Breastfeeding

Public Health Breastfeeding Services

We have virtual options that can help you breastfeed from the comfort of your own home. If you need assistance please check the following options:

  • One-on-one virtual support: our public health nurses are specially trained to help you with breastfeeding and are available for virtual support by phone or our secure video chat platform during regular clinic hours (8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday). Visit Public Health Breastfeeding Clinics to book your appointment.
  • Online e-course: visit our Online Prenatal Program page to enrol in the program for free. This platform features two e-courses to help you build the skills you need after your baby is born:
    • Understanding Breastfeeding 
    • Understanding Your Newborn

Breastfeeding

Breast milk has everything a baby needs and is the natural food for babies. The longer you breastfeed, the better it is for you and your baby! As your baby grows, breast milk changes to meet your baby's needs.

The World Health Organization, Health Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society agree:

  • Babies only need breast milk for the first six months
  • At six months, when baby is showing signs of readiness, age appropriate solid foods can be introduced
  • Continued breastfeeding for up to two years and longer is recommended

For common breastfeeding questions and concerns, check out our breastfeeding videos, and the Breastfeeding Your Baby booklet.

Getting the Best Start

Holding your baby skin to skin

Right after birth, ask your health care provider to help you place your baby in skin to skin contact with you. Skin to skin contact has many benefits and helps your baby get used to their new world. Skin to skin also has many benefits for breastfeeding:

  • Improves milk supply
  • Can help your baby find the breast and self-latch
  • Your baby may breastfeed sooner and longer
  • Can help your baby breastfeed when they are sleepy

Additional Resources:

Breastfeed early

Begin breastfeeding as early as possible after birth. Your baby is awake and ready to learn how to breastfeed during this time. Breastfeeding early helps to:

  • Increase oxytocin (an important hormone for mother's milk let-down, reducing stress, and controlling after birth bleeding)

  • Provide the newborn with drops of nutrient rich breast milk called colostrum

  • Tell your breasts to make more milk

In the early hours, some babies may only lick and smell the breast. Breastfeeding can take time for both you and your baby to learn. Ask your health care provider to help you get started with breastfeeding. 

You can learn how to hand express your milk and give your baby colostrum with a spoon. This is a great way to give your baby extra milk while you are both learning to breastfeed. Any amount of breast milk you provide is better than none at all. 

For more information about breastfeeding in the first hours, watch the Breastfeeding Early video.

Breastfeed often

Newborns have small stomachs and need to feed often to satisfy both their hunger and thirst.

In the first 2-3 days, your breasts will make small amounts of special milk called colostrum. Colostrum is important as it helps to boost your baby's immune system and provides them with all the nutrients they need in the first few days after birth, before your breasts begin to make lots of milk.

A young baby will need to feed a minimum of eight times in 24 hours and often will feed much more frequently than this, especially in the evening and at night.

The second or third night after birth, your baby may seem fussy, be awake most of the night and want to suck at the breast frequently. This can be called cluster feeding. This behaviour is normal and has many benefits for mother and baby. Because your breasts respond to your baby feeding, frequent feeding can help to tell your breasts to make lots of milk. 

Breastfeeding Basics

Feeding cues

You should not expect your baby to eat on a schedule. Every baby is different and needs to be fed when they show signs of hunger. Remember in the first few weeks these feeding cues may not be obvious and your baby may need to be woken up to breastfeed.

Signs your baby may be hungry 

  • Putting their hands in their mouth

  • Making sucking motions or sounds

  • Sticking out their tongue and licking

  • Turning their head and searching with an open mouth

  • Restlessness

  • Fussiness

  • Crying

  • Falling asleep

For more information, watch the Signs your baby is hungry video, and check these pictures of babies showing feeding cues

Signs your baby may be satisfied

  • Slows down or stops sucking

  • Closes the lips

  • Turns head away

  • Pushes nipple away

  • Takes more interest in surrounding things

All babies breastfeed at different speeds. When your baby begins to show signs of being satisfied, offer your baby more to see if they are interested. Your baby will let you know if he was just taking a break, or if they have had enough. 

For more information, watch the Signs your baby is full video.

Latching your baby

Babies are born to breastfeed! A good latch is key for a successful breastfeeding experience.

