Successful Breastfeeding: A Comprehensive Guide

Successful Breastfeeding: A Comprehensive Guide

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Introducing a newborn baby into the world is one of life’s most beautiful experiences but there can be many challenges along the way! One of these is breastfeeding – societal pressure and expectations can have a huge impact on a mother’s attitude and approach to breastfeeding as well as her likelihood of continuing through difficult times.

Although breastfeeding can be a tricky process, it is incredibly important for both mother and child as it provides immense physical and psychological benefits.

This guide will provide:

  • 12 top tips for successful breastfeeding
  • An overview of different ways to support breastfeeding
  • Ten steps suggested by The World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Infant formula and artificial feeding
  • The International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes and WHO guidelines

12 top tips for successful breastfeeding

  1. Start breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth to establish a good latch and milk supply.
  2. Prepare yourself with all of the breastfeeding essential equipment you will need.
  3. Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and (where possible!) getting enough rest to support your milk production.
  4. Surround yourself with a supportive network of family and friends who can offer encouragement when needed.
  5. Don’t be afraid to give your baby a bottle (you can use expressed milk if you wish) if you have very sore nipples. Despite a commonly believed myth your baby will not instantly forget what to do and a few hours of healing will make breastfeeding much more enjoyable.
  6. If you can’t get to a breastfeeding class then get online. Check out YouTube or the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers for some videos.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling with breastfeeding – healthcare professionals and lactation consultants are there to support you. Breastfeeding is not supposed to be solitary and it really is something you need to learn. Ask for help as often as you need.
  8. Trust your instincts and remember that every mother and baby’s breastfeeding journey is unique – focus on what works best for you and your baby.
  9. Joining online breastfeeding communities and forums can provide a space for mothers to connect, share experiences and get advice from other mothers who have been through similar experiences.
  10. An old parenting myth says you should cover up when breastfeeding in public. You don’t have to! Don’t be nervous about breastfeeding in public – you will soon settle into it and you never know who you may inspire to breastfeed their baby if you normalize it.
  11. Try out different breast pumps – a little stored breast milk can be great as a back up in case you need to take a break from breastfeeding or you partner wants to help and give your baby a bottle. Read my post Pumping 101 For New Moms: Your Complete Guide to Breast Pumping
  12. Stay patient and persistent – breastfeeding can be challenging at first but will get easier with time and practice. Remember to never say ‘gave up’ breastfeeding. This will not be good for your morale and is not accurate. Instead say ‘tried a different approach’ or made a different choice for my baby’. Whatever decision you make will be the right one for your baby.

Different ways to support breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a unique journey and its success largely depends on the support a mother receives throughout the process. Overall, there are many different types of support available for women who want to successfully breastfeed their children which we will discuss here.

Healthcare professionals and lactation consultants

Support from healthcare professionals and lactation consultants is essential to ensure that mothers are receiving all the necessary information, guidance and assistance they need in order to achieve successful breastfeeding. Mothers need accurate advice and information on how to correctly latch a baby’s mouth onto the breast and handle potential issues or difficulties that might arise in the process. They should be available to discuss any medical issues that could potentially interfere with breastfeeding – such as medications prescribed by physicians.

Lactation consultants are also an invaluable source of help for breastfeeding mothers. They provide critical one-on-one assistance through home visits or consultations at hospitals or health care facilities, helping mothers understand how best to feed their babies and develop a strong bond between mother and child through breastfeeding. Lactation consultants can also provide advice on dealing with common challenges, such as tongue-tie or low milk supply, as well as helping mothers navigate difficult situations like returning to work while still breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding support groups

Community programs can also be very helpful when it comes to supporting breastfeeding mothers. These programs often offer educational classes on the basics of breastfeeding and more advanced topics related to properly caring for infants including topics such as skin-to-skin contact.


Many workplaces are now becoming more supportive of nursing moms by providing designated areas for them where they can feel comfortable while taking breaks in order to continue feeding their babies.

Support from a written Infant Feeding Policy in healthcare facilities

This can help ensure that staff are well informed and educated on the importance of breastfeeding, providing better chances for successful breastfeeding journeys.

Partner, family and friends

The mother’s partner, family and friends can also be a tremendous source of support for breastfeeding mothers. They can provide encouragement and practical help such as taking care of chores or running errands while the mother is busy with feeding. They can also provide emotional support and accompany mothers to breastfeeding support classes.

Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI)

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have developed the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), which is based on a set of Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. The guidance for BFHI emphasizes strategies to scale up to universal coverage designed to help healthcare facilities in every country implement an environment in which breastfeeding is supported and promoted.

WHO Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding

The World Health Organization (WHO), with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has laid out ten steps to support mothers addressing policy development, staff training and mother education in order to motivate facilities providing maternity and newborn services. Implementation guidance for the WHO’s ten steps to successful breastfeeding can be found in the newborn care published by the organization.

Step One

Have a written breastfeeding policy – All healthcare facilities providing maternity and newborn services should have a written policy outlining their commitment to promoting and protecting breastfeeding plus sufficient knowledge about breastfeeding and breast milk substitutes.

Step Two

Train all healthcare staff – Everyone who is involved in providing care for newborn infants at the facility should be properly trained on how to help mothers with breastfeeding. Health workers should counsel mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding and provide breastfed newborns with timely access to breastfeeding.

Step Three

Inform all pregnant women – Make sure to provide comprehensive information on the benefits and management of breastfeeding to all pregnant women.

Step Four

Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within an hour of birth – Encourage early skin-to-skin contact and support mothers to initiate breastfeeding immediately or as soon as possible after birth. To enable mothers to do this, key clinical practices and critical management procedures should be routinely communicated to health workers in newborn services worldwide. Ongoing support is also necessary to manage common difficulties and establish ongoing monitoring.

