The Early Days
Skin to Skin Contact
Regardless of your feeding choices immediate, unhurried, and uninterrupted skin to skin contact at birth is recommended. This regulates baby’s temperature, heart rate and breathing rate, helps baby feel secure, gets maternal bonding hormones flowing, and helps get feeding off to a good start. Skin to skin contact can also enhance baby’s microbiome by transferring your good bacteria to improve gut health.
It is important to ensure that skin to skin is undertaken safely. Ensure you can see baby’s face and that their neck is straight and upright. Let staff know immediately if you are concernced about baby or feel unable to continue skin to skin.
Meeting baby for the first time
There is a growing body of evidence that skin-to-skin contact after the birth helps babies and their mothers. As part of their baby friendly initiative, Unicef have put together a helpful guide on skin-to-skin contact and why it's important. As well as the guide from Unicef, Best Beginings, who work to inform and empower parents who want to maximise their children's long-term development and well-being, have put together a compilation packed with hints and tips for new and experienced parents taking you from bump to breastfeeding
The World Health organisation recommends that all infants are breastfed exclusively for 6 months.
Breast milk is a unique, dynamic substance that changes with your baby. As well as being the perfect nutrition, it contains antibodies, immunoglobulins and hormones which promote gut growth and helps to prevent infections. During pregnancy and the first few days after birth the breasts produce colostrum which is a concentrated version of breast milk. This is produced in small quantities. At around 3 days colostrum changes to breast milk. You will notice your breasts becoming fuller during this transition. Breast milk production works on a supply and demand basis, so lots of frequents feeds or breast stimulation is important in the early days. You may find that your baby wants to feed more at night.
In the early days it can take time to get breastfeeding established. Maternity staff are all fully trained to offer early support with positioning your baby to attach effectively at the breast. They will ensure you have all the correct feeding information and know how to recognise that baby is getting enough milk, when to seek support and how to hand express.
It is recommended that babies breastfeed responsively. This means offering the breast frequently when baby shows feeding cues or for comfort. Breast feeding is not just for nutrition but for love, comfort and reassurance and a way of spending time together. Responsive feeding also means responding to your needs. You can offer your breasts if they become full, if you need to go out, or if you just want a cuddle!
Whilst getting breastfeeding established you should avoid giving your baby dummies, teats, and formula milk. This can interfere with feeding cues, resulting in baby going to the breast less, affecting your milk supply.
Breastfed babies cannot be overfed or spoilt by too much feeding.
There are many resources available to assist mothers with breastfeeding, some may work, other's may not but don't worry, we have put together some trusted resources to help you find what's suits you and your baby best.
While babies are born with the reflex to look for their mother’s breast, many mothers need support with positioning their baby for breastfeeding and making sure their baby is correctly attached. Courtesy of Unicef, and to help you both make the most of breastfeeding, here are some (of many!) positions to try. You can also watch the short video below to help with any positioning and attatchment problems.
Alternatively, in cases where you wish to hand express, this video guides mothers on how to hand expressand talks about the times when hand expression might be useful.
The Breastfeeding Network (BFN) have pu together thier guide on the best ways to express and store breastmilk. They also run a national breast feeding helpline for extra guidance and support.
Breastfeeding is a skill that takes time to get the hang of. But once you've mastered it, you'll probably find it's the easiest and most satisfying way to feed your baby. NHS Start for Life has further information available to help you in those first few days and answers of few questions that most mums will have.
Breastfeeding your baby can be challenging and rewarding, at the same time and it's OK to feel a range of emotions about it. The IFEED Project have put together their own guide covering a range of topics such as, 'Is my baby getting ebough milk?' to 'Breastfeeding in public'
If you choose to bottle feed, you should bring your own starter pack of milk with you to the hospital.
A few tips to get you started:
- Offer the first bottle feed in skin to skin contact.
- Always choose a first milk formula. First milks are suitable from birth to 1 year.
- Limit the number of people who feed your baby. If only you and your partner bottle feed your baby in the early days/weeks, you will get to know your baby very quickly and learn to respond to your baby’s needs.
- Feed your baby when they show feeding cues, using a paced bottle feeding technique. Hold your baby close and upright, holding the bottle horizontal. This allows your baby pace the feed and only take as much milk as they need. This reduces the chance of overfeeding. Holding baby close will help to build up a close and loving relationship, making your baby feel safe and secure.
- Ensure you have all the correct equipment for bottle feeding, including a steriliser. Maternity staff will discuss how to make up formula safely and correctly. Perfect prep machines are not NHS recommended.
If you have decided to bottle feed your baby, the following information will help you do so as safely as possible and will help you and your baby have a close and loving feeding experience. Even if you have bottle fed before, talk to your health visitor about the latest information on sterilising, types of milk to use and how to make up feeds as safely as possible.
Unicef have put together a guide on what infant formulas to use, it also helps to dispell some of the myths and answer some frequent questions surrounding formulas. They also have a guide to bottle feeding which includes information on how sterilise feeding equipment.
In their guide to responsive bottle feeding the 'Baby Friendly Initiative' offer their top tips on bottle feeding.
Parents often find with such a wide variety of milks on the market that it can be very confusing as a result The IFEED Project has also produced a guide on which milk and a guide on responsive feeding.
The NHS Better Health guide answers some of the challenges that come with bottle feeding as well as a how to of preparing bottle feeds.
Although exclusively breastfeeding is recommended, in some situations families may need or choose to combination feed.
Still feed responsively when combination feeding by offering a feed when baby is showing feeding cues, limiting the number of people who feed baby, and use paced feeding when giving milk via a bottle.
When combination feeding it is extremely important to ensure that breast milk supply is protected and maintained. Maternity staff and the infant feeding team can support you with this.
The IFEED Project, provides information about combining breastmilk and formula. If you need or want to introduce one or more bottles of formula milk, following these tips can help you to maintain or increase your supply of breastmilk.
The NHS Better Health guide to mixed feeding includes advice on introducing bottle feeding, expressing breast milk and adjusting your milk supply.
Head back to our infant feeding page for further information and resources.