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.
Breastfeeding also has benefits for you, including lowering your risk of:
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.
If you don’t wish to breastfeed or are unable to, feeding with infant formula is an option.
If you choose to breastfeed, it’s recommended that babies should consume only breast milk for around the first 6 months of their lives. After this, it is recommended that they continue to be breastfed for 2 years and beyond, alongside eating other foods.
Regardless of how long you choose to breastfeed, it’s good to know that both you and your baby benefit from every breastfeed given.
It’s particularly important to give your baby only breast milk in the early days as not doing so 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.
If your baby’s hungry or thirsty they’ll show signs they want to be fed. They might:
They might become agitated or upset if you don’t feed them on time. Try calming them by:
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.
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:
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
In Scotland, there is not enough sunshine to produce vitamin D.
As a precaution, breastfed babies should be given a daily supplement of vitamin D.
Babies who are fed infant formula will not need extra vitamin D, unless they are drinking less than 500ml of formula a day. This is because infant formula already has vitamin D added.
Free vitamin D supplements are available for all children in Scotland up to age 3. Please ask your health visitor, midwife or family nurse.
More advice about vitamin D for all age groups
Your baby’s tummy will grow to the size of a:
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 can help mum by:
Emotional support and encouragement from dads and partners are as important as practical help.
Your midwife, health visitor or family nurse will give you lots of information and help, and show you:
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
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:
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.
Helpful information is available from Public Health Scotland and is available in multiple languages and formats.
For alternative languages and formats, please contact
3 November 2023