Should you need urgent health advice please contact your GP or call NHS 111. In an emergency please visit A&E or call 999

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Introduction to breastfeeding

Department of Health guidance says that breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of your baby’s life.

Breast milk:

  • Is always available at the right temperature and is sterile
  • Can be used to comfort your baby and relieve pain
  • Is free
  • has no carbon footprint
  • Is the most natural food for babies


  • Concentrated milk produced in the first few days, tailored to baby in small amounts.
  • Gives your baby immunity. It is protective and coats the intestines/gut to fence germs out so they cannot be absorbed into your baby’s system. This barrier seals your baby’s insides, preparing your baby for a healthy life.
  • Kills harmful microorganisms and provides protection from inflammation.
  • Is a laxative, and will help clear your baby’s system of the meconium and therefore help to reduce jaundice.
  • ‘Mature’ milk production increases after the first few days.
  • Your babies stomach capacity is quite small and breastmilk is easily digestible, meaning that your baby will probably feed frequently in the early weeks of breastfeeding.

Hormonal Influence:

There are three key factors that work together in breastfeeding:


  • Following delivery, your levels of pregnancy hormones decline. This causes levels of the milk producing hormone, prolactin, to rise.
  • Prolactin levels peak every time your baby sucks or nuzzles at the breast.
  • Lots of peaks in prolactin levels in the early days “switch on” milk producing cells – one of the reasons why newborn babies feed frequently/cluster feed –they are “putting the order in”!
  • Overnight, your prolactin levels – the hormone designed to support milk production – are at their highest. So, when your baby feeds frequently at night, the message to your body to boost milk supply is even stronger.


  • Oxytocin is also known as the love hormone – it helps you to fall in love with your baby and want to hold, stroke and protect them.
  • It causes the lobules in the breasts to contract, letting down the milk to the baby (the let down).
  • It can be delayed by stress – this can be overcome by relaxed, skin-to-skin time at the breast.
  • Additionally, oxytocin increases circulation to the breast, helping to release stored nutrients into the milk, and warm baby.

Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation (FIL)

  • This is a protein within the milk which alerts the milk producing cells to stop producing milk.
  • It helps control and regulate the supply.
  • As milk is removed, levels of FIL fall.
  • Milk removal drives milk production.

Formula feeding increases the risk of:

For children:

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
  • Raised cholesterol levels
  • Childhood leukemias
  • Type 1 and 2 diabetes
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Necrotising enterocolitis & late onset sepsis in preterm babies
  • Gastro-intestinal infections
  • Ear infections
  • Respiratory infections

For parents:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Postnatal depression
  • Hip fractures and reduced bone density
  • Maternal type 2 diabetes
ChatHealth Logo

South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-5 years called ChatHealth. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a health visitor within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the service reopens.

  • Warwickshire Health Visiting Service:


    07520 615293
  • For contact phone numbers navigate to:

    the services tab then 'Your health visiting service'.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.