flattened after feedings
  • You have bruising, redness or bleeding

For breastfeeding help:

  • Youville Clinic Ventre has increased breastfeeding support services in response to the impact of COVID on Public Health Nursing services. For breastfeeding support or information on lactation consultation services, book a call back by phoning 204-255-4840.
  • Speak to your Public Health Nurse, midwife or other healthcare provider for more information on breastfeeding.
  • Healthy Parenting Winnipeg breastfeeding resources


**This information has been adapted with permission from Healthy Child Manitoba**