Babies don’t need to be fed anything other than breastmilk for the first six months. It’s the healthiest way to start. After that, you can keep breastfeeding while also giving solid foods for up to 2 years or longer if you want.

Breastmilk provides the ideal nutrition for babies and has important antibodies that help them fight off viruses and bacteria. The physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact during breastfeeding help your baby bond with you and feel safe and secure which is great for your baby’s brain development.

Breastfeeding also has benefits for you. It lowers the risk of certain health problems like osteoporosis (weak bones later in life), breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels).

Not getting any breast milk could cause health problems for your baby so even a little bit of breast milk is good. The longer you do it, the better it is for both of you.

Breastfeeding can be hard at first, but practise makes perfect! Your midwife or Health Visitor are trained to help you. They can also tell you about places where you can go to talk to specialists who can help with breastfeeding your baby.

What’s Special About Breast Milk?

Breast milk is a special kind of food that’s made just for babies. Here’s what makes it so special:

  • Your breast milk is unique and perfect for your baby. It has vitamins and minerals that your baby needs to grow and stay healthy
  • It’s a unique living liquid full of things called antibodies. These are like your baby’s bodyguards, helping to fight off sickness
  • As your baby grows, your breast milk changes too. It always has the right amount of nutrients for your baby.

The first milk you make is called colostrum. It’s super rich in nutrients and perfect for your new baby. It’s even extra helpful if your baby is born early or not feeling well.

Understanding Your Baby’s Needs

Keeping your baby close to you in the first days and weeks after they are born is very helpful because:

  • It helps you learn about each other
  • It’s easier to see when your baby is hungry
  • It helps you feed your baby when they need it
  • It makes your baby feel safe and loved.

Babies love to be touched, held, and cuddled. When they feel loved, they release a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone helps their brains grow and helps them be happy. Giving your baby lots of attention is a good thing. You cannot spoil a baby or cuddle them too much. Leaving a baby to cry can be stressful for both of you and might affect their health and growth.

Here are some signs your baby might be hungry:

  • Putting hands to their mouth
  • Turning their head
  • Licking their lips
  • Making mouth movements
  • Making little noises
  • Starting to fuss
  • Moving their mouth and head as if looking for food (this is called rooting)

When you see these signs, it’s time to feed your baby. If you wait until your baby cries, it will be harder to feed them. When you feed your baby, always hold them close and look into their eyes.

If you’re breastfeeding, feed your baby whenever they seem hungry and for as long as they want each time. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby so if you think they are hungry offer them the breast. Babies don’t need anything other than breastmilk until they are six months old when you can start giving them other foods as well as breastmilk.

If you’re not breastfeeding, you should still feed your baby when they seem hungry. But remember to do it slowly this is called pacing the feed. Feeding too much at once might make your baby throw up or be uncomfortable. Little by little can help your baby have healthier eating habits as they grow.

Breastfeeding is about more than just giving your baby food. It’s also a great way to:

  • Comfort your baby when they’re upset
  • Enjoy being close and sharing love
  • Rest and relax together

Remember you can’t overfeed a baby by breastfeeding. So, you can offer a breastfeed any time. It’s always a good thing to do!

What to Do If Your New Baby isn’t ready to Breastfeed

Sometimes, new babies aren’t ready to breastfeed right after they are born. This could be because the birth was stressful, or if you and your baby were separated for a bit. Sometimes, there’s no clear reason. But don’t worry! Here are some tips that might help:

  • Don’t panic! Babies are naturally meant to breastfeed. Sometimes, it just takes a bit of time and patience
  • Keep your baby skin-to-skin with you as much as you can. This can make your baby want to breastfeed. You could try holding your baby inside your shirt so you can rest together with skin contact
  • Try lying back while you breastfeed This lets your baby use their natural instincts to find your breast and start feeding when they’re ready
  • Use your hand to express your breast milk, called colostrum, and give it to your baby. You can do this by finger feeding (make sure your hands are clean and your nails are short), or by collecting your milk in a cup and giving it with a syringe. Keep doing this every couple of hours until your baby starts waking up and asking for feeds. This makes sure your baby gets your milk and your breasts know to keep making more.

The midwives will help you with feeding and expressing milk. They’ll also make sure your baby is doing okay, or get a doctor if there’s anything to worry about. If you’re at home, keep up the skin contact, encourage your baby to feed, and keep expressing milk. Contact your midwife if you need help.

Your Baby’s First Milk (Colostrum)

When your baby is born, their stomach is very small, about the size of a marble. That’s why the first milk you make, called colostrum, comes in small amounts. Your baby will need to feed often and in small amounts. The amount they drink at each feed will slowly increase over the first few days.

Colostrum is thick and concentrated, and it might be clear, white, yellow, green, or even red. These colours are normal. Colostrum has special antibodies that help protect your baby from getting sick. It also helps your baby poo out the sticky, black stuff called meconium from their gut.

