Breastfeeding A to Z

Learning to Breastfeed Your Baby

Learning to feed your baby may be like the line from the movie Forrest Gump where he says:

My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. (1)

Your baby could arrive knowing exactly how to breastfeed and not need much help from you. However, your baby may have more difficulty learning their job depending on medications and other conditions surrounding their arrival. Babies learn at different rates from a brother or sister, or other baby you know. That’s why a baby’s development is in stages and ranges, not an exact date.

Your baby’s first job is to latch on. Those who help you at delivery will be able to assist you with latching on. Again, your baby may have no trouble doing this on their own or you may want some help. Know that you can ask or make sure whoever is with you at delivery knows you want to breastfeed as soon as possible after you deliver and they can ask for help for you.

Dr. Jack Newman says it best:

Most importantly, you and your baby should be able to have skin-to-skin contact until baby is ready to breastfeed. Your baby will find their way to the breast when they are ready and then you can help them if they need it. Remain together skin-to-skin until your baby latches on without pressure or time limits. (2)

Your baby’s first experience with eating can be everything from just hanging out at the breast, licking or nuzzling, to what you think of as a feeding—coordinating their sucking, swallowing and breathing and eating. Whatever your baby does, it is important to give them time at the breast. For roughly 2 hours after delivery, your baby will be in a quiet alert state. For the next 18-22 hours, they will have periods of light and deep sleep. (3)(4) After that initial sleepy period, they will be more wakeful and their interest in eating will increase.


  1. Forrest Gump, Zemeckis, R, Paramount Pictures, 1994, Film.
  2. Newman, J, Pitman, T, The Latch and other Keys to Breastfeeding Success, Amarillo, TX, Hale Publishing, 2006, pp 21, 28, 152, 161-163.
  3. Wambach, K, Riordan, J, Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 5th edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2016, pp 230-31, 234, 242. Note: publishing dates says 2016.
  4. Mannel, R, Marten, PJ, Walker, M, Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, 3rd edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013, p 501.