Breastfeeding your baby
In the first few days after birth, you and your baby will be getting to know each other. Breastfeeding can be a great way to bond with your baby, but it can take time for both of you to get the hang of it. This is completely normal. It can happen faster for some women than others but the majority of women produce enough milk for their baby, so have confidence in yourself - you can do this!
The fluid your breasts produce in the first few days after birth is called colostrum. It's thick and usually a golden yellow colour. It's a very concentrated food, so your baby will only need a small amount (about a teaspoonful) at each feed.
Your baby might want to feed quite often, perhaps every hour to begin with, and that’s normal. They'll then start to have fewer but longer feeds once your breasts start to produce more ‘mature’ milk after a few days. It’s good to remember that the more you breastfeed the more milk you'll make.
Some people choose to collect this colostrum before the baby is born. This is called antenatal colostrum harvesting or expressing. More information about this can be found here.
Your baby's sucking makes the muscles in your breasts squeeze milk towards your nipples. This is called the let-down reflex.
Some women get a tingling feeling which can be quite strong, while others feel nothing at all.
You'll see your baby respond when your milk lets down - their quick sucks will change to deep rhythmic swallows as the milk begins to flow. You might notice your baby pause after the first quick sucks while they wait for more milk to be delivered.
This let-down reflex can sometimes be so strong that your baby coughs and splutters. If this is happening, you could try speaking to your midwife, health visitor or a breastfeeding supporter to get some help with this.
If your baby seems to be falling asleep before the deep swallowing stage of feeds, it might be that they’re not properly attached to your breast. Midwives, health visitors or breastfeeding supporters can help with this too! They can give suggestions about your baby's positioning and attachment.
Sometimes you'll notice your milk letting down if you hear your baby crying or when you have a warm bath or shower - this is normal so don’t panic!
Around 2-4 days after birth you might notice that your breasts become fuller. This is often called your milk ‘coming in’. Your body is incredibly clever, and the amount of milk you make will change in response to your baby's needs. Each time your baby feeds, your body knows to make more milk for the next feed, so if they’re feeding often your body will make more milk.
It’s absolutely fine to feed your baby as often as they want and for as long as they want. This is called responsive feeding. In other words, responding to your baby's needs. It's also sometimes called on-demand or baby-led feeding.
In the beginning, it can feel like you're doing nothing but feeding! But gradually you and your baby will get into a pattern and the amount of milk you produce will settle down, so hang on in there - it will get easier!
It's important to breastfeed at night (at least one feed between midnight and 6am) because this is when you produce more hormones (prolactin) to build up your milk supply.
Remember, you can speak to a midwife or health visitor if you’re worried about breastfeeding or you think your baby isn’t getting enough milk.
In the first week, your baby might want to feed very often - it could be every hour in the first few days! Try to follow their feeding cues.
It’s absolutely fine to feed your baby as often as they want and for as long as they want. They'll start to have fewer, but longer, feeds after a few days. As a very rough guide, your baby should feed 8-12 times, or more, every 24 hours during the first few weeks. We know this sounds like a lot, but remember that it’s a great opportunity for you to be bonding with close contact. It's fine to feed your baby whenever they’re hungry, when your breasts feel full or if you just want to have a cuddle. Remember that it's not possible to overfeed a breastfed baby!
- 1-2-1 Breastfeeding Support Service https://abetterstartsouthend.co.uk/midwifery-1-2-1-breastfeeding-support-service/
If you have any questions, please get in touch with the Infant Feeding Support team on 07880714472.
- Bump to Breast: Breastfeeding Group Support https://abetterstartsouthend.co.uk/breastfeedingsupport For more information contact Eleanor King at Southend YMCA EleanorKing@southendymca.org.uk or 07384 258800
- Local breastfeeding support search https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-services/Breastfeeding-support-services/LocationSearch/360