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feeding and nutrition

Getting breastfeeding off to a good start

Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed your baby – your milk is free, always available at the right temperature, and contains antibodies that can help keep your baby healthy

Breastfeeding: The best way to start

Start breastfeeding how you mean to go on, these tips can help

good start to breastfeeding

As well as being the most natural way to feed your baby, breastfeeding gives your baby a reduced chance of suffering from stomach, chest and ear infections and less likelihood of becoming obese or developing type 2 diabetes in later life. 

It can also help lower your chances of developing breast or ovarian cancers, plus it helps you bond with your baby, saves you money and can use up to 500 calories a day.

Skin-to-skin contact helps breastfeeding

Skin-to-skin contact straight after birth is the best way for you and your baby to get breastfeeding going. It also calms your baby, keeps them warm, and regulates their heart and breathing.

Time to yourselves

Your midwife will leave you and your partner alone with your new baby to give you all a chance to get to know each other. Often a baby held skin-to-skin will ‘root’ around, searching for the breast, so it’s an ideal time for you and your baby to try a first feed. Ideally, a midwife should be on hand to help you give your first feed as soon as possible, and most certainly within a couple of hours of giving birth.

After a caesarean

If you had a caesarean this should happen just the same. If you’ve had a general anaesthetic your partner can ask to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby instead.
Keep your baby close to you in the same room. If they have to be separated from you, you should be taught how to express breastmilk either with a pump or by hand.

Your first milk

Your first milk is called colostrum, and is usually thick, creamy and yellow in colour. It contains antibodies to protect against infection, so that your new baby gets the best protection possible against illnesses. There’s not a lot of it but don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like much – just offer the breast whenever your baby needs a feed. It’s the perfect food for your newborn. After the first few days of breastfeeding, your breastmilk will increase in amount to match your baby’s growing tummy!

Early days

Everyone’s experience of breastfeeding is different, but some women freely admit it can be tricky and tiring in the first few days.

It’s normal to feel tearful, especially when your milk comes in around two to four days after the birth.

What most new mums do agree on, though, is if you can persevere, you’re not only giving your baby a great start, but also making life easier for yourself.

Breastfeeding costs nothing and you don’t have to prepare bottles because you’ve got your own portable milk supply on tap and at the correct temperature. You’ll also find you enjoy it and feel incredibly close to your baby.

Learning together

Breastfeeding may be a new experience for you. It’s also new for your baby. It may take a while, but you will learn together. 

Remember that they’re ‘breastfeeding’ not ‘nipple feeding’. They will need to take a good mouthful of breast in order to massage the milk from the breast. Make sure you can sit comfortably, and have a pillow or two to hand in case you need them. 

Responsive feeding

Breastfeeding works on a ‘supply and demand’ basis. The hungrier your baby is, the more often they will want to go to the breast. The more often you put them to the breast, the more milk you will make.

Offer your baby your breast whenever they seems hungry, and let them breastfeed for as long as they want. 

Your breastmilk

Your breastmilk changes throughout a feed to suit your baby’s needs. The milk at the beginning of a feed quenches their thirst. Then, it gradually changes to a richer milk with a higher fat content. Let your baby take as much milk as they want from the first breast, so that they get plenty of the more satisfying milk, before switching to the other breast.

Try to start a feed on the opposite breast to the one you started on last time, to ensure an even milk supply in each breast.

TOP TIP: Your bra: Wear a comfortable bra that’s not too tight as your breasts will get bigger when your milk comes in.

Things to avoid

Offering extra ‘top-up’ feeds of formula will mean you miss breastfeeds, interfering with supply and demand. You may find that your breasts become overfull and uncomfortable too

When getting breastfeeding established dummies and teats may confuse your baby. This is known as ‘nipple confusion’. Talk to your healthcare professional to get some advice on what is best for you

Avoid offering water – it may fill their stomach up so that they have no room for milk (breastfed babies don’t need any water)

Don’t limit time at the breast – it may mean they don’t get enough breastmilk and interfere with supply and demand 

Don’t carry on feeding if it’s painful – gently take your baby off the breast (by sliding your little finger into their mouth to break the suction) and reattach them.

Getting breastfeeding off to a good start