If this is your first baby, you might not know what to expect from breastfeeding. Even if you have had a baby before, breastfeeding is a learning process for you and your new baby.
The key to a content baby who is getting enough milk is good ‘attachment’. This is the exact way your baby can take part of your breast into their mouth so their instinctive sucking movements release milk from the right places within your breast. Some breastfeeding problems can be resolved very quickly with small adjustments to a baby’s position to improve attachment.
This video shows how to attach well:
And this video explains how poor attachment can cause problems:
If you are staying on a postnatal ward or in a birth centre, it is a good idea to ask for any help you need. Midwives and maternity support workers are trained to support you and teach you the skills needed. Once at home, please contact your midwife or health visitor if feeding is not going well and a call or visit can be arranged.
Breastfeeding takes practice. It takes time to work out which feeding and burping positions feel best. There aren't 'correct' positions, and it's about what feels most comfortable for you, so try them out to see what feels best.
Where you need more in-depth support with feeding, all Kent and Medway trusts have specialist infant feeding leads to make sure you get the right care.
Whatever your personal breastfeeding goals, there is support available.
When your baby is newborn, you will produce a thick, yellow milk called colostrum. Although people talk about “milk coming in”, colostrum is also milk. Around three days after the birth, your breasts may feel fuller and heavier. The ‘mature milk’ your body makes at this stage is whiter and more liquid than colostrum. The hormonal change can come with temporary flu-like symptoms.
Before this stage, colostrum contains all the goodness your baby needs. Often called “liquid gold”, it is nutritionally complete. It is full of protein and dense in nutrition. Your baby will need to feed very often at first, as his or her stomach is very small and breast milk is digested by their little tummy very quickly.
If you have diabetes, gestational diabetes, take beta blockers or have had breast surgery, it can be helpful to collect colostrum while you are pregnant. Find out more here
The length of each feed may vary, but newborns often need to feed every couple of hours at first. You can expect around 8-12 feeds per day, throughout the day and night at first. This can be quite hard when it comes to getting enough sleep, so do lean on your partner, friends and family for help if you need some extra rest. Look at our safe sleep information to find out about safer bedsharing.
If you’re concerned about whether your baby is getting enough milk or is feeding too often or not enough, remember that wet and dirty nappies provide reassurance. There’s more on what to expect from your baby’s nappies here
Breastfeeding is a skill you and your baby learn together and the first few weeks can be hard. Don't worry about asking questions or feeling unsure, there is plenty of support for you via your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporters. Beside You has a reassuring checklist to help you see how you and your baby are getting on with feeding.
There are many excellent videos freely available online. Best Beginnings provides a good place to start.
Beside You website has everything you need to know about breastfeeding support in Kent and Medway.
You can also contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.