All you need to know about breastfeeding

Our guide will answer any and every question you may have about breastfeeding! Read on for essential tips and advice…

1 of

Ad break

  • 5 steps to easy feeding

    Breastfeeding expert Clare Byam-Cook guides you through those first difficult stages...

    Step 1 - Get comfy

    It’s not surprising that it’s easier to get your baby feeding successfully if you both feel relaxed, so find a comfortable place to sit, where you’re not leaning backwards and your back is fully supported.

    Step 2 - Use a pillow

    To begin with, you may find feeding easier with the help of a pillow. Position the pillow, or pillows, comfortably on your lap and place your breast on top.

    Step 3 - Position your baby

    Lay your baby on his side on the pillow, with his tummy close to your body. Hold him firmly (but not roughly), so that his head is fully supported.

    Step 4 - Mouth to nipple

    Bring your baby close to you, don’t lean forward into him, so that his mouth (not his nose) is in front of your nipple.

    Step 5 - Latching on

    With his mouth open, move him quickly to your breast and get all the nipple and most of your areola into his mouth before it closes. His nose and chin should be gently pressed against your breast. 

    Mouth to nipple

    If his mouth isn’t wide open and the lips are not curled back then he isn’t latched on correctly. This will make feeding painful and make it harder for your baby to get your milk easily.

    Did you know…

    “Although you should see, hear and maybe feel long-drawn-out swallowing from your baby, don’t worry if it gets less towards the end of the feed,” says Maura Clark, NCT breastfeeding counsellor. “The milk doesn’t flow as fast towards the end, so the swallowing slows down a bit.”

  • Your breastfeeding starter kit

    • Breast pads
    • Nursing bras
    • Nipple cream
    • Support cushion

    How much milk does my baby need?

    “Don’t worry, your baby will stop feeding when she’s had enough,” says the NCT’s Maura Clark. “All you need to do is feed when your baby gives off her hunger signals (flickering eyelids, little noises, mouth movements and searching for your breasts), and you’ll produce the correct amount for her.” And don’t worry if your new baby seems to want to feed all the time. “It’s normal for a young baby to need frequent feeds, and sometimes several short feeds clustered together,” says Maura. “Feeds will tend to get quicker and more spaced out as she grows.”

    Help! My nipples have disappeared

    Do those enormous new boobs mean your skin’s stretched so much that your nipples have gone all flat? Try Lansinoh’s LatchAssist, which will temporarily draw out your nipple to help with latching on.

  • Reassuring signs your baby’s well fed

    Joy Stewart, infant feeding coordinator at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, explains some of the signs to look for when feeding your baby...

    You hear gulping/swallowing noises

    If your baby’s making the right noises, she’s almost certainly feeding well.

    You have a happy little one after a feed

    If she’s unsettled, or trying to suck her fingers, she may still be hungry.

    You’re changing plenty of wet nappies

    Your newborn can be expected to wee around six to seven times a day in her first month. Less than this and she might be dehydrated and need to feed more often.

    You’re seeing good poos

    In the first month, you can expect her to have soft and yellow stools around two or three times a day after the first five to seven days.

  • 5 ways to improve your milk supply

    1. Feed your baby frequently and check she’s feeding well. If she’s not, you’ll make less milk.

    2. Take time to rest. This helps divert your energy towards making milk. And remember, once you’ve mastered it, breastfeeding is the perfect opportunity to do some recuperating.

    3. Express milk after feeds. This is also a good way to get your other half involved in the feeding process.

    4. Eat and drink regularly. Although this won’t directly affect your milk supply, it will give you the extra energy needed to breastfeed.

    5. Relax. If you’re under pressure and trying to breastfeed too quickly, you won’t be able to do it. Let others help with household duties so you can relax and enjoy your baby breastfeeding.

    Says Joy Stewart, infant feeding coordinator at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

  • Continue slideshow >

  • My nipples hurt!

    “Sore nipples are caused by your baby sucking on your nipple and rubbing it with her hard palate, rather than suckling, or squeezing the milk out with her tongue,” says the NCT’s Maura Clark.

    Try this...

    • Check she’s positioned correctly and try to avoid pulling her off as the suction can make it more painful.
    • Keep your bra and T-shirt off between feeds for short periods to allow the air to get to your nipples.
    • Use a nipple cream to help soothe sore and cracked nipples. Look for one that doesn’t need to be removed before feeding again, so you’re not adding to the irritation.
  • 3 breastfeeding best buys

    For a comfy feed

    The Floppeze Feeding Pillow with Blue Cartoon cover £34.00, from Pink an’ Blue is a perfect support for your feeding baby, and it can be used when he’s learning to sit up too.

    For easy access

    This super-stylish Plum Pudding nursing bra, from Cake Lingerie has detachable straps, smooth seams and extra length around the middle to make breastfeeding a breeze.

    For stopping leaks

    LilyPadz reusable non-absorbent breast pads, £15.31, from Boots put pressure on the nipple and form a non-absorbent barrier to prevent leaking. They can’t be seen through your clothes either. Result!

  • Get express success

    If you want some help with feeding your baby, or you’re returning to work, why not express your breast milk?

    You’ll need…

    A manual hand pump or electric pump. With a manual hand pump it’s all down to you pumping away, but with an electric pump you get the help of technology. It’s also possible to express using only your hand.

    Bottles. To hold the expressed milk and to feed your baby with after you’ve expressed.
    Steriliser There’s a choice between microwave, electric or cold water (with treatment), and you’ll need to sterilise your bottles and the parts of the breast pump that touch the milk, between use.

