Breastfeeding 101

  • Breastfeeding 101 illustrates the basics in understanding breastfeeding.
  • Breastmilk changes over time to adapt to your baby’s changing nutritional needs.
  • Vary breastfeeding positions to avoid getting tired or uncomfortable.
  • Dirty diapers will change in color, texture and amount as your baby develops.
  • Skin-to-skin contact offers many benefits to Mom and baby.
  • Signs that your baby is getting enough breastmilk include: an expected steady weight gain and three or more dirty diapers a day.
  • A breastfeeding Mom uses about an extra 500 calories a day to keep up with the demands of producing milk.

When you have a basic understanding about the important qualities of breastmilk, breastfeeding and your breastfed baby will help you enjoy every moment, knowing that you’re nourishing and nurturing your baby in the best way possible. Here are some breastfeeding 101 important facts and helpful tips.

Breastmilk changes to expect
Understanding breastfeeding includes understanding the different stages of breastmilk. Colostrum, also referred to as "first milk," has more benefits than most people realize. After giving birth, your very first drops of colostrum are providing a boost to building a strong immune system for your baby. Each feeding over the next 3 to 5 days will be rich in proteins, vitamins, prebiotics and special fatty acids, especially suited for your newborn. Colostrum is a yellowish or creamy color and thicker than the “transitional milk”.

Colostrum turns into "transitional milk," which lasts about 2 weeks. It has more calories, fat, and vitamins to keep up with your baby’s evolving nutritional needs.

“Mature milk” is the final, ongoing milk that you will provide to your baby. It has higher water content for hydration, but with the right balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates needed for his growth. Breastmilk differs in the amount produced in each breast and the nutrient content adapts to what your baby needs.

Positioning pointers for breastfeeding
Planning ahead with a few comfortable positions will make breastfeeding more enjoyable for the both of you.

Here are some positioning pointers to consider:

  • Being left or right handed may influence the feeding positions you choose when holding your baby to breastfeed. This may mean you use different holding positions depending on which arm you use to support your baby. Holding with one arm may get tiring, so have a favorite and second position in mind to easily switch, if needed.
  • Comfortably seat yourself or lay down before getting your baby in position. This will allow him to start feeding right away without any awkward repositioning.
  • Your baby’s head should not be tucked down or too far back; these head positions make swallowing more difficult.
  • Position your baby for feeding when you see the first signs of hunger. If he’s ready to feed he is alert, calm and smacking his lips.  Don’t wait for him to fuss and cry.


Breastmilk has three distinct stages: first milk, transitional milk and mature milk. Each one provides the nutrition your baby needs, when he needs it.

Burping your breastfed baby
Though your breasts don’t have air in them, your baby may swallow air in the process of latching-on and off the breasts, or if he’s crying. Knowing when your baby is ready to burp is essential to understanding breastfeeding.

Here are a few burping tips:

  • Let your baby feed until he releases the breast then use that opportunity to see if he’s ready to burp.
  • It’s important to give your baby the opportunity to burp, but don’t be alarmed if he doesn’t. Breastfed babies swallow less air and so usually have less need to burp. 

Your breastfed baby's diapers

Breastmilk has natural properties that help produce regular stools and clear out the meconium, your newborn’s earliest stool resulting from what he ingested during pregnancy.

What to expect from you baby's dirty diapers:

  • The first 48 hours will produce tarry black stools. One stool within the first 24 hours then two stools the next day is typical.
  • By the third day, expect to change three stooled diapers or more each day.
  • Three or more yellow seedy stools, each day, during the first 4 to 6 weeks is a good sign of a well fed breastfed baby.

Skin-to-skin breastfeeding benefits
Skin-to-skin, also referred to as “kangaroo care,” is well recognized as being most beneficial for Mom and baby.

Here are some benefits of skin-to-skin breasfeeding:

  • Supports stabilizing your baby’s heart rate and body temperature.
  • Improves baby’s breathing pattern.
  • Improves his deep sleep time so he’s better rested and prepared for feedings.
  • Decreases your stress response and has a calming effect on you both.
  • Increases your milk supply.

Signs of a healthy breastfed baby
Not being able to measure how much your baby is eating may make you feel a little anxious. Just remember that you’re supporting his every nutritional need when you are breastfeeding.

Here are some signs of a healthy breastfed baby:

  • Feedings are comfortable for both of you. 
  • Your baby feeds eagerly but calmly.
  • After feeding, your baby has more relaxed arms and hands.
  • Your baby produces three or more dirty diapers each day for the first 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Your breasts will feel softened and less full after feedings.
  • Your baby's weight gain is at least ½ to 1 ounce each day for the first three months.

Keeping up your energy while breastfeeding 
Breastfeeding requires more energy from you. You’ll need about 500 extra calories each day to keep up with the demands of producing milk. Use those calories wisely by adding nutrient dense foods to your diet.

Quick healthy snacks for you might include:

  • Whole grain crackers with low fat cheese and sliced tomatoes or fresh fruit.
  • Low-fat yogurt or a fruit smoothie (add nuts, seeds or nut butter for more protein).
  • A hardboiled egg or half of a tuna salad sandwich.
  • A mix of almonds or walnuts and dried cherries or cranberries.
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