The first 1001 days (up to when your child is two and a half years old), plays a critical role in how your baby develops for their entire life. Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed a baby. It is the only food designed to meet all baby's needs, both nutritionally and emotionally. The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months until solids are introduced with breastfeeding continuing for a minimum of 2 years.
We will support you to continue your breastfeeding journey for as long as you want to continue. No matter how you decide to feed your baby, your choice will be respected, and you will be supported by trained and caring professionals.
Benefits of breastfeeding
Breastmilk is unique to your baby and changes as they grow to adapt to their needs. It is far more than just food:
- It offers vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting antibodies to help protect babies from illness and long-term health issues such as diabetes and obesity
- It also helps set up their hormonal system and improves brain development
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by up to 50%
- It's also important for a mother’s health, reducing her risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and brittle bones
Breastfeeding is a skill that takes time to learn, so do not worry if it does not go perfectly at first. Any amount of breast milk is good for your baby's health. Every drop counts.
Lots of mums wonder if their baby's feeding well and getting enough - especially in the first few days, but nature is clever and so babies are built to use their reserve fat stores while they and you are learning. Once you've mastered breastfeeding, you'll probably find it's the easiest and most satisfying way to feed your baby. It is much less wasteful as there's no need for all the plastic, and it is also absolutely free.
Supporting close and loving relationships
Babies need to be kept close and thrive when carers respond to their cues for food, love and comfort. Crying is a late sign. Most babies will start to fuss, put fingers in their mouths, stick their tongues out or make eye contact for attention well before they start to cry. Responding to them is essential for their health, wellbeing and brain development.
While well-meaning family members may have been told you can spoil a baby by picking it up too often, we now know that babies need to be responded to by their parents in order to grow securely and for their brains to develop. It can also help new parents to also cope with the changes in their lifestyles during the postnatal period. Sling wearing can help with the demands of this.
When to feed your baby
Baby feeding cues
Always offer a feed when baby is showing cues. Aim for 8-12 feeds as a minimum in 24hrs. View the baby feeding cues.
C - Close
Baby should face the breast and be as close as possible to gain a deep latch.
H - Head free
Supporting the baby around the neck and shoulders rather than by the head will allow them to tilt their head back and open wide to take in your breast tissue.
I - In line
Have you tried swallowing with your head twisted over your shoulder? You will soon get tired. Babies also need to have their head in line with their bodies to help them swallow.
N - Nose to nipple
The chin should lead and the mouth should be wide open when the baby latches with the nipple pointing up toward the baby’s nose so that when you latch, it reaches far back into the baby’s mouth.
S - Sustainably
Will you be able to sit in this position for a whole feed? Do you have water nearby?
CHINS acronym developed by Dr Lynette Shotton, Northumbria University.
Babies are primed to latch onto the breast if they are placed in a laid-back position, they will bob their heads and root around and it helps deepen the attachment.
How to know if your baby is getting enough milk
- Feeds should begin with rapid sucks followed by long, rhythmic sucks and swallows with occasional pauses. Your baby's cheeks should be round and full of breast tissue, not hollow.
- Your baby should seem calm and relaxed during feeds
- When they've had enough, they will come off the breast by themselves
- They appear content/sleepy and satisfied after most feeds
- After feeds your nipples should look the same (not flattened, pinched or white)
In the first 48 hours, your baby is likely to have only 2 or 3 wet nappies. Wet nappies should then become more frequent, with at least 5 to 6 every 24 hours from the fifth day onwards.
If your baby is feeding well, they should start gaining weight steadily after the first 2 weeks.
The importance of breastfeeding at night
Breastfeeding your baby through the night is very important. This is when your body produces the most milk. This is why babies often feed frequently (cluster feeding), in the evening and wake often in the night to feed. It is nature's way of making sure you have enough milk for them and that when you are most tired they are more alert to dangers in their environment. Regular waking throughout the night is one of the protective factors in reducing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Some parents will make the choice to substitute a breastfeed with an expressed or formula milk feed in a cup or bottle. This is best done at the same time every day so that milk production is not affected. We recommend that this is not replacing a night feed as that may affect milk supply. Instead, early morning or evening feeds may allow you time to rest.
Nappies - poo colour
Babies stools will change from when they are first born. It may also be different depending on how you have chosen to feed them.
- Meconium is the first newborn poo your baby will do and is normal in the first few days of life but is concerning if it lasts more than 3 days
- Green (can be normal, days 2 to 5), but may be a sign that your baby is not latching well if it lasts longer than this so speak to your midwife or health visitor if you are worried
- Mustard yellow (breastfed baby), is usually runny and can appear grainy like French mustard
- Tan/yellow (formula fed baby), will be thicker and smellier than breastfed baby’s poo
You might want to hand express breastmilk because:
- it can be used to help your baby attach to the breast, especially if the breast is engorged
- it can help to boost your milk supply
- it is great for small amounts such as your colostrum
- it can be used to clear ducts if they are blocked
- it is free and you don’t need any equipment
- you would like someone to help with feeding your baby
To express milk by hand, it is important to stimulate the breast by gentle stroking, this helps the milk to flow. A warm compress can help too. Rolling your nipple will also help.
Place your finger and thumb about 2 to 3 cm away from the base of the nipple in a 'C' shape. Using this ‘C’ shape, squeeze and release without moving the position of your fingers. It may take a few minutes for the milk to appear. Collect the milk in a sterile container. When it stops in one area, rotate
your fingers and try a different part of the breast. When the milk slows, swap to the other breast.
|Fresh breast milk or colostrum
| At room temperature
Fridge at 5-10 degrees C or unknown temperature
Fridge at 4 degrees C or below
| 6 hours
|Frozen breast milk
|Freezer at -18 degrees C or below
|Defrosted breast milk
| If defrosting in the fridge
If defrosting out of the fridge
| Normally takes 12 Hours, use as soon as defrosted
Use as soon as defrosted
For more information about expressing and storing breastmilk, visit The Breastfeeding Network.
Where to get help
If you are concerned about how your baby is feeding then contact your midwife or health visitor or come to one of the local breastfeeding support groups.
NMH ABC parents breastfeeding drop-in
- Mondays - 12:30pm to 2:30pm
- Salvation Army, 339 Fore Street, Edmonton, N9 0N9
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NMH Dugdale Art Centre breastfeeding drop-in
- Wednesdays - 1pm to 3pm
- Dugdale Arts Centre Café, 39 London Rd, Enfield, EN2 6DS
- Email: email@example.com
National Breastfeeding Helpline
- Telephone: 0300 100 0212
- 8am to 11pm daily and 9:30am to 9:30pm every day
La Leche Helpline
- Telephone: 0345 120 2918
- 8am to 11pm daily
- Birth and Beyond is the Global Health Media app that has lots of useful videos in a range of languages
- Breastfeeding Friend provides fast, friendly, anytime, trusted NHS advice on breastfeeding, message the Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend chatbot
- Baby Buddy is a free app developed by midwives, health visitors and doctors to guide you through your pregnancy and the first six months of your baby’s life
There are websites that provide information on breastfeeding, including how to get started, overcoming common problems and other information that you might need.