You can meet your breastfeeding success with a little planning, support, patience and these checklists!

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that infants only breastfeed or consume breastmilk for the first 6 months of life. These same experts also encourage you to nurse your baby for at least her 1st  year and into her 2nd  year and beyond, as you both desire.

Breastfeeding is normal and natural yet you may face challenges along the way. Use these breastfeeding success strategies and recommendations to achieve the nursing you desire with baby.

During Pregnancy

Talk to your family and friends about your breastfeeding success plan; ask for their support with your other children, housework, meals, and by encouraging you. Join an online breastfeeding support group; find nursing moms through Women’s, Infants & Children’s (WIC) programs, La Leche League or a local hospital.

Talk with your nurses at your healthcare provider’s office. Ask their advice on breastfeeding success, including finding a breastfeeding class, a nursing support group, and a breastfeeding friendly healthcare provider for baby.

Take a breastfeeding class; ask how you’ll be supported to start and continue breastfeeding where you plan to birth. Ask about your hospital’s policies on beginning breastfeeding at birth including cesarean birth, and on “rooming-in” or keeping baby in your room instead of in a nursery.

Choose a “Baby-Friendly” designated birthing center or hospital, which means healthcare providers there are committed to helping moms and babies with breastfeeding success.

Get familiar with your changing breasts. You may start making your first milk, colostrum, as early as 16 weeks. Learn how to express your milk by hand. If you’re concerned about having flat or inverted nipples, have a history of breast surgery, or take medications, meet with your provider or a Certified Lactation Consultant to make a plan for nursing your baby.

Check your health insurance benefits to see what’s covered to support breastfeeding; register for nursing supplies before any baby showers you may have. Many plans cover breast pumps, milk storage bags, bottles and other supplies.

At Baby’s Birth

  • Learn about breastfeeding and find other moms who share your goals
  • Talk to your partner and family about your goals
  • Talk to your healthcare providers and birthing center staff
  • Take a breastfeeding class
  • Shop for nursing bras, tops, pumps, milk storage bags and supplies
  • Plan to pack a breastfeeding positioning pillow, nursing cover, nursing bras and shirts, breast pads, and nipple cream for the hospital

At Baby’s Birth

When your baby is born, hold him skin-to-skin right away; your partner can do this too when you’re relaxing. Ongoing skin-to-skin care is the perfect way to start and sustain breastfeeding.

If your baby hasn’t had many medications through labor and birth, he’ll likely be born awake, alert and ready to feed in that first “golden hour.” Holding baby skin-to-skin keeps him warm, helps him hear your heartbeat, feel your breathing, and smell the milk. Ask your nurses to delay weights, measurements, and medications until after baby’s first feeding or for at least the first hour after birth.

When you’re tired and need to rest, the safest place for baby is in his bassinet beside your bed. Rooming-in will help you stay close to learn when he’s hungry; you’ll learn his hunger clues so that you can respond to his needs.

Feed baby every time he seems hungry, and allow him to remain at the breast for as long as he desires—many babies often fall asleep at the breast and there’s no need to wake them. Just hold them close, keep them warm, and snuggle.

During the earliest days, your baby needs to nurse about 8-12 times every 24 hours. You may even need to rouse baby if he’s slept more than 3-4 hours without waking to feed.

Your nurses will help you find comfortable nursing positions, particularly if you’re also recovering from cesarean. The best position is the one that feels best to both you and your baby. Help baby into position, watch for a deep latch with a tugging feeling at your breast. Ask your nurses to watch baby latch and begin to feed; they want to help you get the best possible start and are eager to share their expertise.

Delay a pacifier for 3-4 weeks; this lets baby learn how to breastfeed and helps your milk come in. If you’re separated from your baby for any reason, support your milk supply by expressing your milk with your hands or a breast pump as regularly as baby was nursing at the breast.

Begin Breastfeeding at Birth For Breastfeeding Success

  • Breastfeed as soon as possible after birth, including cesarean birth
  • Keep your baby close to you, holding her skin-to-skin and rooming-in
  • Breastfeed frequently—every 2-3 hours
  • Learn baby’s hunger signs and cues
  • Ask your nurses and breastfeeding specialists for help and information
  • Try different nursing positions
  • Delay pacifiers and bottles until breastfeeding seems natural to you and baby

Sustaining Nursing

Getting through the first few days and weeks can be tough. You will be tired, have visitors, and adjusting to new routines. Your breasts are suddenly full and your baby’s eating patterns may change. You may question whether you have enough milk, or if you should begin pumping because you have so much. Breasts can get tender and nipples sore.

This is the time to call on your support system! Partners can burp your baby, change diapers, and make sure you have plenty of food, water, and rest. Keep a feeding and diaper log. Follow your baby’s hunger signs and allow her to regulate your milk supply through her nursing. Talk to other moms online or call your nurse or a breastfeeding specialist.

You will want to get out of the house, so do! Breastfeeding is convenient on the go. Your breastmilk is always the perfect temperature and you don’t have to worry about extra supplies or pumping.

Most experts recommend waiting 3-4 weeks before pumping regularly to ensure baby has the hang of breastfeeding. If you’re returning to work or school, plan to take pumping breaks throughout the day and know your rights regarding these breaks. State and federal laws exist to protect nursing moms. Plan for a place to store your milk and clean your supplies.

At Home & Beyond

  • Accept help from loved ones
  • Continue to breastfeed on demand
  • Keep a feeding and diaper journal
  • Allow baby to regulate your milk supply
  • Gather with other nursing mothers for support
  • Use nursing covers or tops at your preference to nurse in public
  • Ask about medication and birth control

Ask Our Nurses: How Do I Prepare For Breastfeeding


The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) promotes the health of women and newborns.

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