How to Properly Nurse an Infant – A Guide to Nursing Your Baby

Nursing an infant

Nursing is a beautiful thing. Immediately after your baby is born, it’s essential to start the breastfeeding process. This is important because it strengthens the mother-infant bond early on.

It is, however, mandatory that you know how to properly nurse your infant. While you may want to breastfeed, it is certainly alright (and recommended) to ask for assistance and learn the “how tos”.  Doing so can help alleviate things like risk of infection, ensuring they are getting enough milk, get a proper latch, and more.

Before you begin nursing, consider the following:

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
  • It’s important to wash your nipples and areolae at least once a day using plain water.
  • Hold your baby in a semi-recumbent position. The baby should be held on your arm, and the breast is held with both of the index and middle finger of the other hand.
  • Use both breasts, not only one.
  • Make sure you eructate your baby twice; at the middle of the session, and one more time right at the end.
  • After feeding is done, you should position your baby with his/her face on the side.

Latching the baby

Well, this part is never easy at the beginning, but you will get used to it after a few tries.

Improper latching is the most common cause of breast discomfort, so it’s really important for you to know how to latch well. The whole nipple should be in the baby’s mouth. Moreover, the baby’s mouth should completely cover both the nipple and the areola. This is important because when the baby sucks only on the nipples, you will almost certainly experience soreness and discomfort.

So, how do you get the right latch?

  • Hold your baby against you; face to breast and body to body.
  • Encourage your baby to open his/her mouth by moving your little finger right below the lower lip.
  • The rooting reflex is always your friend here. Sometimes, babies tend to turn their heads away from the breast so just slide your pinky finger right at the angle of his/her mouth which is on your side, and then he/she will turn their head right back at you. This is called the rooting reflex and it’s an indicator of the normal neurological functionality of the baby.
  • A proper latch has two important indicators:
  • The chin and tip of the nose are both touching the breast so that it feels deeply latched.
  • Both lips are flared outwards.
  • Lastly, observe the swallowing to make sure your baby is suckling not just emptily sucking on your nipples.

The Holds

The right hold is essential for the comfort of both of you and your baby. We highly suggest using a proper nursing pillow as it makes the process so much easier. Below are some common holds that you can practice and see which one works best:


With the baby’s ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line, hold your baby on your forearm and support the bottom with the other hand.


If you are still suffering from labor fatigue, or just had a Cesarean section, you will not be able to carry your baby at all. Just use a pillow to rest your arm on, place your baby between your body and your arm, and support the baby’s head with your hand to bring it to the breast.


This one is very helpful if you just want to rest while nursing your baby. You can lie on your side, just as if you were sleeping, and use the arm of the side you are laying on to support your baby’s head, and the other hand to hold your breast and bring it to your baby’s mouth.

Stages of breast milk

Breast milk goes through different stages and it is beneficial to be aware of them.


Shortly after birth, the breast starts to produce colostrum. This lasts for at least three days. It’s extremely important that you let your baby have that. The colostrum is an alkaline grayish-yellow and highly nutritive fluid that contains high amounts of protein and immunoglobulins.

Transitional milk

This is a midway between the colostrum and the mature milk. It’s yellowish-white in color and contains lower amounts of protein and immunoglobulins, but higher amounts of lactose, fat, other carbohydrates and calories.

Mature milk

By the end of the second week, the mature milk will have started to appear. This milk is thin and white, and it contains great amounts of so many different nutrients that are essential to babies.

Duration & Frequency

Initially, the time is 3 minutes per breast. You can increase that gradually up to 20 – 30 minutes for both, which means 10 – 15 per breast.

Babies are not usually born hungry. However, breastfeeding is best started as soon as both the mother and the baby are finished resting from the labor fatigue. This takes roughly 5 hours, give or take.

You should breastfeed your baby whenever they are hungry; not per a schedule. Furthermore, you should never leave your baby hungry until he/she cries. As soon as you notice any sign of hunger, it is the perfect time to begin nursing your baby. This is called the demand method.

Another method is called the scheduled method, in which you will nurse your baby around every 3 hours.

Normally, babies need to be nursed 8 – 12 times a day. By doing basic math, you will figure out that you need to nurse your baby every 2 or 3 hours. That means there is no major difference between the demand and the scheduled methods.

When Should You Feed?

As stated before, you shouldn’t wait until your baby cries, but instead look for signs of hunger:

  • Opening their mouth.
  • Nuzzling against the nearby breast.
  • Sucking on his/her own hand, your shirt or arm.
  • Making lip-smacking sounds.
  • Crying, which usually indicates extreme hunger.

Signs of Proper Nutrition


Dirty diapers are the most reliable indicators. You can assess the amount by counting the motions per 24 hours. Normally, they are around 8-12.


Another reliable indicator is weight. Babies normally gain 5-7 ounces per week. You should consult your pediatrician if you see this number being different, just to be safe.


This article was provided by Natalie Michele, who runs the maternity blog


*Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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