Get your baby hooked on the breast as early as possible.

Get your baby used to breastfeeding as quickly as you can after she's born. Here are six things you can do in the hospital:

1. Put baby to your breast right after birth. Newborns are born with a suckling instinct that's strongest in the first hour of life. Taking advantage of this right away may make breastfeeding easier going forward.

2. Try nursing approximately every two hours, or whenever your baby cries. This will start your milk production and give both you and baby practice at latching on. Also, baby will get colostrum, a premilk liquid that's rich in immunity-boosting antibodies.

3. Enlist the help of a nurse or lactation consultant to "spot" you each time you feed. Once you leave the hospital you may not have so many experts at hand! Don't hesitate to ring the nurse-call button frequently to get assistance.

4. Take a breastfeeding class if it is offered. The cliche is that although breastfeeding is natural, it doesn't always come naturally -- and that's certainly true. Expert guidance and practicing in a class can help.

5. Don't accept formula if you want to breastfeed exclusively. While some moms like to stash it away "for emergencies," it's important to never supplement with formula in the early days while you're trying to build a strong milk supply. Breast milk production works on a supply-and-demand basis, and if baby is drinking formula, your body might not make enough milk. And just the sight of formula can undermine your confidence!

6. Go home with the phone number of someone you can call for help. You may feel you've mastered nursing in the hospital, then feel unsure of yourself once you're home. Ask if there's a nurse, lactation consultant, midwife, or hotline you can call with questions. It also doesn't hurt to make a list of mommy friends who have nursed successfully -- you can call them for tips, or ask one of them to come over and assist you on your first day home.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; La Leche League

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

American Baby