Steps to getting started and guidelines for the first 48 hours.

Your own milk provides nutrients to help your baby grow and antibodies to protect your baby from infections and diseases.

Breast/Chest milk is:

  • Easy for your baby to digest
  • Always at the right temperature
  • Easy to provide
  • Always handy
  • Adaptable and changes as your baby grows
  • Free

The World Health Organization recommends that no other foods besides breast/chest milk be given to your baby until approximately six months of age.

With the addition of nutritious, complementary table foods, continue to breastfeed/chestfeed until your baby is two years old and beyond.

Breast/chestfeeding and your rights

British Columbia has the BC Human Rights Code to protect and promote human rights. The right to breast/chestfeed in public is protected under this law. If a parent is told they cannot breast/chestfeed in public, this means that they can file a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal and request compensation for any harms.

Download and print your own Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding Rights Card or grab one next time you visit one of our health units.

Tips to getting a good start with breastfeeding/chestfeeding

Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding is natural but not always easy at first.

  • Get skin-to-skin soon after birth. Most babies will show readiness to breastfeed/chestfeed within the first 60 minutes after birth.
  • Later on, have baby dressed only in a diaper, skin-to-skin and place between breasts/chest.
  • Give baby time to find your breast/chest. Help by keeping baby tucked in close to you.
  • If you wish, help the baby to your breast/chest, skin-to-skin, tummy-to-mommy, nose-to-nipple (babies smell their way onto the breast). Pillows may help.
  • Support baby’s shoulders and neck. The lower cheek can rest on your fingers.
  • Support your breast/chest. Keep fingers behind areola (the round, darker area around your nipple) and thumb across from baby’s nose.
  • Have baby’s lips and chin touching breast/chest below nipple. In this position, baby should tilt their head back in drinking position.
  • Wait for baby to open mouth wide, like a yawn.
  • Bring baby close to you onto your breast/chest. Use your thumb to guide your nipple deep into the back of your baby’s mouth where milk will flow more easily.
  • Have baby's chin buried in breast/chest.
  • Make sure you are in a comfortable position and your baby has a good latch on your breast/chest.

Latch and positioning

A good latch is important for successful breastfeeding/chestfeeding. A poor latch can cause sore nipples, a hungry baby and a smaller milk supply. Remove baby from the breast/chest by gently placing a finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the suction and start again. Watch a video on getting a good latch and signs of a well-latched baby.

Finding an easy, relaxed position for you and your baby is important. It might take some time for you to get comfortable trying different ways to breastfeed/chestfeed. See a video and diagrams of different positions.

Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding in the first few weeks

  • Review breastfeeding/chestfeeding with your nurse in the hospital and then with your public health nurse within 24-48 hours after arriving home (call sooner if problems occur).
  • Listen for sounds of your baby swallowing (a soft “kaah” sound after sucking).
  • Watch your baby for feeding cues. They may put a hand to their mouth, lick their lips, move their head back and forth or suck their fingers. Eventually they might cry. Crying is a late feeding cue so try to feed your baby before they get upset. If you are not confident about watching your baby’s cues at first, follow the general guidelines below.
  • Keep track of diaper changes and feedings (at least eight or more times a day).
  • Actively feeding until satiated can take 20-50 minutes.
  • Try compressing (gently squeezing and milking) your breast/chest while feeding, to keep the baby sucking.
  • If your baby is alert for feeds, let baby stay on one side until breast/chest feels “drained” before switching to the other side. As milk increases, a baby may just need one breast/chest.
  • If baby is sleepy, try to rouse by removing from the breast/chest, talking to the baby, stroking the baby or changing the diaper. Try skin-to-skin, return to the breast/chest and use breast/chest compressions.
  • Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding patterns and breast/chest fullness change over time - this is normal.

General guidelines

Time period 



Wet Diapers

First 24 hours 

Some babies latch and suck well. Some may not. If your baby doesn't latch, begin to hand express your breast/chest milk.

At least one black (meconium)

At least one wet diaper

24-48 hours 

Breastfeed/Chest feed often (every one to three hours from the beginning of one feed to the beginning of the next).

At least one black to dark-green (transitional)

Two wet diapers; some orange staining is OK in the first two days.

After 48 hours

Breastfeed/Chest feed at least eight times in 24 hours (about every one to three hours, both day and night). Wake your baby if it has been four hours since the last feed.

An average feed can be 20-50 minutes. At times your baby may cluster a few short feeds together, or feed for an hour.

At least two dark-green changing to yellow, seedy poops in 24 hours (the size of a loonie coin)

At least three wet diapers on day three; four on day four; five on day five; and six+ from day six onward.