Getting Breastfeeding off to a Good Start

Day one - most babies feed within one hour of birth and babies usually have a long sleep after the first feed as they adjust to life outside the womb. Keep your baby in skin contact as long as possible after the birth. Your baby should feed at least four times in the first 24 hours. Skin contact will encourage your baby to feed. It is important to make sure that your baby is correctly latched to your breast so your nipples don’t become sore or cracked and your baby gets lots of milk. 

Do ask your midwife to support you with latching your baby to your breast.

For more information visit www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly

For resources in different languages visit www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly

Day two and three - skin contact is still very important as it helps your baby feel safe and secure. Your baby should start to feed more often. Your baby may feed very frequently, even as often as every hour. This is normal and is good as it will encourage a perfect milk supply for your baby. Babies should have three or more wet nappies and pass two or more poos. The poos will start to change from black to green-brown-yellow. You may notice that your baby is feeding more at night time and sleeping more in the daytime. This is a normal pattern for newborn babies. Don’t panic! Babies all learn to sleep more at night as the weeks go on, this will happen naturally.

What feeding cues should I look for?

Your baby will let you know when they are hungry or needing comfort. Look out for the following signs:

  • Waking up
  • Licking lips
  • `Rooting’ (opening mouth and moving head from side to side)
  • Sucking fingers
  • Crying is a late sign that your baby wants to feed and it is much easier to feed your baby before your baby starts to cry.

It is important that you allow your baby to feed when your baby wants to and allow your baby to feed for as long as your baby wants. When your baby has finished the feed your baby will take themself off the breast. Offer your baby the second breast as well. You can’t over feed a breastfed baby and so it is always fine to offer your baby the breast. Breastfeeding is a very important way of comforting your baby.

Days four to seven - your milk supply will start to increase and your baby will probably be feeding less frequently but most babies will still be feeding between eight – 12 times in 24 hours including at least once at night. Your baby should have at least five wet nappies and at least two poos. Your baby’s poo should be yellow or turning yellow and can be quite watery.

Do not hesitate to ask for help either from hospital staff or your community midwifery team if you have any questions or concerns about feeding your baby.

The breastfeeding assessment form on page 44 of your maternity notes (yellow book) and in your baby’s red book can help you to see if feeding is going well for you and your baby. Talk to your midwife about any concerns you may have about feeding your baby

Weeks two to six - iIt takes about six weeks for your milk supply to be fully established and for most mothers to feel confident about feeding their new baby; your baby will continue to feed at least eight - 12 times in each 24 hours. Most babies will cluster feed, this means having lots of feeds close together. Often babies will cluster feed in the morning and again in the evening, often between 5pm and midnight. This is normal baby behaviour and it is best to follow your baby’s feeding pattern for the first few weeks so that you meet their needs and continue to produce enough milk for your baby. Cluster feeding can be tiring and talking to other parents can be helpful.

Does my baby need “top ups” in the first few days?

  • Some mothers worry that the first milk, colostrum, is not enough for their baby. Colostrum is very special and is full of factors that help protect your baby from infection. It is very concentrated as the baby’s body would be very stressed by large amounts of milk in the first two days after birth. Your colostrum is the perfect food for your newborn baby.
  • Newborn babies are usually awake a lot at night for the first few weeks. Gradually they start to sleep more at night and be awake more in the day. This is normal behaviour and it is very important to respond to your baby whenever they cry as this will help them to feel safe and secure.
  • In the first few days your breasts need to get lots of stimulation in order for them to produce all the milk your baby needs. It is normal for breastfed babies to feed very frequently in the first few days and by feeding frequently your baby is making sure that your breasts make plenty of milk.
  • If a breastfed baby is given a formula feed this can interrupt the stimulation of the milk supply and may mean that a mother has difficulty producing enough milk for her baby.
  • Formula milk can also disturb the protective coating that breastmilk gives your baby’s gut.

This short information video explains a bit more about normal feeding patterns for babies