Step Five

Show mothers how to breastfeed – teach mothers proper latching techniques, positioning, frequency and duration for each feed.

Step Six

Give no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated – Breastmilk should be the only food or drink given to a breastfeeding infant unless medically indicated.

Step Seven

Practice rooming In – emphasize strategies to allow mothers and infants to remain together for 24 hours a day and coordinate discharge from birthing facilities.

Step Eight

Guide parents on how to respond promptly and supportively to babies’ feeding cues – Teach parents to respond appropriately to their baby’s cues and offer support as needed to maintain breastfeeding. Infants’ cues should also be closely monitored to ensure they are getting enough milk.

Step Nine

Bottles, teats and pacifiers – counsel mothers on the use of feeding bottles, teats and pacifiers.

Step Ten

Supportive breastfeeding management for all mothers – Provide ongoing support and assistance with breastfeeding management, including those who may have challenges such as preterm infants, women with disabilities, or unusual nipples.

The implementation of the ten steps impacts early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding rates, as well as the designation of “baby-friendly” facilities. These facilities provide more support for breastfeeding mothers and their infants, including counseling, early initiation, and coordination of discharge. To ensure sustainability, it is important that there is substantial evidence to support the effectiveness of these strategies. This guidance focuses on supporting mothers to initiate and maintain lactation, as well as providing ongoing support through support groups and data management systems.

Infant Formula and Artificial Feeding

Infant formula is a commercially prepared product that is designed to be a substitute for breastmilk. It is made up of a blend of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are intended to support healthy growth and development in infants. However, it is important to note that infant formula is not a perfect substitute for breastmilk and does not offer the same benefits as breastfeeding.

While there are many reasons why a mother may choose to use infant formula, it is important to understand that breastfeeding provides numerous health benefits to both mother and child. For example, breastmilk contains antibodies that help protect the baby from infections, while also reducing the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

In situations where breastfeeding is not possible or not medically indicated, health workers should provide infant formula and guidance on how to express milk. Health workers should also refer mothers to specialized support if needed, and ensure that infants are correctly latched onto the breast with their mouth and lips.

The International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes and WHO Guidelines

The International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes was created by the WHO in 1981, with the aim to protect and encourage breastfeeding while also regulating the marketing of breast milk substitutes. The code aims to ensure that mothers receive accurate and unbiased information about infant feeding and that breastmilk substitutes are marketed in a responsible manner. To this day the USA is one of the only countries not to sign this code.

The WHO also provides guidelines for infant feeding that recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods up to two years or beyond. The guidelines are intended to provide clear guidance on the benefits of breastfeeding and the best practices for supporting mothers who choose to breastfeed.


Academically, successful breastfeeding is when a mother breastfeeds her infant for the recommended duration of six months or more. It involves exclusive breastfeeding (no other liquids or solids) for the first six months, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to two years or beyond. However, the reality is that successful breastfeeding is defined by the mother – if she wants to nurse her baby for 6 weeks then switch to an alternative then that is a success for her. Another mother may wish to breastfeed for 6 months, a year, 2 years, however long – all breastfeeding journeys should be celebrated no matter how long or short.

A good breastfeeding session can last anything between 15 and 30 minutes on each breast, although it may be shorter or longer if the baby is sleepy. It is important to remember that some babies may want to feed more frequently than this. The total amount of time spent feeding in a 24-hour period will vary depending on the age and needs of the baby.

The frequency of breastfeeding will depend on the age and needs of the baby. In general, newborns may feed 8-12 times in 24 hours, while older babies may feed less frequently. It is important to remember that some babies may want to feed more or less than this.

Signs of good breastfeeding include: sucking rhythmically and efficiently; a soft and relaxed jaw; visible swallowing; audible swallows or gulps; milk dripping from the corner of the baby’s mouth. The baby may also appear content and satisfied after feeding. Additionally, mothers may experience a tingling sensation in their nipples during breastfeeding. This is an indication that the baby is properly latched and feeding effectively.


Breastfeeding is an important part of infant health and development, offering numerous benefits to both mother and child. While there may be situations where breastfeeding is not possible or medically necessary, it should always remain the preferred choice for nutrition in infants. To ensure successful breastfeeding outcomes, mothers need access to reliable information about how best to feed their babies as well as support from family members and healthcare providers.

If you are considering breastfeeding your child or would like more advice on how to do so successfully, reach out for help. With the right resources and guidance, you can make sure that your baby gets all of the nutritional benefits associated with breastmilk.

Overall, the promotion of breastfeeding and the implementation of the ten steps are critical in achieving universal coverage and improving newborn and infant health outcomes. Family members and the entire health care system have a role to play in supporting breastfeeding and ensuring its success in every country.

Final thoughts

Before you have a baby you will hear this phrase a lot:

Breastfeeding is hard.

But you are never really told what is hard about it!! Well it’s a combination of the mechanics of breastfeeding, the time commitment, the hormones, the fatigue it brings and, frankly, other people’s opinions! The truth is every breastfeeding journey is different (yep it’s different for every baby you have too!). Take each day at a time, give yourself a break and keep telling yourself this very important mantra:

Every decision you make for your baby is the right one. Happy mommy, happy baby.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful, frustrating, uplifting and exhausting part of motherhood! In my experience new mothers can feel pressure from friends, family and society to breastfeed their new baby – but the biggest pressure comes from themselves. Just remember – the main goal is to nourish your baby be that with breast or formula milk. Sometimes, with the best will in the world, we need to make a different decision from the vision we first had. It is absolutely ok to ask for help – it is a natural process but with a little coaching and proper support breastfeeding can be a lot easier!

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