    How to use…

    Your hand

    Wash both hands before starting and put your thumb around 5cm away from your nipple and your fingers below so they form the letter C around the areola. Then squeeze your finger and thumb together, pushing your hand back against your chest and continue doing this in a circular motion around your areola.

    Your electric pump

    Put a suction cup over your breast, turn the pump on, and let it do all the work by extracting milk into the attached container. Magic!

    Your manual hand pump

    This also uses a suction cup, but you extract the milk by squeezing the pump mechanism.

    Storage solution

    “Express your milk and place it in the fridge or freezer in small bottles or breast milk bags straight away,” says Maura Clark, NCT breastfeeding counsellor. “If you’re putting it in the fridge, you can use it for up to five days if it stays below 4°C, but if you’re not sure, use it within three days. If freezing, it will last up to six months in a 3-star freezer, or two weeks in the fridge freezer drawer.”

    Frozen breast milk should be thawed slowly in the fridge or at room temperature and must not be refrozen. Once at room temperature, it needs to be used or thrown away.

    Mum’s tip

    “Don’t forget to label and date your breast milk, so you can be sure you’re using the oldest first. I’ve also found keeping the milk at the back of the fridge keeps it colder.”

    Helen Jameson, 33, from Sussex, mum to Bethan, 6 months

  • Breastfeeding in public: your rights

    Currently, the Sex Discrimination Act, 1975 says that you can’t stop a woman breastfeeding in public, but lots of mums aren’t aware of this.

    To make it even clearer, the Equality Bill was introduced in April 2009, which clarifies that it’s against the law to stop a woman breastfeeding in many places like a coffee shop, bus or restaurant, or to ask her to leave. This bill will come into action later this year. 

    How to cope when you’re out and about

    Get support

    “Speak to your local breastfeeding support group, as the more confident you feel feeding, the easier it will be to do it in public,” says Joy Stewart, infant feeding coordinator at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

    Cover up

    Wear loose clothes to make it easier to feed and take a shawl if you’re feeling self-conscious, or invest in this Mamascarf, £17.99, for discreet feeding.

  • Continue slideshow >

  • Breast engorgement

    “This generally happens when the milk first comes in and your breasts become full, hot and inflamed,” says Maura Clark, NCT breastfeeding counsellor.

    Try this...

    • Feed frequently and put warm flannels on your breasts to help the milk flow, or have a bath or shower before you feed. Using cold compresses between feeds will help soothe the aches and pains.
    • Express a little milk before you feed to make it easier for your baby to latch on, but don’t keep expressing.
    • Put cold cabbage leaves in your bra as the enzymes appear to reduce swelling and prevent over supply of milk, although if you miss a feed you may become engorged again.

    Mum’s Tip

    “I’ve found the best way to deal with engorgement is not to be tempted to use a breast pump to relieve all the milk as the relief is short-lived. The body then thinks it needs to keep making this amount of milk. Just use your hands to smooth down over the breasts and relieve some milk and if you have to resort to a pump, do it as little as possible.”

    Lauren Finnie, 34, from Aberdeen, mum to Phoebe, 3, and Orla, 13 weeks

  • Can I get thrush?

    “Thrush can flourish in warm moist places such as nipples and babies’ mouths,” says Maura Clark, NCT breastfeeding counsellor. “Thrush will cause sore nipples, cracks that won’t heal and deep pain after breastfeeding in both breasts, and your baby will have white spots in her mouth and be unsettled when feeding. Your GP will prescribe the best form of treatment, usually cream for your nipples and drops for your baby’s mouth to start with.”

    Close to quitting?

    70 per cent of mums give up breastfeeding before six months, with 24 per cent stopping after just one week. Here’s how to keep going if you’re struggling…

    • Express your milk, so you can share the load with family and friends.
    • Find a support group in your local area. Talking to other breastfeeding mums going through similar experiences will put your mind at ease.
    • Get help. Ring the NCT breastfeeding line on 0300 330 0771, and a qualified breastfeeding counsellor will give you advice, support and information on what you can try next.
  • Don’t forget...

    If you’re finding it hard, remember why you’re keeping at it:

    First feed

    Why it’s great for you

    A great opportunity for the first skin-to-skin contact.

    Why it’s great for your baby

    Helps to stabilise your baby’s blood sugars and protect her gut.

    1 Day

    Why it’s great for you

    Helps your womb contract to its normal size.

    Why it’s great for your baby

    The antibodies from you provide natural immunity from infection.

    2-3 Days

    Why it’s great for you

    Instant relief for hot, swollen breasts when your milk comes in.

    Why it’s great for your baby

    Meconium is cleared more readily from her bowel.

    6 weeks

    Why it’s great for you

    You’ve probably mastered breastfeeding, so you can go out without needing any equipment.

    Why it’s great for your baby

    Less risk of getting a chest infection up until she’s 7 years old.

    2 months

    Why it’s great for you

    There’s a reduced risk of ovarian cancer in later life.

    Why it’s great for your baby

    Lower risk of food allergy at 3 years old if breastfed only.

    4 months

    Why it’s great for you

    You’ll feel great knowing you’ve been solely responsible for growing your baby to 4 months.

    Why it’s great for your baby

    Lower risk of developing eczema and asthma.

    5 months

    Why it’s great for you

    A lovely way to reconnect with your baby if you go to work.

    Why it’s great for your baby

    Less chance of cot death and lower risk of urinary tract infections.

    1 year

    Why it’s great for you

    No need to buy formula milk at all, so you’ve saved around £450 this year.

    Why it’s great for your baby

    Lower risk of becoming overweight in later life.