feeding and nutrition

Understanding ‘responsive feeding, rooting and rooming in’

Find out what is meant by ‘responsive feeding, rooting and rooming in’

The lowdown on responsive feeding, rooting and rooming in’

What you need to know about responsive feeding, rooting and rooming in’

Responsive feeding

Breastfeeding your baby is the most natural thing in the world and a perfect way to bond with your little one. And with a little advice and practice, you’ll soon find out how rewarding it is for you both.

Ideal food

Breastfeeding is the ideal way to feed your baby. Some new mums will find breastfeeding their baby really easy, but most mums and babies have to learn what to do. Just remember, practice makes perfect! Babies need feeding frequently as they have tiny tummies when they’re first born. 

First feeds

Healthy babies carried to term may not feed very much in the early days. They have special stores that nourish them until your full milk comes in. However, it’s important to offer your baby a feed frequently as this kick starts the milk let-down. Let them breastfeed for as long as they want. This will help establish a full milk supply to match the demand.


A hugely important food, colostrum is a very, very concentrated type of early breastmilk, packed with antibodies which kick start your baby’s immune system, so they get the best possible protection against infections. There’s not much of it in quantity, but it’s far superior in quality to anything else you could feed a newborn. Colostrum gradually changes over a few days into full breastmilk.

Even if you’re still undecided about breastfeeding try to give your baby the all-important colostrum. If you get on well you may decide to carry on. If not, at least you’re giving your baby a really good start.

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. See page 38 for how to attach your baby correctly.

Responsive feeding

Responsive 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.

Yet as well as you responding to your baby’s cues – and your own desire to feed your baby - responsive feeding means appreciating that feeds are not just for nutrition. They are also exchange a bond of love, comfort and reassurance between you and your baby. 

For example, you may offer the breast when your baby shows signs of hunger or if your baby appears upset.  It’s also natural to respond with a feed to help settle your baby after an immunisation, if your baby is unwell or to reassure your baby in new and unfamiliar environments. 

Responsive feeding is about mums need too. For example you may choose to put your baby to the breast before you go out, before you go to bed or because you want to simply sit down, rest and enjoy a cuddle with your baby. 

Responsively feeding means that breastfeeds can be long or short and at different times in the day, depending on the varying reasons why mum or baby have chosen to feed. 

Responding to your baby’s needs is instinctive and you should know that your baby cannot be overfed or ‘spoiled’ by ‘too much breastfeeding’. Well-meaning family and friend may have their own ideas about what behaviours make a baby ‘good’, but all babies and mums have different needs so go with your instincts and respond when you or your baby want to feed rather than try and fit a pattern which others think is their desired feeding patter as ‘routines’ can affect your milk supply and reduce the chance of successful ongoing breastfeeding.


You’ll know when your baby is hungry, because their head will turn into you, and they’ll brush their lips from side to side against you; sometimes really quickly.


This just means keeping your baby by your bed. It will help you to get to know each other, and it’s more convenient for night time feeds. Better still, babies cry less and sleep better when they stay near their mum.

Let-down reflex

Once you’ve both got the hang of feeding, you may feel a tingling or a warmth in your breasts when your baby cries or when you begin a feed as your body releases hormones to get the milk flowing. It can happen just by thinking about your baby and you may leak some milk too.

Premature babies

If your baby is premature it is still important to feed them your breastmilk, although you may be asked to express this at first.
A mother of a premature baby will produce different milk from that of a mother who has a baby full term. This milk is higher in growth factors and antibodies to help fight infection.

Understanding ‘responsive feeding, rooting and rooming in’