Feeding Your Baby

Breastfeeding

The longer you breastfeed, the greater the health benefits for you and your baby.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (external link), Dietitians of Canada (external link), the Canadian Pediatric Society (external link) and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (external link) all recommend that you:

  • feed your baby only breastmilk for the first six months; and
  • continue to breastfeed after the introduction of foods to two years and beyond.

While breastfeeding is the natural way to feed your baby, some mothers and babies find that it takes time to figure things out. If breastfeeding is not going well, seek help from a breastfeeding professional as soon as possible.

Baby-led latching (also called Laid-Back Breastfeeding)

Babies are born with a natural instinct to latch and feed at the breast. Baby-led latching is a good way for your baby to learn breastfeeding. It’s also helpful if breastfeeding is not going well or if you have sore nipples.

How to do baby-led latching:

  • Position yourself in a laid back position, propped up with pillows.
  • Place your baby skin-to-skin and tummy-to-tummy on your chest with his head near your breast.
  • Your baby will start looking for the nipple (called "rooting") by bobbing his head up and down.
  • Help to support your baby’s bottom and back while he is rooting for your nipple. This will allow him to tilt his head back a little, which helps him to latch.
  • Your baby will find your nipple, though at first this may take a while. He may find it with his hands first.
  • Your baby will open his mouth wide, pushing his chin into your breast and latch on.
  • When your baby has latched on, you can adjust baby’s position and provide support to keep him in place. Keeping his bottom tucked in helps to keep him latched well.
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Positioning your baby

Keep the following tips in mind when positioning your baby:

  • Make sure you’re comfortable before you start feeding your baby.
  • Lying back supported by pillows or sitting upright and bringing baby to the breast without bending down to baby will help prevent you from having a sore neck and shoulders.
  • If you need to protect sore areas after a C-section or episiotomy, experiment with what positions feel comfortable for you and your baby: baby-led latching (also called laid-back breastfeeding), sitting or lying down.

Sitting or lying down

Stimulate your milk supply

If your baby is not latching, make sure you start hand expression right away, so that your milk supply is being stimulated.

You may prefer to feed your baby while you are sitting or lying down. As you learn to breastfeed, you will likely find other positions that work well for you. Whatever position you choose, remember:

  • Good back support can make you comfortable.
  • Your baby’s ear, shoulder and hip should be in a straight line.
  • Your baby’s head should be tilted back slightly, so he can latch deeply and swallow easily.
  • Tuck your baby’s bottom in so that it is against your body.

How to help your baby latch

It’s important that your baby takes a large amount of the darker area around your nipple (the areola) into their mouth and not just the nipple. Your baby’s mouth will probably cover more of the areola with the lower jaw. This allows your baby to “milk” the breast and not hurt your nipple.

Tips to help baby latch:

  • Tummy to mommy: Turn your baby toward you.
  • Face to breast: Support your baby so her head is level to your breast.
  • Nose to nipple: Your baby’s nose should be at the same level as your nipple.
  • Baby’s chin and lower lip should touch your breast first.
  • Wait for your baby to open her mouth wide over your nipple.
  • More of the breast below the nipple (not above the nipple) should be in baby’s mouth.
  • Your baby’s chin should be against your breast and her nose should be slightly back from the breast.
  • Stimulate your milk supply

    If your baby is not latching, make sure you start hand expression right away, so that your milk supply is being stimulated.

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Normal feeding patterns (FAQ)

  • How do I know when my baby is hungry?
  • How often should my baby feed?
  • Should I feed my baby on a schedule?
  • How do I know which side to start on?
  • Does my baby need to feed at night?
  • Should I wake up my baby to feed?
  • What should I do if my baby is awake all night and sleeps all day?
  • How long will my baby need to feed during the night?
  • What are breast compressions?
  • Is it okay to let my baby nurse for comfort?
  • Can I give my baby a pacifier?
  • How do I know I have enough milk?
  • How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk (after they are six days old)?
  • How do I know if my baby is gaining enough weight?
  • Does my baby need to be burped?
  • How do I burp my baby?
  • When should I give my baby solid foods?
  • Can I give my baby water to drink?
  • How do I know when my baby is hungry?

    If you keep your baby skin-to-skin, they are more likely to wake up on their own for feedings. See Getting off to a good start.

    Your baby will show feeding cues, telling you when she is ready to eat, and when she has had enough. View this Baby Feeding Cues chart (external PDF) and Pre-Term Baby Feeding Cues chart (external PDF)to learn what feeding cues look like.

    If you see late feeding cues, calm your baby by trying:

    • skin-to-skin holding
    • cuddling
    • rocking
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    How often should my baby feed?

    While some babies feed regularly, many have short frequent feedings especially in the evening or at night. This is called cluster feeding and is very common in the early weeks.