You can even express out this first milk, colostrum, in the last part of pregnancy and store it to give it to your baby if they need extra milk after birth. This can be very helpful if you think your baby may not be ready to breastfeed straight away for example after induction of labour babies can be tired and need some extra support with feeding, or if you have diabetes and you baby may need blood sugar monitoring. You can ask your midwife if you think this could help you and your baby.

Your baby’s body is built to digest breast milk. Not getting any breast milk could cause health problems. Even if you don’t want to breastfeed all the time, any breastfeeds or breast milk you give is still very good for your baby. Keep doing this for as long as you are able!

How to Hold Your Baby While Breastfeeding

There are many ways to hold your baby while you’re breastfeeding. Here are some common things all these ways share:

You should feel comfortable and able to stay in this position throughout the feeding.

  • Your baby should be held close to your body, facing your breast
  • Your baby’s head, neck, and body should all be in a straight line. Their head and neck shouldn’t be twisted
  • Your baby’s nose should line up with your nipple at the start to encourage them to tip their head back
  • Your baby’s head should be free to tilt backwards as they come into your breast.

Breastfeeding Positions:

If you’re sitting up to feed your baby, you might find it more comfortable to lean back onto pillows or cushions. That way, your back is well-supported.

The “Laid Back” Approach:

  • You need to lean back so your baby feels safe and to make it comfortable for you. This is also sometimes called the deckchair position
  • Doing this helps your baby get close to you. You and your baby can enjoy being close without feeling rushed to start feeding. This way, your baby can use their natural instincts to find your breast and start feeding when they’re ready. They are more likely to achieve a deep, comfortable latch if supported to feed in this position.
  • Feeding this way also lets you and your baby look into each other’s eyes. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy these special moments. This is also known as Biological Nurturing. You can learn more at

Feeding While Lying Down, This can be good if:

  • You have sore stitches or bottom pain.
  • You had a C-section.
  • You’re tired and need to rest. But make sure it’s safe for your baby if you fall asleep.Here’s how you do it:
  • Lay on your side. Your head should be on the pillow and your shoulders on the bed.
  • Bend your legs up.
  • Your baby should be on their side, facing you. Their nose should be near your nipple. Make sure your arm isn’t pressing on their head. Their head should be free to tilt back.
  • Use your top hand to press on your baby’s shoulders. This will help them get to your breast when they’re ready. Sometimes, you might use the fingers of your bottom hand.

Underarm Hold:

  • This hold uses a pillow to support the baby. Your baby is just below your breast height, slightly turned towards you.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Hold your baby close to your side. Head near your breast and feet pointing towards your back
  • Support you baby’s neck and shoulder with your hand, try not to touch the back of their head. This lets their head tilt back freely
  • When your nipple touches your baby’s nose, their head can tip back between your finger and thumb. At the same time, you can push their shoulders towards your breast.

Good attachment

Breastfeeding well is really important. It helps your baby eat enough, helps you make enough milk, and can stop problems like sore nipples or blocked milk ducts.

Here are some tips to help your baby breastfeed well:

  • Line them up: your baby’s head, neck, and body should be in a line. It’s hard for your baby to eat if their neck is twisted or their body is turned
  • Support their back: hold your baby so that you are supporting their back, and their head is free to move backward
  • Ask for help if you need it: if you’re not sure if your baby is breastfeeding well, it’s okay to ask for help! You can ask your midwife, health visitor, or maternity support worker, or go to your local support group.

How do I know if my baby is attached properly?

  • Your baby should have a big mouthful of your breast
  • Your baby’s chin should be touching your breast
  • Your baby’s cheeks should be round and full while they’re feeding
  • Your baby should start with fast sucks, then change to slow and steady. You might be able to hear them swallow
  • Your baby might stop sometimes. That’s okay! They should start feeding again without needing to come off your breast
  • Your baby should be calm and happy while they’re feeding. They should let go of your breast on their own when they’re done
  • Your nipple should look the same before and after your baby feeds
  • Breastfeeding should not hurt. The first few sucks might feel strong, but they should not hurt. If your nipple is already hurt, attaching your baby might hurt for 10-20 seconds. But the rest of the time, breastfeeding should not hurt.

 Remember, it’s okay to ask for help if you need it!

Tongue Tie

Tongue tie is when the skin that connects the baby’s tongue to the bottom of their mouth too short or tight so the tongue cannot move properly. Many babies with tongue tie don’t have any problems. But for others, it can make breastfeeding hard.

Possible signs of Tongue Tie:

  • Have trouble latching on to your breast
  • Slip off your breast while feeding
  • Tongue tie can also make your nipples sore or cause them to crack.

Tongue tie is rare and most of these issues can be fixed with good positioning and attachment, so it is important to get some support with feeding quickly if you are worried or struggling.

If you think your baby might have tongue tie, talk to your health visitor, midwife or doctor. They can check your baby’s mouth and suggest what to do next. Most midwives, nurses and doctors are not trained to identify tongue ties but they can refer you to the specialist service for oral assessment and support.

Remember, it’s important to get help if you’re having trouble with breastfeeding. There are people who can help you, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Video - breastfeeding positioning and attachment

Video - breastfeeding problems