When to start breastfeeding: Timing is everything

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and beneficial things a mother can do for her baby’s health. It not only provides essential nutrients for growth and development but also strengthens the mother-child bond. However, the question of when to start breastfeeding is a topic of debate among new mothers. There are conflicting recommendations and opinions regarding this crucial decision. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the factors that affect the timing of breastfeeding.

Factors that Influence When to Start Breastfeeding

Birth Plan and Delivery

The timing of breastfeeding depends on various factors, including the mother’s birth plan and delivery. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of delivery to facilitate skin-to-skin contact and encourage the baby’s natural suckling reflex. Besides, initiating breastfeeding immediately helps reduce the risk of postpartum bleeding and promotes the secretion of colostrum, the first milk produced by the mother’s body.

However, in some cases, such as cesarean deliveries or complicated deliveries, the baby might need medical attention, and the mother may not be in the best state to breastfeed immediately. In such situations, the medical team will ensure that the baby is safe and stable before encouraging breastfeeding.

Mother and Baby’s Health

The mother and baby’s health status is a critical factor in determining the timing of breastfeeding. If the baby is born premature or with health complications, their ability to breastfeed might be affected. In such cases, the medical team will assess the baby’s ability to suckle and provide assistance if necessary.

Additionally, the mother’s health status can also affect breastfeeding initiation. If the mother has undergone surgery or is taking certain medications, it could affect her milk production or milk’s quality, and therefore, delay breastfeeding initiation. In such cases, it is best to consult with a lactation expert.

Mother and Baby Readiness

The mother and baby’s willingness and readiness to breastfeed are also essential factors in initiating breastfeeding. Some mothers might need some time to recover from delivery and rest before breastfeeding. Similarly, some babies might need some time to adjust to their new surroundings before they start breastfeeding. Patience and supportive care can help ease the breastfeeding initiation process.

Benefits of Early Breastfeeding

Initiating breastfeeding early has several benefits for both the mother and baby. Some of these benefits include:

  • Promoting skin-to-skin contact, which helps regulate the baby’s body temperature and breathing rate.
  • Stimulating milk production and promoting the secretion of colostrum, which is rich in antibodies and essential nutrients for the baby’s immunity and brain development.
  • Reducing the risk of postpartum bleeding and improving uterine contractions, which helps the mother recover from delivery.
  • Strengthening the mother-child bond and reducing maternal stress and anxiety levels.

When to Delay Breastfeeding

In some situations, the medical team might advise delaying breastfeeding initiation for the baby’s health and well-being. These situations include:

  • If the baby needs medical attention or resuscitation immediately after delivery.
  • If the mother is undergoing treatment for specific medical conditions, such as HIV, hepatitis B, or tuberculosis.
  • If the mother has undergone surgery that could affect the milk production or quality.

In such cases, alternative options, such as pumping and feeding the baby with expressed milk, could be considered. However, it is crucial to note that every situation is unique, and the decision to delay breastfeeding should be made after consultation with the medical team.


The decision of when to start breastfeeding is a crucial one that can affect both the mother and baby’s health and well-being. While there are general recommendations, various factors unique to each mother-baby pair can influence the timing of breastfeeding initiation. It is crucial to seek support and guidance from lactation experts and healthcare professionals to ensure a smooth and beneficial breastfeeding experience.

Common Questions and Answers

  • Q: What is the recommended time to start breastfeeding?
  • A: The World Health Organization recommends initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of delivery.
  • Q: Can I breastfeed if I have undergone surgery?
  • A: It depends on the type of surgery and medication you are taking. It is best to consult with a lactation expert or healthcare professional.
  • Q: What if my baby is born premature or with health complications?
  • A: The medical team will assess the baby’s ability to suckle and provide assistance if necessary.
  • Q: Are there benefits to initiating breastfeeding early?
  • A: Yes, initiating breastfeeding early promotes the secretion of essential nutrients and protects the baby from infections while strengthening the mother-child bond.


  • World Health Organization. (2018). Breastfeeding. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/breastfeeding
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2018). Breastfeeding Your Baby. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/breastfeeding-your-baby
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Breastfeeding. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/index.html

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