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Learning to breastfeed

Breastfeeding is a skill that both you and your baby will need time to learn.

Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both you and your baby. It gives everything baby needs to develop and thrive. It's also always the right temperature, convenient and free.

Breastfeeding helps to develop a strong bond between you and your baby.

We have breastfeeding services to help you get started feeding your baby. Our services include clinics, telephone, peer support as well as in-class or online prenatal classes.

We can also help if you are deciding how to feed your baby.

Why breastfeed

Breast milk changes to meet your baby's needs as they grow. It's the only food your baby needs for the first 6 months.

For baby

For mom

Breastfeeding can help prevent pregnancy after birth if:

This type of birth control is called Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) and can be useful in preventing pregnancy if used effectively. Call us at 905-799-7700 to discuss this method with a Public Health Nurse.

Breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding is a human right in Ontario. According to the Ontario Human Rights Code, women are legally protected from discrimination and harassment related to breastfeeding.

You have a right to breastfeed your child in any public area.

Getting support from your partner

It's important that partners get time together with their baby early on to help create a special bond.

Involving partners from the start has a positive impact on your baby's overall health.

How partners can help:

Other information

Colostrum is the first milk your breasts make and it's very important for your baby. Colostrum comes in small amounts, about 1 to 2 teaspoons each feeding. This is all the milk your baby needs until the mature milk comes in after the first few days.

Colostrum is:

  • Full of nutrients and antibodies to help protect your baby from infections.
  • Easy to digest.
  • Helps baby pass the first sticky black stool called meconium.
  • Ideal for baby's small tummy in the first few days.

Your breasts will begin to feel fuller as colostrum is changing into mature milk. You may find it helpful to remove milk by hand in addition to breastfeeding your baby. Learn about expressing breast milk.

Your baby will need to feed a lot in the early days. Breastfeed 8 or more times in 24 hours. This will help your body make enough milk for your baby.

It's normal for your baby to feed more often at night during the first few days. You may need to gently wake your baby to feed.

Some signs your baby is ready to eat

  • opens mouth and searches for your breast
  • licking lips
  • bringing hands to mouth
  • making soft sounds
  • crying is a late sign of hunger

Babies may have several feedings in a row within a 3 or 4 hour period. This frequent feeding helps your body make the right amount of milk for your baby.

Watch our video about breastfeeding in the first hours.

Did you have a caesarean birth? Watch breastfeeding your baby after a caesarean birth.

Sleepy babies

Some babies may be sleepy in the first week of life and this may be related to jaundice or medications given to mom during birth.

How do I keep my baby awake at the breast?

  • Undress your baby leaving only their diaper on.
  • Change your baby's diaper.
  • Tickle their hands, ears or feet.
  • Switch your baby to your other breast.

Breast compression

Try to gently squeeze and hold your breast when your baby's sucking slows down. This is called compressing your breast. Compressing your breasts helps your milk to flow while your baby is still latched.

Releasing the compression after your baby stops sucking helps to bring more milk to baby. Wait a few seconds and your baby may start sucking again. If not, compress your breast again.

Continue with breast compressions until your baby is full. Switch your baby to your other breast when compressions are no longer effective.

Watch the following video for more information about what to do when your baby is too sleepy to breastfeed.

In the early weeks you might wonder if your baby is getting enough milk. Most women have more than enough breast milk to feed their baby.

There are some signs you can look for to tell if breastfeeding is going well, including:

  • As your baby starts to feed, they will suck quickly to make your milk flow.
  • You will notice slow, deep sucks as your baby begins to drink.
  • Your baby's swallows will sound like a soft "kuh kuh".
  • You feel baby pulling on your breast without pain.
  • Your breasts feel softer after feeding.
  • Your baby is satisfied and settled between most feeds.
  • Your baby is having the right amount of wet and dirty diapers (stools). The following charts can be used as a guide.

