Getting Started

Getting Started

You can help your baby learn to breastfeed by using these key skills right from the start:

  • Holding your baby skin-to-skin
  • Baby-led latching
  • Following your baby’s cues
  • Learning how to hand express colostrum


Skin-to-Skin Contact

Skin-to-skin is a way of holding your baby that both babies and parents find enjoyable. There are benefits of skin-to-skin contact for both babies and parents.

How to do skin-to-skin contact?

  • The baby wears only a diaper and is held in an upright position on the parent’s chest.
  • A light blanket can be draped across the baby’s back.
  • When babies are held skin-to-skin, they can hear their mother’s heart beat and breathing, and smell and feel her skin. This is familiar and comforting to babies.


  • Stabilizes your baby’s heart rate, breathing and blood sugar.
  • Keeps your baby warm through your body heat.
  • Promotes bonding and getting to know your baby.
  • Helps your baby to be calm and cry less.
  • Helps you to be more confident and relaxed.
  • Helps your milk flow and may improve your milk supply.
  • Promotes a good latch. This means that you are less likely to develop sore nipples and your baby will get more milk.
  • Along with breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact lowers babies’ pain from procedures such as injections. Watch the following videos for more information:


Hold your baby skin-to-skin as soon as possible after giving birth. Hold your baby for an hour or more, until after the first breastfeeding or for as long as you wish. Partners or other family members and friends can also do skin-to-skin with your baby. Skin-to-skin is very beneficial for premature babies too.

Talk to your health care provider about delaying routine hospital practices such as weighing, vitamin k and eye ointment, until after you and your baby have had this special time together.

As your baby grows, continue to hold your baby skin-to-skin often and for long periods. There is no age at which skin-to-skin is no longer recommended.


Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.

Baby-Led Latching

Baby-Led latching, also known as laid-back breastfeeding, is a natural and simple way for your baby to find your breast after birth or any time you are breastfeeding. It is especially helpful when your baby is learning to breastfeed, when your baby is not breastfeeding well, or when your nipples are sore.

How to do Baby-Led Latching

  • Sit comfortably with support, leaning back.
  • Hold your baby skin-to-skin on your upper chest and between your breasts, so that her tummy rests on your chest.
  • Your baby was born with a reflex that helps her find your nipple. It is called the “rooting” reflex. You will notice her turning her head or moving it up and down, looking for your breast. This may look like bobbing or pecking.
  • Support your baby’s back and bottom with your arm and hand while she moves towards your breast. When her shoulders and hips are supported, she can tilt her head back a little. This will help her latch.
  • Your baby will find your nipple. She may touch it with her hands first.
  • After a few tries your baby will push her chin into your breast, reach up with an open mouth, and latch to your breast.
  • Once your baby is latched, you can adjust your position and your baby’s position to make sure you are both comfortable.


Other Helpful Resources

Jack Newman Breastfeeding Videos

Global Health Media Breastfeeding Video

Breastfeeding Information for Parents - Baby Led Latching

Cue-Based Feeding

Breastfeed your baby often. Most babies feed at least 8 times in 24 hours. Watch for your baby’s cues, not the clock!  Your baby will tell you when she is ready to feed and when she is finished. Your baby will show that she is ready and eager to feed. She will show some signs called feeding cues.

Early feeding cues: “I’m hungry.

  • Stirring, moving arms.
  • Mouth opening, yawning or licking.
  • Hand to mouth movements.
  • Turning head from side to side.
  • Rooting, seeking to reach things with her mouth.

Mid feeding cues: “I’m really hungry.

  • Stretching.
  • Moving more and more.
  • Hand to mouth movements.
  • Sucking, cooing or sighing sounds.

Late feeding cues: “Calm me, then feed me.

  • Crying.
  • Agitated body movements.
  • Colour turning red.

If your baby shows late feeding cues, it is time to calm your baby before feeding her.

You can do this by:

  • Cuddling
  • Skin-to-skin holding
  • Talking or singing
  • Stroking or rocking

At the start of the feed, your baby will have shallow and quick sucks. When your milk starts to flow, the sucks will become deep and slow. You will notice a pause during the suck when your baby’s mouth opens the widest. Your baby is drinking milk during this pause and you probably will hear or see her swallowing.



Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.

Hand Expressing Colostrum or Breastmilk

Hand expressing colostrum or breastmilk is important because it helps you to:

  • Express a few drops of milk to get baby interested in latching.
  • Gently rub a few drops of milk into your nipples to prevent soreness.
  • Soften your breasts near your nipples before latching your baby, if they are very full.
  • Make your breasts comfortable if they are full and your baby is not feeding.
  • Express milk for your baby if you are going to be away from her or need to feed her other than directly at the breast.

You can practice expressing breastmilk as soon as your baby is born or even a week or two before your baby is born. In the first 2 – 3 days after birth, you will get a small amount of colostrum, maybe 5 – 10 ml (1 – 2 teaspoons) or less. Colostrum, a rich, yellowish fluid, is the first milk. It is important for your baby to get your colostrum, because it helps your baby’s immune system and is very rich in nutrients.

To express colostrum for your baby:

  • Wash your hands well.
  • Find a place where you are comfortable and relaxed.
  • Sitting in an upright position will help you to hand express.
  • Gently massage your breasts from outside towards the nipple. Roll your nipple between your fingers. A warm cloth placed on your breasts can also help to get your milk flowing.
  • Hold your breast with one hand, not too close to the nipple. The thumb and fingers of your hand should be opposite each other and about 2 ½ – 4 cm (1 to 1½ inches) back from your nipple.
  • Lift your breast slightly, and gently press the breast inwards toward your chest.
  • Lightly compress your thumb and fingers together in a rolling motion towards the nipple.
  • Relax your fingers for a couple of seconds then repeat the same motion. Do not squeeze the base of your nipple, as this will stop the flow of milk.
  • Move around your breast so you are expressing from the entire breast. Continue this until the flow of milk has stopped. You may want to switch hands and switch from one breast to the other now and again.
  • Collect the milk on a teaspoon or a container with a wide mouth if your baby has not latched on and fed. You can then feed your baby the colostrum using a cup or spoon. Ask your health care provider or the hospital to show you how to do this or visit the International Breastfeeding Centre website section on cup feeding. There is also a video on cup feeding from the International Breastfeeding Centre which may also be helpful.

Sometimes a mother may be separated from her baby after the birth. Or your baby may not be able to breastfeed right away. In both cases, it is important to establish and maintain your milk supply. If your baby is not taking milk directly from your breast, you can establish your milk supply by hand expressing or pumping. It is important that you remove milk as many times as a baby would feed, at least 8 times in 24 hours.


Watch this video on how to express breast milk from Peel Public Health:

Watch this video from Global Health Media on How to Express Breastmilk.

In this video, Dr. Jane Morton teaches a mother about Hand Expression of Breastmilk.



Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.


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