The best start
What happens in your baby’s first years has a big effect on how healthy he or she will be in the future.
Mum’s milk gives your baby all the nutrients he or she needs for around the first 6 months of life (and it’s important beyond 6 months too). It helps to protect your baby from infections and other diseases, and as a mum, it also reduces your chances of getting some illnesses later in life.
Breastfeeding also helps you and your baby to get closer – physically and emotionally. So while you are feeding your baby, the bond between you grows stronger.
Infant formula is made from cows’ milk and other ingredients. It doesn’t contain the ingredients that help protect your baby from infection and disease. Only your body can make those.
WHAT DOES BREASTFEEDING HELP PROTECT AGAINST?
Your milk is perfect and uniquely made for your growing baby’s needs. Giving your milk to your baby makes a big difference to both your baby’s health and yours. And every day counts: the longer you feed your baby mum’s milk, the more they benefit.
Babies who are NOT breastfed have an increased chance of:
- Diarrhoea and vomiting and having to go to hospital as a result
- Chest infections and having to go to hospital as a result
- Ear infections
- Being constipated
- Becoming obese, which means they are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and other illnesses later in life
- Developing eczema
Breastfeeding is good news for mums as:
- It lowers the risk of mum getting breast cancer and may reduce your risk of getting ovarian-cancer
- It naturally uses up about 500 extra calories a day so mums who breastfeed may find it easier to lose their pregnancy weight
- It saves money – formula feeding can cost as much as £45 a month
After your baby is born:
Holding your baby against your skin straight after birth will calm your baby. It will also steady his breathing and help to keep him warm.
This is a great time to start your first breastfeed because your baby will be alert and will want to feed in the first hour after birth. Your midwife can help you with this.
Your baby will be happier if you keep him near you and feed him whenever he is hungry. This will remind your body to produce plenty of milk.
It is fine to feed your baby when he needs comforting, when your breasts feel full or when you just want to sit down and have a rest. It is not possible to over feed a breastfed baby.
How to breastfeed
What position should you use? There are lots of different positions for breastfeeding. You just need to check the following:
Is your baby’s head and body in a straight line?
If not, your baby might not be able to swallow easily.
Are you holding your baby close to you?
Support his neck, shoulders and back. He should be able to tilt his head back easily, and he shouldn’t have to reach out to feed.
Are you comfortable?
It’s worth getting comfortable before a feed, although it’s ok to change your position slightly once your baby is attached to your breast.
Is your baby’s nose opposite your nipple?
Your baby needs to get a big mouthful of breast from underneath the nipple. Placing your baby with his nose level with your nipple will allow him to reach up and attach to your breast well.
- Hold your baby’s whole body close with his nose level with your nipple.
- Let your baby’s head tip back a little so that his 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, his chin is able to touch your breast first, with his head tipped back so that his tongue can reach as much breast as possible.
- With his chin firmly touching and his nose clear, his mouth is wide open and there will be much more of the darker skin visible above your baby’s top lip than below his bottom lip. Your baby’s cheeks will look full and rounded as they feed.
Signs that your baby is feeding well:
- Your baby has a large mouthful of breast.
- Your baby’s chin is firmly touching your breast.
- It doesn’t hurt you when your baby feeds (although the first few sucks may feel strong).
- If you can see the dark skin around your nipple, you should see more dark skin above your baby’s top lip than below your baby’s bottom lip.
- Your baby’s cheeks stay rounded during sucking.
- Your baby rhythmically takes long sucks and swallows (it is normal for your baby to pause from time to time).
- Your baby finishes the feed and comes off the breast on his or her own.
How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?
- Your baby should be healthy and gaining weight after the first 2 weeks.
- In the first 48 hours, your baby is likely to have only 2 or 3 wet nappies. Wet nappies should then start to become more frequent, with at least 6 every 24 hours from day 5 onwards.
