Just after your baby’s born, the first breastmilk you make is called colostrum, and it’s full of essential nutrients and protective antibodies, so let your baby feed from your breast as soon as possible after birth and have lots of skin to skin contact.
You only make small amounts of colostrum because, at a day old, your baby’s stomach is tiny – the size of a blueberry! It can only hold around 5-7mls of milk. The colostrum helps your baby pass their first poo (known as meconium). Getting rid of the waste in their body like this lowers the risk of them becoming jaundiced.
Three or four days after birth, your baby’s stomach has grown and can now hold around 22-27mls; so is the size of a cherry tomato. It’s at this time that your milk production starts to increase. People often refer to this as your milk ‘coming in’.
Milk production is a continuous process, and as long as milk is removed regularly, more will be made. A baby needs to suck at the breast effectively to make sure there is a good milk supply and as your baby grows, your breasts will automatically produce more milk.
Did you know that your milk changes throughout a feed?
At the start of a feed, the milk is thin and watery; it quenches your baby’s thirst and wakes them up. Then, gradually, the milk starts to contain higher amounts of fat. That’s why it’s important to give your baby time to finish feeding so that they get enough calories to have a satisfying feed.
Don’t follow strict timings for breastfeeding, but let your baby decide how often and for how long they want to feed. It can take between five minutes to half an hour, and varies from baby to baby.
Often the feeds are longer at first. Once your baby has stayed on your breast long enough to get the fatty milk, you can offer your second breast. Start the next feed off from the second breast if they only have a short feed.
Babies naturally come off the breast when they’ve had enough. You can offer the breast for comfort too, for example if your baby is distressed or just needing a bit of love and attention. It’s also OK to wake your baby to feed, if your breasts are uncomfortably full or you have an appointment to go to.
Babies can feed between eight and 12 times a day in the early weeks, but gradually as you and your baby learn to master this new skill, feeds become more efficient and less frequent.
By three months your baby may be feeding between six and eight times a day. Remember, this is just an average as all babies have different needs. They will want more at times when they’re having a growth spurt, often at around ten days, three weeks and three to four months old.
It’s recommended that you breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, and then continue providing breastmilk alongside other foods up to a year old, and even beyond.
Remember, any amount of breastmilk is a positive! You can also express your breastmilk, which you can find out more about here
It’s all about the latch
Lots of new mums experience problems with positioning when trying to establish breastfeeding. This then makes it hard for your baby’s mouth to be properly attached or ‘latch on’ at the nipple.
You can use the acronym ‘CHINS’ as a checklist to help you get your baby in the right position:
C (Close) – cuddle your baby close during breastfeeding
H (Head free) – support your baby across their shoulders and back, leaving their head free to tilt back so they can attach to the breast at the right angle, with their chin leading
I (In line) – check your baby’s body is in alignment
N (Nose to nipple) – this allows your baby to attach at the breast ‘off centre’ so they get a good mouthful! Your nipple will reach to the roof of the baby’s mouth and in this position, breastfeeding won’t be sore for you.
S (Sustainability) – you’ve got to make sure the position is comfy for both of you as you’re likely to be there for a while!
Take a look at some more step-by-step instructions to help your baby latch on well for feeding.
How do I know my baby’s getting enough milk?
Some mums give up on breastfeeding because they don’t think they’re producing enough milk, but in fact nearly all women are physically able to produce enough for their babies.
Your baby is feeding well if:
- They feed between eight and 12 times a day. It’s normal for babies to ‘cluster’ feed at some points in the day, often during the evening. This helps to maintain milk production
- They have lots of wet nappies- at least six to eight in a 24 hour period
- They’re pooing regularly! These should be yellow in colour. Find out more about what’s in a newborn’s nappy
- They are back to birthweight by 2-3 weeks and continue to grow
- Your baby is content and satisfied after most feeds, coming off the breast on their own
Remember, talk to your health professional if you have any concerns.
Returning to work
Returning to work doesn’t mean you automatically have to stop breastfeeding. Talk to your employer to discuss your options around this.
Continued breastfeeding, will boost your baby’s immunity.
Breastfeeding is also a lovely way for you to reconnect with your baby when you get back from work.
Your health visitor can talk you through the options for continuing to breastfeed after you return to work.
- Unicef- Infant Feeding during COVID-19
- Best Beginnings website – a series of short films about different aspects of breastfeeding, including the first feed after giving birth, breastfeeding in the early days, breastfeeding out and about, overcoming challenges and breastfeeding twins
- NHS – advice on expressing and storing breastmilk
- NHS – advice on breastfeeding in public
- Maternity Action – information on your rights in relation to breastfeeding in public. You can also ring their advice line: 0808 802 0029
- NHS – breastfeeding and returning to work
- Start 4 Life leaflet – breastfeeding after returning to work or study
- Maternity Action – information about your rights in relation to breastfeeding and returning to work
- Feeding Your Baby – leaflet giving an overview of your feeding choices
- Association of Tongue-tie Practitioners – information about tongue tie and signposting to available support
- National Breastfeeding Helpline, open every day from 9.30am – 9.30pm: 0300 100 0212
- National Childbirth Trust (NCT) – breastfeeding and antenatal support, including information about their breastfeeding helpline, open every day from 8am – 10pm: 0300 3300 770
- The Breastfeeding Network – breastfeeding helpline, open every day from 9.30am – 9.30pm: 0300 100 0210
- Bengali/Sylheti Supporter line: 0300 456 2421
- Drugs in breastmilk helpline 0844 412 4665 (answerphone on the line)
- La Leche League – 24 hour breastfeeding helpline: 0845 120 2918
- Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM) – breastfeeding helpline: 0870 401 7711
- Unicef’s Baby Friendly initiative
- Start4Life- Breastfeeding