Breastfeeding Basics

Breastfeeding basics


Taking care of your breasts
  • When bathing, wash your nipples and breasts with water only. Soap can dry the skin.  
  • Dry your nipples gently after bathing, or let them air dry. Extra rubbing will not toughen your nipples. 
  • Glands in the areola, the darkened part around the nipples, make natural oils to keep your nipples soft and clean. Talk to your health care provider or lactation consultant before using any creams or ointments.
  • During the early days of breastfeeding/nursing, let colostrum or breast milk dry on your nipples. Expose your nipples to the air for several minutes after each feeding. 
  • Many women are more comfortable wearing a nursing bra even at night, as the breasts are larger and heavier. Choose one that fits well and has wide shoulder straps. Avoid plastic liners. 
  • Make sure your hands are clean when handling your breasts. 
Changes in breasts after delivery

After birth your breasts will go through several changes:

  • At first, your breasts will stay soft and will make colostrum. Colostrum is a clear yellow milk which is rich in protein. It helps protect your baby from infection. 
  • A creamy white milk will "come in" on the second to fourth day after delivery. For a few days, your breasts will feel full and heavier. Over the next few weeks, the milk turns to a bluish white colour. Your breasts will return to being soft and less heavy. This is normal and does not mean you are making less milk.
Stop milk from leaking from your breasts between feedings
  • Leaking is common when you are just starting to breastfeed/nurse. 
  • To stop the leaking put pressure on your nipple until the tingling feeling in your breast stops. Use your hands or forearms. 
  • You can use cotton or paper breast pads (without plastic backing) to absorb the milk. Change the breast pads whenever they are wet. 
Relieving hard breasts

Engorgement is when your breasts feel heavy, full and hard. It occurs when your milk is first coming in around three days after your baby is born. It may last 1 to 2 days. Engorgement can also happen later on if breastfeeding sessions are missed.

  • Feed your baby at least 8 times in 24 hours, and at least every 3 hours during the day. Continue night feedings.
  • Take a gentle, warm shower or put warm wet towels on your breasts to soften them and make you more comfortable. Do this before you breastfeed your baby, as needed. 
  • Gentle massage and hand expressing a small amount of milk may make it easier for your baby to latch on. 
  • Covered ice packs may provide comfort between feedings. 
  • You may have a breast infection or mastitis if you have a fever, flu-like symptoms and/or a reddened painful area on your breast.

    • Rest as much as possible
    • Breastfeed/nurse your baby frequently on the affected side
    • Put warm wet towels on your breasts
    • Call your health care provider within 6-8 hours, if symptoms do not go away. You may need an antibiotic.
    • Continue to breastfeed/nurse your baby frequently while you are on antibiotics
Sore nipples

Make sure your baby is well latched on the breast to avoid sore nipples.

  • Try different breastfeeding/nursing positions. 
  • Begin breastfeeding/nursing on the breast that is less sore first. 
  • Try breastfeeding/nursing more often. Feed your baby as soon as they are giving you signs that they are hungry. If pain continues or your baby does not let go of your breast at the end of the feeding, remove your baby from the breast. You can remove your baby by placing your little finger between your baby's gums to break the suction. 
  • Do not let your baby sleep at the breast.
  • Leave a small amount of milk on the nipple after feeding. 
  • Air-dry your nipples after breastfeeding/nursing. 
  • Talk to your health care provider or lactation consultant before using any nipple creams or ointments.
  • Change breast pads if they become wet. 
  • Have someone who is knowledgeable about breastfeeding watch you nurse your baby. A public health nurse or a lactation consultant can give you more information. Find out where you can get free breastfeeding/nursing support.

Avoid using nipple shields without talking to a breastfeeding expert. Their use may affect milk production.


Thrush is caused by yeast that grows in your baby's mouth and on your nipples. Symptoms can appear in you and your baby or only one or the other. You may have breast pain during and between feedings. You also may have itchy red nipples. It can appear as a white coating on your baby's tongue and white patches in their mouth. Your baby may also have a diaper rash.

  • See your health care provider. 
  • Both you and baby should always be treated at the same time. Follow-up if you or your baby's symptoms do not go away. 
Vitamin D for your baby

All babies need vitamin D in order to meet their nutritional needs. Health Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society recommend Vitamin D supplements for breastfeeding babies. The recommendation is that all exclusively breastfed, healthy term infants get a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU. Supplementation should begin at birth. Supplementation should continue until your breastfed baby reaches 2 years of age. 

For babies not exclusively breastfed, the recommendation for vitamin D supplementation will depend on the amount of formula your baby is getting. All infant formulas have vitamin D. Talk with your health care provider about your baby's vitamin D supplementation needs.

Do you have more questions about parenting?

  • Connect with a registered nurse from Health811 for free, secure, and confidential health advice. Service is available 24/7 in English and French, with translation support also offered in other languages. Call 8-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with a Community Navigator from 2-1-1 for information about community programs and resources across Eastern Ontario. Helpline service is available 24/7 and in many different languages. Call 2-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page.
  • There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa.
  • You can update your child's immunization record using either the CANImmunize App or the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) Tool
  • If you have received a message from Ottawa Public Health such as a letter or a call regarding immunization, an infectious disease, or infection control lapse, please call 613-580-6744 and listen to the menu options carefully.
September 2019

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