Breastfeeding

Your breast milk has all of the easily digested nutrients in the right proportions and contains antibodies and properties that prevent and protect against infections.

Thinking about breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding:

  • helps you to get back to the weight you were before you got pregnant
  • is free, convenient and always ready to use - you don’t need to sterilise bottles and teats

It can take time for you both to feel comfortable and relaxed when you’re breastfeeding but it’s much easier once you get the hang of positioning and attaching your baby to the breast.

How long should I breastfeed?

It’s recommended that babies should have only breast milk for around the first 6 months of their lives and then continue to be breastfed for 2 years and beyond.

Regardless of how long you choose to breastfeed, it's good to know that both you and your baby benefit from every breastfeed given.

Breast milk only

It's particularly important to only give your baby breast milk in the early days as this can affect your milk production.

If you find it difficult to only breastfeed or you don’t want to, try to give as much expressed breast milk as you can. If your partner wants to help with feeding, then you can express your breast milk for them to give to your baby.

When to feed your baby

If your baby's hungry or thirsty they'll show signs they want to be fed. They might:

  • move
  • put their hand to their mouth
  • start rooting

They might become agitated or upset if you don't feed them on time. Try calming them by:

  • cuddling
  • giving skin-to-skin contact
  • talking and stroking

Keeping your baby close will help you recognise these signals. Responding to their needs won't spoil them, but will help them feel safe and secure.

First feeds

In the first 24 hours after the birth, babies usually wake and feed often to get your milk supply started. Sometimes it seems like a lot of feeding but it’s normal and will settle down.

Your baby's tummy is about the size of a cherry on day one. As their tummy's so tiny:

  • small amounts of milk at each feed will fill them up
  • they'll need to feed frequently (8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period) - this sometimes seems like a lot of feeding but it’s normal and will settle down

This helps your body to keep producing the right amount of milk for your baby.

Remember, it’s not possible to overfeed a breastfed baby.

More about your baby's first feeds

As their tummy grows

How baby's stomachs grow
Your baby's tummy will grow from the size of a cherry on the first day to the size of an egg by the end of the first month NHS Health Scotland

Your baby's tummy will grow to the size of a:

  • Brussels sprout on day 3
  • plum by the end of the first week
  • egg by the end of the first month

As your baby's tummy grows they'll start to take a bit more at each feed.

Feeding them as often as they want will help your body prepare a good supply of milk for the days, weeks and months ahead.

As your baby feeds more and grows, your breasts will make more milk and the gaps between some of the feeds will get longer. Responding to your baby’s feeding cues will ensure they feed frequently. This is entirely normal.

Dads and partners

Dads and partners can help mum by:

  • taking an interest – find out about breastfeeding and what's normal, so you can give help and suggestions if your partner is struggling
  • understanding it takes time and practice for mum and baby to get the technique right while feeding – it can be useful to have your help
  • looking after her while she’s breastfeeding and making sure she's comfortable

Emotional support and encouragement from dads and partners are as important as practical help.

Getting support to breastfeed

Your midwife, health visitor or family nurse will give you lots of information and help, and show you:

  • how to hold your baby
  • how to help them take your nipple and breast in the right way - this will help them to feed well and prevent sore nipples and other problems that new mums sometimes get when breastfeeding

UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative

All Scottish maternity hospitals, neonatal units and health visiting services are taking part in the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. This means that staff are trained to give you as much support as you need to feed your baby.

More about the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative

Peer support

It can help to chat to a friend who successfully breastfed her baby or you could try a support group.

Support groups offer friendship and advice, and can be helpful if:

  • you’re worried about breastfeeding
  • you don’t feel you know many mums who are doing it

Scotland has a network of about 150 breastfeeding support groups. Your midwife, health visitor or family nurse will know when and where your local group meets.

Find a breastfeeding support group in your area