- At the beginning, your baby will pass a black tar-like stool (poo) called meconium. By day 3, this should be changing to a lighter, runnier, greenish stool that is easier to clean up. From day 4 and for the first few weeks your baby should pass 2 or more yellow stools a day. Most babies pass lots of stools and this is a good sign. Remember, it’s normal for breastfeed babies to pass loose stools. Your baby should have at least six wet and two dirty nappies a day, and the amount of poo varies from baby to baby. If you are concerned your baby is not getting enough milk, speak to your midwife or health visitor.
- Your breasts and nipples should not be sore. If they are, do ask for help.
- Your baby will be content and satisfied after most feeds and will come off the breast on their own.
- If you are concerned about any of these points, speak to your midwife or health visitor.
For online information about breastfeeding, visit www.nhs.uk/whybreastfeed
For information on healthy eating for you while breastfeeding, see www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby
Mum’s milk is the healthiest way to feed your baby. Giving infant formula to a breastfed baby will reduce your supply of milk. If you decide to stop breastfeeding, it is possible to restart and support is available from your midwife or health visitor.
“Don’t be scared to ask for help”
You do not need to eat any special foods while breastfeeding but it is a good idea for you, just like everyone else, to eat a healthy diet. It is also recommended that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a daily supplement of 10mcg of vitamin D.
Mum’s milk gives your baby all the nutrients he or she needs for around the first 6 months of life. Babies are born with vitamin D from their mum rather than getting it from mum’s milk.
“It is also recommended that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a daily supplement of 10mcg of vitamin D.”
If you are breastfeeding and you:
- Took vitamin D supplements throughout your pregnancy, your baby will be born with enough vitamin D in their body for the first few months of life. You should begin giving your baby vitamin drops containing vitamin D from 6 months to 5 years.
- Did not take vitamin D supplements throughout your pregnancy you should give your baby vitamin drops containing vitamin D earlier – from 1 month of age to 5 years.
Information is based on the Start4Life publication “Off to the Best Start”. For more information please visit www.nhs.uk/start4life. Sign up for free emails, videos and texts from the Start4Life Information Service for Parents to receive trusted NHS information on pregnancy, babies and your own health.
Article: Courtesy of information from the Start4Life ‘Off to the Best Start’ leaflet
- Try not to give your baby other food or drink
- The more mum’s milk you give your baby, the more milk you will produce. Giving other food or drink will reduce your milk supply.
- If you give your baby less mum’s milk, it will not protect your baby against illness as effectively.
- Feeding your baby solid food before they are ready (they are ready at around 6 months) could lead to him or her getting an upset tummy. Make sure your baby is properly attached to your breast.
- You will have a good supply of milk and your baby will get a good feed.
- It will help stop your breasts getting sore. Try not to give a dummy before breastfeeding is established – usually around a month.
- Babies who have a dummy sometimes find it difficult to remember how to attach to mum’s breast.
- Your baby will be less likely to feed when they need to, so won’t take in as much milk.
If you experience abnormal nipple discharge/swelling, if baby does not take to the breast or fails to gain weight, please seek immediate medical advice from your midwife, health visitor or GP.
Don’t be scared to ask for help
It can take a while before you feel confident. You can ask your midwife, health visitor or peer supporter to help you with breastfeeding, or call the National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0212* or visit www.nationalbreastfeedinghelpline.org.uk
You can also call Start4Life on 0300 123 1021* or visit www.nhs.uk/start4life
Staffed by volunteers from:
- Association of Breastfeeding Mothers: www.abm.me.uk
- The Breastfeeding Network: www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk
- The Breastfeeding Network Supportline in Bengali/Sylheti: 0300 456 2421*
- NCT Breastfeeding Line: 0300 330 0771*, www.nct.org.uk
- La Leche League: 0845 120 2918, www.laleche.org.uk
- UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative: www.babyfriendly.org.uk
* Calls to 03 numbers should cost no more than geographic 01 or 02 UK-wide calls and may be part of inclusive minutes subject to your provider and your call package. The National Breastfeeding Helpline is open from 9.30am to 9.30pm. The Start4Life lines are open from 9am to 8pm. Both are open 7 days a week.
For more information about the evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding in industrialised countries, see www.unicef.org.uk/BabyFriendly/News-and-Research/Research/Breastfeeding-research—An-overview/