As soon as you can, put your newborn to your breast so your nipple becomes her first choice for feeding and comfort, says Joseph DiSanto, M.D., a pediatrician in Wilmington, DE. If you're unable to do this right away because of complications, make it clear to the hospital staff that you plan to nurse, so that they won't give her a bottle right away and you can work with them to establish breastfeeding when you and your baby can be together.
ROOM IN WITH YOUR NEWBORN
In the hospital, if she sleeps by your bed, you'll be able to begin nursing from the start.
EXPECT SOME DISCOMFORT
When your baby first latches on, you're going to feel some pain -- at least until you and your infant get the positioning right, typically after a few days, says Dr. DiSanto. If your nipples become sore, try applying expressed breast milk or a lanolin cream to them, exposing them to the air between feedings, and changing your baby's position at each feeding. Begin nursing on the least-sore breast -- that's the one your baby will suck on the hardest.
KNOW A HUNGRY BABY WHEN YOU SEE ONE
Don't wait until your infant wails uncontrollably to offer your breast. You'll get off to a better start by responding to subtle signs: she brings her hands to her mouth or holds them at her waist (not relaxed at her sides), sticks out her tongue, or "roots" for your breast.
TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS
Your baby just came out of a dark, muffled environment. She'll be happiest feeding under similar conditions. Bright lights will make her shut her eyes and perhaps fall asleep before she finishes nursing.
A newborn's stomach is small, and breast milk is easily digested, so it empties from the stomach in just a few hours. This means she'll need to eat 8 to 10 times in 24 hours -- about every 1 1/2 to 3 hours. Let her nurse for as long as she likes on each breast, to assure that she empties it -- this will stimulate ample milk production, so she'll be sated at every meal.