    For the first several weeks:

    • most babies will feed at least eight times in 24 hours; and
    • feedings should last as long as your baby is actively sucking.

    As your baby grows it is important to remember that:

    • your baby will often feed faster;
    • some babies will have fed all the milk they need in 5 minutes, while others will need 20 minutes or longer; and
    • some babies will only want one breast at each feeding.

    Should I feed my baby on a schedule?

    Watch your baby, not the clock. Always follow your baby’s feeding cues. Your baby knows when and for how long they need to eat. When your baby comes off the first breast, burp them (See How do I burp my baby?) and offer the second breast.

    How do I know which side to start on?

    • Offer whichever breast is fuller. This is usually either the breast that your baby did not take at the last feed, or if you fed from both breasts, the breast that your baby took last.
    • Some women choose to use a pin or ribbon on their bra, or a bracelet to help them remember which breast to start with.

    As your baby grows, your breasts adapt to baby’s needs, and your breasts may not feel full even though there is plenty of milk for your baby. Most mothers of older babies have softer breasts. The more milk the baby takes from the breast, the more milk you make.

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    Does my baby need to feed at night?

    Yes. At birth, your baby’s stomach is only the size of a cherry, and even by the end of the first week, it is just the size of an egg. This means they need to eat very frequently. Always offer your breast if your baby is stirring and showing feeding cues.

    Should I wake up my baby to feed?

    In the beginning, some newborn babies are sleepy and do not wake up at least eight times in 24 hours. Until you know that your baby is gaining weight steadily, you may need to wake up your baby.

    Keeping your baby close by can help you notice hunger cues. Try undressing your baby and rubbing their back to help wake them up. Express a little breastmilk so your baby is tempted to feed.

    What should I do if my baby is awake all night and sleeps all day?

    Some babies want to feed more often at night and less often during the day. This is sometimes referred to as “reverse cycling”. There are some things you can try to encourage more of your baby’s feeds during the day:

    • Keep normal house lighting and noises during the day.
    • Talk to and play with your baby when they are awake during the day.
    • Wake your baby to feed every two to three hours.
    • During night wakings, keep things dark and quiet. Feed your baby with minimal talking during the night.
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    How long will my baby need to feed during the night?

    Every baby is different. In the early weeks, night feedings are needed because your baby’s tummy is small, and to make sure that you make enough milk. Gradually, as your baby grows, they will not need to feed as often. Many babies wake up more often when:

    • they are having a growth spurt;
    • they are sick;
    • they are learning a new skill; or
    • their mother has recently returned to work or school.

    Almost every parent of young children wishes for more sleep. Here are some tips to help you survive the lack of sleep.

    What are breast compressions?

    Some newborn babies fall asleep after just a few minutes at the breast, before they have finished feeding. You can help your baby to keep feeding until she is full by using breast compressions. If your baby has stopped actively sucking and swallowing:

    • make a C-shape with your hand; and
    • gently compress your breast behind the areola to squeeze a little milk into your baby’s mouth. This will help her to start sucking again.

    Is it okay to let my baby nurse for comfort?

    Sometimes your baby will want to suck more for comfort than to feed. Babies are born with a strong need to suck, which ensures their survival. When your baby is fussy, try offering the breast. It may calm her enough to help her fall asleep.

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    Can I give my baby a pacifier?

    Babies like to suck, some more than others. Before introducing a pacifier, here are some things that are helpful to know:

    • Many babies do not use a pacifier.
    • Pacifiers can interfere with breastfeeding.
    • Babies suck differently on the pacifier than on the breast.
    • Your baby may not suck as well on the breast if they use a pacifier.
    • Your baby might want to breastfeed less often after sucking on a pacifier. This can result in you not making enough milk for your baby.
    • There are many other ways to comfort a crying baby.
    • If you decide to try a pacifier, wait until your milk supply is well established and only use it for a short time after feedings.

    Here is some important safety information about using a pacifier:

    • If using a pacifier, select one that is Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approved.
    • Do not dip it in honey, sugar or sweet liquid, as this can cause tooth decay.
    • Do not hang it around your baby’s neck with a string. Your baby could be accidentally strangled.
    • Do not clean a pacifier in your own mouth to avoid spreading bacteria.

    Video:

    Watch this video Is Your Baby Getting Enough Milk (external link) to see babies who are feeding well at the breast.

    How do I know I have enough milk?

    Signs that your newborn baby is getting enough milk:

    Are you thinking of giving your baby formula? Dial 311 to speak to a public health nurse.

    How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk (after they are six days old)?

    Get help from a breastfeeding professional (external link) right away if your baby does not have enough wet and dirty diapers!

    What goes in will come out - watch for these signs:

    • At least six wet diapers in 24 hours with pale yellow or clear urine.
    • Babies up to around 3 weeks old should have 3 large soft yellow and seedy poops per day.
    • At around one month old, some babies will only have 1-2 poops per day and some will only have one large poop every few days. This is normal as long as your baby is feeding well, is content and has soft poops.
    • On average, babies will double their birth weight by five or six months.

