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Breastfeeding - Getting Started

Congratulations on the birth of your baby! The first few weeks are a time for learning for you and your baby. Be patient and get early breastfeeding support. The topics below will help you get started on your breastfeeding journey.


Right after birth and while in hospital

  • Lay your baby on your bare chest, skin-to-skin as soon as possible after birth. While you are enjoying this special time, your baby is moving into position for the first feeding
  • Your baby should be with you during your hospital stay, both day and night. This is called “rooming in”. This is good because it means your baby will always be close by so you can read your baby’s feeding cues and feed your baby when they are hungry
  • Nurses and lactation consultants are available to support you with breastfeeding your baby in the early hours after birth


Skin-to-skin is the healthiest place to begin. Babies love skin-to-skin contact. Your bare chest is the best place for your baby to adjust to life outside the womb. Your baby smells you, hears you, feels you and gets to know you. Skin-to-skin contact means holding your bare baby against your bare chest or tummy. Skin-to-skin babies stay warmer, are calmer and breastfeed better than babies who are swaddled or wrapped. It's soothing for your baby, and can reduce pain during immunizations and other procedures.

Feeding cues

Your baby will show feeding cues when they are ready to eat. This is the best time to feed your baby. Early feeding cues include:

  • Stirring
  • Mouth opening
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Rooting or turning towards your breast
  • Sucking and licking movements
  • Hand-to-mouth movements
  • Restlessness
  • Crying is a late feeding cue. Calming your baby with skin-to-skin time may help settle them for feeding


Colostrum is the early breastmilk your body makes. It is usually a yellowish, sticky liquid and is made up of a variety of proteins, vitamins and minerals. It also contains antibodies, substances with antiviral, antibacterial, and other immune properties as well as many other ingredients that nourish and protect your baby.

Colostrum is important to:

  • Coat the lining of your baby’s gut to prevent harmful bacteria from entering the baby’s system
  • Help your baby get rid of early poop called meconium
  • Build your baby’s immune system
  • It is made in exactly the right amount for your baby’s small tummy

Hand expression

Hand expression is a useful skill to learn and you can start right after your baby is born. During the first 2-3 days of your baby’s life, you will be expressing colostrum. Make sure you can catch this “liquid gold” on a spoon or cup and feed it to your baby. Early and frequent hand expression can help to establish a good milk supply.

Preparing to hand express:

  • Wash your hands
  • Use a spoon, a clean glass or hard plastic (BPA free) container to collect your milk. The spoon/container should be cleaned before with hot soapy water, rinsed well with hot water and left to air dry on a clean surface
  • To help your milk flow try placing warm towels on your breasts, think of your baby, massage your breasts, gently roll your nipple between your thumb and finger
  • Place your thumb and first 2 fingers along the outer edge of the dark area (areola)
  • Push your thumb and 2 fingers straight back into your chest
  • Gently compress your breast using your thumb and fingers and roll fingers towards your nipple
  • Repeat until the breastmilk slows down and switch to the other breast
  • Catch the milk in the clean spoon/container
  • Breastmilk can be stored for later use.

Alternative feeding methods

Before you consider an alternate way to feed your baby, it is important to get one-to-one support. Speak with a healthcare provider skilled in breastfeeding before using any of these methods.

Your baby may need to be fed using an alternative feeding method while he/she is learning to breastfeed. These methods can be used as a short-term solution and for smaller volumes of breastmilk to ensure your baby is still getting enough breastmilk.

Some alternative feeding methods would include:

Baby’s second night

Congratulations, you are home with your baby and heading into your second night together. You may notice that your baby is wanting to feed very frequently, doesn’t seem to settle well after feeds and wants to be held most of the time. Don’t worry, this is normal. Your baby knows what he/she is doing, stimulating the breast and being close to you to ensure a great start to a good milk supply.

Establishing your milk supply

  • The early first feeding is very important to establish a good milk supply
  • Watch your baby and learn their feeding cues, these tell you when your baby is hungry
  • Breastfeed your baby as often as he or she wants to, with a minimum of 8 times in 24 hours
  • Make sure your baby has a good latch and is feeding well
  • Hold your baby skin-to-skin often
  • Do not offer your baby anything else to suck on or feed from other than your breasts, unless medically indicated
  • If you have any questions, call 519-663-5317 to speak with a public health nurse about feeding your baby.

How do I know if my baby is getting enough breastmilk?

It is difficult to tell exactly how much breastmilk your baby is getting when you are breastfeeding but there are still ways to know that your baby is getting enough breastmilk:

  • What goes in must come out! How much and how often your baby pees and poops and what it looks like depend on how much your baby is drinking. Here is a chart from Best Start, to help you tell if your baby is having enough dirty diapers
  • Your baby will be settled and relaxed after feeding
  • Your baby will show periods of alertness and calm during the day
  • Your baby will likely lose a small amount of weight after birth. When your baby is feeding enough, he/she should regain this weight by the time he/she is 2 weeks old. Your baby will then continue to steadily gain weight
  • Feed your baby a minimum of 8 times per day, likely more and make sure he or she is sucking and swallowing while feeding
  • Your breast will feel softer at the end of the feed 
Date of creation: February 28, 2013
Last modified on: October 29, 2021


1Best Start Resource Centre (2020) Breastfeeding matters: An important guide to breastfeeding for women and their families. Retrieved from
2Canadian Paediatric Society's Nutrition and Gastroenterology Committee (CPS), Dietitians of Canada (DC), Breastfeeding Committee for Canada (BCC), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and Health Canada (HC). (2015). Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations from Birth to Six Months. Retrieved from
3Dietitins of Canada (2019) Unlock Foods.What you need to know about vitamin D Retrieved from
4Riordan, J. & Wambach, K. (2015). Breastfeeding and human lactation (4th ed.). Boston: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.