How to breastfeed

Breastfeeding tips and advice

You’ve probably heard that breastfeeding is a great way of providing the right source of nutrition and food for your baby, but you may feel that you need to find out more about the practicalities of breastfeeding – such as how to actually get started – before you decide whether it is the right course of action for you and your baby.

How breastfeeding helps your baby

Breastfeeding is a way of giving your baby the food he or she needs, whilst building up their immune system and aiding in the protection against infections (even after the breastfeeding period has ended). However, each mother needs to make an individual choice as to whether breastfeeding is right for you and the baby.

In some cases, breastfeeding may be too painful, difficulties with latching on, or you may just decide that it isn’t something that you are not comfortable with and would prefer to bottle-feed your baby instead. Whatever decision you make, it needs to be one that you and anyone else involved in the child’s upbringing (e.g. your partner) are happy with. If you do decide to begin with bottle-feeding, and then change your mind - it can be extremely difficult to change to breastfeeding at a later stage. So the best thing you can do for you and your baby is to get as much information as you can at the outset before making any decisions. You can speak to your midwife and health visitor about all your options. 

If you are still unsure once the baby is born, it might be a good idea to try breastfeeding initially, that way you haven’t limited your options to using only formula. It’s also possible to mix bottle-feeding along with breastfeeding, but it is advisable to wait until breastfeeding has been well established before introducing the formula feeds as this will increase your chances of maintaining a good milk supply.
It might be difficult to grasp this in the first few weeks, but it does get easier when a natural routine has formed. If you are struggling, please get in touch with your midwife or health visitor for support.

how to breastfeed your baby

Tips on how to breastfeed your baby

How you hold your baby (positioning) when breastfeeding can make all the difference to how comfortable both you and your baby feel, and also how easily your baby manages to feed.

Before you begin the process, make sure you are sitting comfortably.

  • You need to be facing your baby tummy to tummy. You can tuck your baby’s bottom under your elbow for additional support or use a pillow.
  • Support your baby behind the neck and shoulders.
  • Begin with your baby’s nose in front of your nipple.
  • Allow their head to tilt back and move their mouth softly across your nipple until their mouth opens widely.
  • Bring your baby towards your breast – with their bottom lip and chin reaching your breast first.
  • Your baby's chin will be in close contact with your breast. They should be able to breathe easily. Your baby should have a large mouthful of breast.
  • You may find that supporting your breast with your hand helps the process.
  • Your baby will let you know when they’ve had enough – by releasing your breast from their mouth and not attempting to latch on (take the breast) again.
  • Breastfeeding should be a comfortable experience for you and your baby; your baby is relaxed and a soft swallowing sound is audible. If you don’t feel that this is the case, then begin the process again – it’s natural to need a bit of practice until you and your baby get into a routine.
  • You can get in touch with your midwife, health visitor or GP for more information on breastfeeding.

Further help

The National Childbirth Trust Breastfeeding line: 0870 444 8708, which has trained breastfeeding counsellors who can offer you support and information.

The Breastfeeding Network can provide you with a list of local Breastfeeding centres in your area. Supporterline: 0870 900 8787, for breastfeeding mums.

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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