PSU Medical Minute: Simple Steps to Breastfeeding Support

The birth of a baby is the birth of a new family. Having a new baby is an exciting time for everyone in the family. Most families agree that breastfeeding gives a new baby the best start in life with health benefits that last a lifetime. New mothers and fathers often look to friends and family for support and encouragement with breastfeeding.

There are several simple steps that expectant and new mothers and fathers can take toward breastfeeding success. Learn all you can about breastfeeding before the baby is born. Take a breastfeeding class or seek accurate information at Web sites such as or Tell your family and friends that you will be breastfeeding.

Hold your baby skin-to-skin for the first hours after birth. This helps your baby to adjust to the outside world and to use instincts to begin breastfeeding. Ask your bedside nurse for assistance in learning your baby’s feeding cues. Rooming-in with their baby allows new mothers to feed when the baby shows signs of hunger.

New families are often overwhelmed with visitors. Family members can assist by reminding everyone that the new mother, dad and baby need some time alone. Encourage everyone to limit their visits and phone calls.

Avoid the use of supplements, pacifiers or bottles unless there is a medical reason given by your doctor. Ask for help with any questions or concerns. Many hospitals have International Board Certified Lactation Consultant on staff to help new families with breastfeeding. Some maternity units have other health care providers with specialized training to assist and support breastfeeding families. A directory of consultants also can be used to locate someone in your community (

After discharge from the hospital, continue to exclusively breastfeed for at least six months. Even after starting solid foods, babies continue to enjoy and benefit from breastfeeding. Many families continue breastfeeding for at least a year and beyond.

Combining return to work and breastfeeding can be challenging but rewarding. Talk with your employer about bringing your infant to work, flexing your work schedule or expressing your milk while at work. Providing breastmilk for your baby while at work continues that special connection.

Breastfeeding provides a lifetime of health benefits to babies. To increase awareness of the protective role of breastfeeding, each year the international community celebrates World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7. This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding: Ten Steps: The Baby Friendly Way,” focuses on the vital role that health care facilities play in the establishment of breastfeeding. The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding provide a supportive pathway enabling women to achieve their breastfeeding intentions and guiding the training of healthcare workers in breastfeeding support. Visit for information.

Adapted from the ILCA World Breastfeeding Action Kit

Barbara A. Shocker R.N., M.Ed., .I.B.C.L.C., breastfeeding resource program, Penn State Hershey Women’s Health, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

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