Dallas, Madison, Polk and Warren Counties in Iowa


Breastfeeding 101

Breastfeeding is natural, but don’t worry if it doesn’t come naturally. Here are some helpful tips for nursing your baby. Your WIC Peer Counselor can also offer support.

No matter what you eat your body will make perfect breast milk for your baby! It’s important that you eat a healthy diet to take care of yourself. 


Diet Tips

  • Eat a variety of foods. This will expose your baby to different flavors!
  • Eat to satisfy your hunger.
  • Drink when you are thirsty. You may notice you are thirstier than usual. You can drink caffeinated beverages in moderation.

Food Guidelines

  • Fruit: 2 cups per day
  • Vegetables: 2.5 to 3 cups per day 
  • Grains: 6 to 8 oz per day
  • Dairy: 3 cups per day
  • Protein: 5.5 to 6.5 oz per day

Fish has healthy fats that are good for you and your baby. 

  • Eat 8 to 12 oz a week of a variety of seafood that is low in mercury such as shrimp, salmon, tilapia, crab, catfish, canned light tuna, and lobster.
  • Limit to 6 oz a week of freshwater fish and albacore tuna.
  • Avoid eating swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel.

Latching takes practice! Be patient with yourself and your baby.

  • Hold your baby close, tummy to tummy.
  • Place your hand under your breast. Use your nipple to tickle baby’s nose and lips, and his mouth will open wide. Pull baby in toward you to get a good, deep latch.
  • Baby’s chin should be touching your breast and his nose will tilt back. Baby’s mouth will be wide open, both lips flanged out. Listen for swallowing sounds.
  • You will feel comfortable and have no pain. If it’s painful, break the suction with your finger and start over.

The reclining, or laid-back, position is a good way to start breastfeeding. As feeding your baby gets easier, you can try other positions too. Make sure baby’s tummy is turned toward you. Pillows can help you get comfortable.










Skin-to-skin contact is important for babies of any age, and for their parents! It can soothe and stabilize your baby, and it helps create a strong bond. 

The first feeding

Holding your baby skin to skin in her first hour of life will help her start to breastfeed.

  • Use a reclining position and place baby on your bare chest. Cover her lightly with a blanket.
  • Enjoy this time with your baby—talk to her, touch her, make eye contact.
  • Relax and be patient while baby explores and learns how to latch onto the nipple.

Hand expression, or removing breast milk with your hand, can be a useful tool. Hand expression can help to relieve breast fullness (to make it easier for baby to latch), can increase milk supply, and can be used to provide breast milk to a baby. 

There are many different techniques to hand express. There is no right or wrong way,  so you may need to experiment to find out what way works best for you.

Steps for hand expression

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Use a clean container with a wide opening (such as a cup) or a spoon.
  3. Before expressing, take some time to gently massage the breasts with your hands, a soft brush, or a warm towel. Take a few deep breaths and relax (this will help your milk start to flow). Make sure you are in a comfortable position.
  4. Place your thumb on top of the breast and place your fingers below the breast in a C shape, about 1-2 inches away from your nipple. Apply steady pressure towards your ribs and gently squeeze a few times. If no milk comes, try moving your thumb and fingers either farther away or closer to the nipple and try again. (It may take a few minutes before the milk starts to flow—go back to step 3 if you are having a hard time getting your milk to flow).
  5. When the milk starts to flow, repeat the process of pressing towards your ribs, compressing your thumb and fingers, and releasing in a gentle rhythmic way.
  6. When milk no longer flows, move your thumb and fingers to a new location and repeat the process.
  7. Some find it helpful to switch breasts every few minutes.
  8. Continue expressing until all areas of the breasts are expressed and feel soft.

If hand expression is painful or uncomfortable, you may be compressing too hard. Try gentle compression. Also try to avoid sliding your fingers along the skin or squeezing the nipple because that can be painful.

Here is a video of one technique for hand expression. 

Hand expression gets easier with practice. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to get much milk out the first time you try. Experiment with different techniques—it will get easier with time. Contact WIC if you would like more suggestions. We are happy to help you!

Many parents worry if their baby is getting enough breast milk. Weight gain is the best way to tell if your baby is getting enough breast milk. Counting wet and dirty diapers can also be helpful. 

Signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk

  • Weight Gain*
  • 0-4 months: 5.5 to 8.5 ounces per week
  • 4-6 months: 3.25 to 4.5 ounces per week
  • 6-12 months: 1.75 to 2.75 ounces per week
  • Dirty diapers Expect 3-4 stools daily (at least the size of a quarter) after the first 3 days. After 4-6 weeks, some babies stool less often. As long as baby is gaining weight well, it isn’t a sign that you don’t have enough milk.
  • Wet diapers Expect at least 5-6 wet diapers every 24 hours after the first 5 days.

* Some weight loss (5-7%) during the first 3-4 days after birth is normal. A baby should regain back to their birth weight by 10-14 days. If you have concerns about the amount of weight your baby is losing, connect with a lactation consultant.

How do you know if breastfeeding is going well?

  • Can you hear your baby swallowing when nursing?
  • Is your baby latching well (not painful for you)?
  • Does your baby seem satisfied after breastfeeding?
  • Do your breasts feel full before feedings? Do they feel softer after breastfeeding? (It’s normal for breasts to feel softer after the first few weeks of breastfeeding.)
  • Do you breastfeed whenever your baby shows hunger cues?
  • Do you let your baby finish the feeding (letting your baby nurse as long as he wants rather than stopping him)?
  • Does your baby nurse at least 8-12 times in 24 hours?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are doing great! If you answered no, contact WIC and we can help!