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How to breastfeed

Information on how to breastfeed and how to tell if your baby is hungry.

Breastfeeding drop-in sessions

Come to one of our breastfeeding drop-in sessions if you:

  • need answers to breastfeeding questions

  • are pregnant and interested in breastfeeding

  • want to meet other breastfeeding mums.

About breast milk

The first breast milk is known as colostrum. This thick, yellowy milk is rich in nutrients and works to protect your baby from infection. It comes in small amounts, just right for the a baby. Babies have a very tiny stomach so they have to feed often in the early days – at least 8–12 times in 24 hours.

The more your baby feeds, the more breast milk you will make. This helps to make sure there is a good ongoing milk supply. Giving your baby formula milk will mean you produce less breast milk.

By day three or four, the amount of breast milk increases and your breasts can feel heavy. Knowing how to express your milk by hand can help to soften a full breast so your baby can attach more easily and prevent painfully swollen or hard breasts. Expressing milk by hand can also help prevent or manage problems like blocked ducts and mastitis.

How to tell if your baby is hungry

If your baby is hungry, the early signs are

  • waking up

  • licking fingers

  • sucking fists

  • wriggling

  • searching for the breast.

When you should feed your baby

  • You should keep your baby near you to makes it easier to spot the early signs that your baby needs to feed.
  • If you wait until your baby starts crying before you feed them, it can make it harder for an unsettled baby to attach to the breast.
  • Using a dummy will stop your baby making signs they need to feed. This means they feed less often, which will also reduce your milk supply.

How often you should feed your baby

You should allow your baby to feed as often as they want. Breastfeeds can be long or short. Babies that are totally breastfed cannot be overfed or ‘spoiled’ by too much breastfeeding. This is called ‘responsive feeding’ and helps ensure your baby gets enough milk.

How to breastfeed

Hold your baby’s whole body close with their nose level with your nipple to help them attach correctly.

Let your baby’s head tip back a little so that their top lip can brush against your nipple. This should help your baby to make a wide open mouth.

When your baby’s mouth opens wide, their chin is able to touch your breast first, with their head tilted. This means their lower lip can make contact with the breast 2–3cm below your nipple.

With their chin firmly touching and their nose clear, their mouth is wide open and there will be much more of the darker skin visible above your baby’s top lip than below their bottom lip. Your baby’s cheeks will look full and rounded as they feed.

Attaching your baby to the breast

When your baby is well-attached, you will continue to make enough milk for your baby. Good attachment will help to avoid sore nipples, blocked ducts and mastitis.

In the first 10–12 days, it can feel uncomfortable as the baby attaches to the breast. However breastfeeding should not be painful. If you continue to feel pain, speak to your health visitor or visit a local breastfeeding support drop-in session to get help with attachment.

It is best not to introduce bottle teats for at least the first month as this can make it difficult for your baby to learn to attach to the breast.

Your baby needs to feed at night and this will help keep up your milk supply. Ask your Health Visitor about managing night feeds.

It is important for you to take a vitamin D supplement while you are breastfeeding, and to give vitamin D drops to your baby for healthy bones.

Check with the health visitor or ask at a local breastfeeding drop-in session if:

  • you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. This can sometimes be one of the signs of mastitis which can result from blocked ducts. It is important to get help to check baby is attaching to the breast correctly.
  • feeding is painful. This is often due to poor attachment. However, this can sometimes be due to thrush or a tongue tie which may need treatment.