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Baby's age (first week)

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5 and older

Breastfeeding frequency

On demand or 8 or more times every 24 hours

Wet diapers (Pees)

1 or more wet

2 or more wet

3 or more wet

4 or more wet

6 or more wet

Number and colour of stools (poos)

1 or 2 black or dark green

at least 3 brown, green or yellow

at least 3 large yellow

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Baby's age 2 weeks to 3 months 3-6 months 6-12 months
Breastfeeding frequency

On demand or 8 or more times every 24 hours

On demand

On demand with addition of other foods

Wet diapers (pees)

6 or more wet diapers every 24 hours

6 or more wet diapers every 24 hours

6 or more wet diapers every 24 hours

Number and colour of stools (poos) 3 or more soft, yellow stool every 24 hours. May be less after the first month. After 6 weeks old, some breastfed babies may have 1 soft large stool every 1-7 days. This is normal. Soft, yellow stools. There may be several every day or as little as 1 large yellow stool every 1-7 days.
This is normal.
Soft stools. Colour may change. There may be several every day or as little 1 large stool every 1-7 days.This is normal.

During growth spurts, your baby will grow quickly and want to breastfeed more often than usual. This may happen around 7-10 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months of age. The more you feed your baby, the more milk you will make!

Get help if:

  • You are having difficulty latching your baby to your breast.
  • Your baby is not having enough wet or dirty diapers
  • Your baby is not gaining weight after the first few days, is gaining weight slowly or has not regained their birth weight by 10-14 days.
  • You are concerned about your baby's feedings or your breast milk supply.
  • Your nipples are sore or breastfeeding is painful.
  • You notice a red, tender, hot area on your breast.

See our latching page for more information about managing nipple or breast pain.

If you are concerned, we're here to help. Learn about our breastfeeding services.

Vitamin D is needed to help your baby meet their nutritional needs. Babies that are fed breast milk need 400 IU of liquid vitamin D once a day from birth until age 2 years of age.

Infant formula has vitamin D added to it. If you are feeding your baby any infant formula, the amount of liquid vitamin D needed will depend on how much formula your baby is drinking. Use the following table to know how much vitamin D to give your baby each day.

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What your baby drinks each day Amount of vitamin D to give each day
Only breast milk

400 IU
Less than 500 ml of infant formula 400 IU
Between 500 to 1000 ml of infant formula 200 IU
1000 ml or more of infant formula No additional vitamin D is needed

Start giving your baby vitamin D within the first few days after birth.

Keep giving your baby liquid vitamin D each day until:

  • Your baby's diet includes the right amount of vitamin D from other foods and drinks, such as infant formula, cow's milk, fish, eggs, or fortified yogurt, or
  • Your baby is 2 years old, unless advised by your doctor.

You can talk to your pharmacist if you aren't sure what type of liquid vitamin D to buy.

If you have questions about vitamin D, call Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700.

For the first 6 months your baby only needs breast milk. Once your baby starts solid foods you can still give breast milk along with other foods for 2 years and beyond.

Babies will often naturally breastfeed less when you start solids. This approach allows your baby to set the pace.

You can choose to continue breastfeeding when returning to work or school. There are resources to help you continue breastfeeding when returning to work or school. You can express your milk for your baby at work and keep breastfeeding sessions as a special time together at the beginning and end of each day.

Whenever you decide to stop breastfeeding, it's best to do it slowly. Stopping breastfeeding suddenly can cause engorgement, blocked ducts of mastitis. See our latching page for more information about managing nipple or breast pain.

How to stop breastfeeding

  • Take away 1 feeding at a time.
  • Start with the feeding that your baby will miss the least. Early morning and bedtime feedings are often the hardest to wean.
  • If your baby is breastfeeding frequently, try taking away 1 feeding every few days or weeks. This will give your breasts time to adjust to reduce the milk you produce.
  • Shorten the length of feedings or only offer 1 breast at each feeding.
  • Change the location and time of the feeding.
  • If stopping after 6 months, offer something other than breast milk such as a favourite food or toy. If may be helpful to have someone other than mom offer these things to your baby.
  • If your child is older, delay the feedings, ask them to "wait until we get home" or "until after we read a story".

We can help you plan for weaning your baby, see our breastfeeding services page.