Signs of a good latch:

  • You hear a quiet "ka ka" sound

  • You see your baby sucking and swallowing

  • Your baby has a wide open mouth with lips curled out and their chin pressed into your breast

  • You feel your nipple being pulled with no pain

  • Your nipples look the same shape after a feeding and not pinched

  • Your baby is able to stay on the breast without slipping off

For more information on how to latch your baby successfully, watch the Latching your baby video.


Breaking the latch

If you feel pain or you want to take your baby off the breast, break the latch to avoid hurting your nipples.

  • Press down on your breast

  • Pull down your baby's chin

  • Insert your clean finger into the corner of your baby's mouth to break the latch

For more information on how to break the latch successfully, watch the Breaking the latch video.

Breastfeeding positions 

Good positioning is important for a good latch! There are many different positions you can try while breastfeeding. Pick the position that works best for you and your baby and allows your baby to have a deep latch and easy swallowing. In the beginning, while you and your baby are learning, you may feel most comfortable in a position that provides more support, such as in a chair or lying down. 

Tips to remember:

  • Your baby's chest and body is turned towards you ("tummy to mummy")

  • Your baby's head is slightly tilted back to get a deep latch, and be able to swallow and breathe easily

  • You are comfortable and relaxed; your back and arms are well supported

  • Your baby's whole body is supported and tucked in close to your body (avoid holding the back of their head) 

For more information, watch the Breastfeeding positions video.

Good drinking

In the first few weeks, your baby should be fed at least eight times in a 24 hour period. Some babies are very sleepy for the first couple of weeks and may not let you know that they are hungry. You should wake your baby until they:

  • Have regained their birth weight

  • Have 6-8 heavy wet diapers and 3-4 yellow stools each day

  • Wake for feedings on their own 

Once breastfeeding has been well established, feed whenever your baby shows signs of hunger.

One good way to know if your baby is well fed is by the number of wet and dirty diapers your baby has. See the Best Start Guidelines chart. 

Other signs your baby is getting enough milk:

  • Your baby has a loud cry and moves actively

  • Your baby's mouth is moist and pink

  • Your baby's eyes are alert

  • You can hear or see your baby swallowing (e.g. a quiet 'ka ka' sound)

  • Your breasts feel softer and less full after breastfeeding

  • Your baby comes off the breast looking satisfied

  • Your baby has a good latch with no nipple pain 

It is normal for babies to lose an average of seven per cent of their birth weight in the first three days after birth. Your baby should regain their birth weight by 10 -14 days of age.

If you are concerned about the amount of breast milk your baby is getting, contact your primary health care provider, breastfeeding supports or go to the Emergency Department at the hospital.

Get help right away if your baby is not showing signs of breastfeeding well or if:

  • Your baby is very hard to wake to feed

  • Your baby is crying and will not settle after feedings

  • Your nipples are sore and not getting better

  • You have a fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, or a red and painful area on your breast

Expressing breast milk

Sometimes, there are reasons to express breast milk such as:

  • Separation from your baby after birth

  • Softening engorged breasts that are too hard for your baby to latch on to

  • Stimulating your breasts to increase your milk supply

  • Going back to work or school

  • Medical reasons suggested by your doctor

You can express breast milk by hand or by using a pump. Most women are able to express breast milk by hand. It can take time to learn, but it becomes easier with practice.

For suggestions of the best way to express your breast milk, check the Expressing Breast Milk handout, and watch the Hand Expression video.

Additional Resources

Additional videos

Smoking and drinking alcohol while breastfeeding

Smoking and breastfeeding
Breast milk is the best choice for your baby even if you smoke. Nicotine passes into the breast milk so the safest choice is to not smoke at all.

If you smoke, try to minimize the effects of smoking on your baby by:

  • Breastfeeding before you smoke
  • Using a Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
  • Not smoking, or allowing others to smoke in the house, car or near the baby
  • Removing your smoking clothes and washing your hands before coming inside or holding your baby

If you need support to quit smoking, talk to your health care provider about Nicotine Replacement Therapy such as gum, lozenges or inhalers.

Alcohol and breastfeeding
Breast milk is still the best choice for your baby if you choose to have the occasional alcoholic drink. Alcohol passes into breast milk so the safest choice is to avoid drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. 