    Visit Caring for your Newborn for more info on pees and poops.

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    How do I know if my baby is gaining enough weight?

    Consider the following:

    • It is normal for your baby to lose about seven per cent of her birth weight in the first three days after birth.
    • From day four onward, she should be gaining 20 to 35 grams per day.
    • She should be back to birth weight by 10 to14 days old.
    • Follow up with your healthcare provider to monitor your baby’s weight gain.

    Does my baby need to be burped?

    Even though babies feeding at the breast do not take in much air, it’s a good idea to burp your baby after feeding. Your baby may fuss or come off the breast if they need to burp. At the beginning, try burping after each breast. By watching your baby, you will see how often they need to be burped. Some babies will not need to burp every time.

    How do I burp my baby?

    • Hold your baby in an upright position against your shoulder or sitting on your lap. This helps the air bubble to come up more easily.
    • Gently rub or pat baby’s back.

    Sometimes a burp brings up some milk as well. Some babies spit up after feedings. This is nothing to worry about so long as your baby is gaining weight.

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    When should I give my baby solid foods?

    A healthy full term baby gets all the fluid they need for the first six months from breastmilk. A healthy baby does not need any other fluids (including water) from zero to six months of age. Remember that even from six to 12 months of age your baby’s main source of fluid and nutrition is still breastmilk.

    Can I give my baby water to drink?

    After six months of age,  you can start offering your baby water in a cup with meals and snacks. If you want to offer small amounts of water (1/4 of a cup at a time and no more than half a cup per day) so babies can get used to the taste. Remember that breastmilk will still provide your baby’s main source of nutrition and fluids from 6-12 months. Water should not replace your baby’s feed.

    Vitamin D

    Babies and young children who are breastfed or receiving breastmilk should continue to have a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 ug (400 IU) until two years of age.

    Why is vitamin D important for babies?

    Vitamin D is an essential nutrient to help build and maintain strong bones and teeth. A daily vitamin D supplement will help prevent against vitamin D-deficiency rickets – a condition where the bones are soft and weak, which can lead to:

    • skeletal deformities (e.g., bowed legs);
    • increased risk of fractures; and
    • dental problems.
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    When should I start giving my baby a vitamin D supplement?

    A vitamin D supplement of 400 IU should be given to your baby within the first few days after birth. Continue to give your baby a vitamin D supplement until two years of age.

    What should I look for when buying a vitamin D supplement?

    A single vitamin D3 supplement (without other vitamins) is recommended. Some liquid supplements require you to place a drop of vitamin D on the breast and others need you to fill a dropper to 400 IU and to place it in your baby’s mouth. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and only use the dropper that comes with the vitamin D supplement purchased. For older children, chewable vitamin D tablets are available.

    Does my baby get enough vitamin D from sunlight?

    No. Sunshine (ultraviolet light) allows skin cells to convert vitamin D into an active state. This is why it’s often called the ‘sunshine’ vitamin. Halton Region is in the northern part of the world, so we don’t get enough sunshine throughout the year for babies to make the vitamin D they need through their skin. Clothing acts as a sun barrier and we keep babies out of direct sunlight because of their sensitive skin, and to prevent skin cancer. For these reasons, it is necessary to provide your baby with a vitamin D supplement.

    When can I stop giving my baby a vitamin D supplement?

    After two years of age, a vitamin D supplement is no longer recommended. Your child’s eating patterns should follow Canada’s Food Guide (external link).

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    What foods contain vitamin D?

    Some foods naturally offer vitamin D, including:

    • eggs (yolk)
    • liver
    • fatty fish (tuna, salmon, trout, halibut, mackerel, sardines and herring)
    • cod liver oil

    In Canada, vitamin D is added to:

    • cow’s milk, tofu and margarine;
    • some orange and apple juices; and
    • some soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, goat’s milk and yogurt.

    Read food labels to see how much vitamin D a product provides.

    Birth control while breastfeeding

    In the first six months, breastfeeding can be an effective method of birth control. You might hear this referred to as Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM). For this method to be effective, you must answer “yes” to all of the following:

    • Is your baby less than 6 months old?
    • Has your period not yet returned?
    • Is your baby fully or nearly fully breastfed? Note: “Fully breastfed” means that your baby gets all his food (as well as vitamin D supplement) from drinking at your breast. “Nearly fully breastfed” means that your baby does not take more than one or two mouthfuls per day of other fluids or solids.
    • Does your baby breastfeed at least every four hours during the day and at least every six hours during the night?

    There are types of non-hormonal and hormonal birth control choices that can be used while breastfeeding.

    There are many other types of birth control that can be used while breastfeeding.

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