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?
- 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 only consume 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.
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:
- 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:
- 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.
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 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
Vitamin D Supplements
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 12. Please ask your health visitor, midwife or family nurse.
More advice about vitamin D for all age groups
As their tummy grows
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 issues 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
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
Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.
08 April 2022
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