If you are going to have an occasional alcoholic drink:

  • Express and store breast milk before drinking alcohol
  • Breastfeed before you drink
  • Limit the amount to one standard drink
  • Wait three hours after having one standard drink before the next feeding at the breast

Breastfeeding the older child

Health Canada promotes breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or longer with additional feeding of solid foods when baby shows signs of being ready.

Continuing to breastfeed your child past six months of age allows you and your baby to spend special time together. It also continues to provide nutrition and protection from illnesses for your child, as well as comfort and security as they explore and learn new things. 

As your baby grows, breastfeeding behaviours can change. Your child may take less time to breastfeed, be more interested in things going on around them while they breastfeed, may choose different breastfeeding positions, or may hold your breast while feeding.

For more information about this, watch the Breastfeeding Your Older Baby video.

Breastfeeding and introducing solids

At six months of age, when your baby shows signs of being ready, you may offer solid foods to meet their nutritional needs. As you introduce new foods, continue to breastfeed. Your breast milk supply will change to meet your baby's needs as long as your baby continues to breastfeed. 

For more information, check the Feeding Your Baby Solid Foods page, and watch the Breastfeeding and Introducing Solids video.

Weaning

Weaning is a natural process when your child begins to eat solid foods other than breast milk. There is no best time or way to stop breastfeeding and it is different for every mother and child. Weaning is most successful when your child decides they are ready. 

At six months of age, when your child shows signs of being ready, you may start to offer other foods to meet their nutritional needs. As you introduce new foods, it is recommended that you continue to breastfeed.

There may be other reasons for weaning as well. If possible, try to avoid weaning quickly or weaning during a time of stress for your child (e.g. teething, illness, arrival of a new sibling, your returning to work).

Here are some ideas that can help while weaning:

  • Make small changes in your daily routine
  • Don't offer your breast, but allow your child to breastfeed if they want to
  • Offer distractions
  • Delay breastfeeding if you feel your child can wait

Breastfeeding supports in Waterloo Region

Breastfeeding Buddies Peer Support

Breastfeeding Buddies is a volunteer peer-based breastfeeding support program that aims to:

  • Support all families and parents wishing to feed their children human milk
  • Promote breastfeeding/chestfeeding by helping families meet their feeding goals
  • Create access to evidence-based information via our website and multi-language peer volunteer team
  • Offer community prenatal, breastfeeding, and parenting programs both in person and virtually
  • Practice an informed decision-making model that aligns with the World Health Organization commitment to child and maternal health
  • Empower parents as experts in their children’s lives through empathic, nonjudgmental support

For more information, to request a buddy, sign up for programs, or to become a volunteer, please visit the breastfeeding buddies website or call 519-772-1016

Me? Breastfeed?

This is a free workshop held monthly. At the workshop you will learn and discover:

  • About breastfeeding

  • How it can fit your lifestyle

  • How to breastfeed

All the instructors are mothers who have breastfed a baby and believe in breastfeeding.

These volunteers are part of the Breastfeeding Buddies Program at Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre. They have been trained by experts to help women with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding supports in Waterloo Region
Check the Breastfeeding Support in Waterloo Region list of services for more information on breastfeeding community supports.
Partner and family support

Research has shown that a partner's support is one of the most important factors in breastfeeding success. Your positive and supportive attitude will help make breastfeeding more successful.

For more information about partner and family support, check Partners Supporting Breastfeeding.

Region of Waterloo Public Health Breastfeeding Services Clinics

Public Health Breastfeeding Services is run by Public Health Nurses offering one-to-one breastfeeding assessments, advice and referrals to community supports free of charge.

Online Prenatal - breastfeeding training program

The Region of Waterloo Online Prenatal Program isn't just for pregnant mothers. In addition to pregnancy and birth programs, Online Prenatal offers two e-courses specially designed for new mothers and their support partners:

  • Understanding Breastfeeding - covers how breastfeeding works, when to feed your baby, getting enough milk, and breast care
  • Understanding Your Newborn - covers newborn traits, behaviours, crying and comforting, diapering, bathing, nail care, dressing, and health and safety

Register for this free program and learn more about yourself and your baby from the comfort of your home at your own pace.

If you have concerns about your baby’s health or breastfeeding prior to your appointment, please call your primary health care provider, Telehealth (1-866-797-0000) or go to Urgent Care or Emergency.

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