Breastfeeding matters for babies and their mums, there’s a wealth of evidence that backs up our instincts, but it’s not always easy. Many mums need support and good information to get feeding established.
Colostrum is the first milk made by the mother. It is produced in very small amounts and packed with antibodies to protect the newborn against disease and infection. It also helps to activate a newborn’s immune system, establish gut function and seed a healthy gut microbiome in the first few days of life. Babies often feed lots in the first few days and that’s great so they receive lots of little colostrum feeds.
Women produce colostrum from around 16 weeks of pregnancy, so even if a baby is born early or by caesarean, mothers can still provide milk.
A baby who is allowed unrestricted skin to skin and access to their mother’s breasts will usually feed within 90 minutes of birth, and thereafter whenever they need.
If your baby is very small at birth, if they are early or if for any reason your baby needs extra support, you will be shown how to express milk by hand. Sometimes it is helpful to use a pump, or you can hire an electric breast pump.
Feeding twins can bring different challenges for parents – early support can help.
If breastfeeding hurts, it is important to get help with position and attachment. Laid back or natural positions can help baby to self attach and are comfy for mothers too.
Delivery of the placenta triggers messages to make a higher volume of milk and this will usually increase around day three following birth. Often, it can seem as though the baby is hungry and wants to feed a lot in the first few days. As long as the baby is pooing and weeing sufficiently, this behaviour can be helpful to stimulate milk production. Most babies will feed at least eight to 12 times every 24 hours after the first day following birth.
Sometimes babies need patience and encouragement as they might be too sleepy and the milk supply will need more encouragement.
Hand expressing and/using a pump as milk comes in, can stimulate production as well as providing milk for a baby who isn’t feeding well in the early days. Offering milk via syringe or cup can help to protect breastfeeding and also ensures the baby is well-fed. If baby cannot be breastfed, see ‘Formula and Bottle Feeding Section’.
More information about breastfeeding and bottle feeding is available in languages including Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian and Urdu: Baby feeding in other languages .