factsheet: getting started

Your baby’s first feed can take place straight away after birth if you’re both well. Get help to make sure you’re both comfortable.


your baby shouldn’t have to twist, turn or flex his head to come on to your breast.
support your breast from underneath with your hand, if you need to, but avoid putting your fingers near the nipple or areola.
you shouldn’t try to ‘post’ your nipple into your baby’s mouth – it’s ‘baby to breast’ not ‘breast to baby’.
don’t push your baby’s head onto your breast – this can frighten some babies and put them off the whole idea. Bring him on when his mouth is wide open.
Even at this early stage, the way the baby actually feeds from your breast is crucial. If it’s not right, breastfeeding can make you sore, and lead to an unsatisfying feed for your baby.

one or both breasts?

Follow what your baby wants to do. Some babies want both breasts at each feed, and you can offer the second when your baby seems to take a break. If he doesn’t want it, just offer the ‘unused’ breast next time.

making milk

Every woman makes breast milk at first. Prolactin, the milk-making hormone, starts acting on the breasts, stimulating milk production. You already have colostrum, and some time between days two and five, the milk ‘comes in’.

You may feel your breasts are fuller and heavier than usual at this time. It’s not just the milk – there is a great increase in the amount of blood and fluid to the breasts as well. You may be uncomfortable, but this usually passes in a day or two.

If you don’t breastfeed, your milk production gradually stops. You continue producing milk only if milk is removed from the breast – that’s what ‘tells’ the breasts to make more. Normally, of course, the baby removes the milk by feeding at the breast – and the more he does this, the more milk you make.

When your baby sucks at the breast

he takes your breast in his wide open mouth, and draws the nipple to the very back of his mouth. His tongue and jaw start to move, pressing down on the breast tissue, almost squeezing the milk out .
he gets some foremilk, the lower-calorie that’s in the reservoirs behind the nipple.
the hormone oxytocin is released into your blood, and as a result the tiny muscles surrounding the milk-storage cells of the breast push the fattier hindmilk into the ducts – this is the let-down reflex or the milk-ejection reflex.
the milk goes down the ducts , towards the end of the nipple, and out into the baby’s mouth, and your baby swallows it.
Your baby gets into a suck-swallow rhythm, using his tongue and jaw to have an effective, satisfying feed.
If you try to limit the length and the number of feeds for some reason, or if your baby gets a bottle of formula which makes him uninterested in the breast, the body gets the message that less milk is needed – and produces less. So right from the beginning, feed your baby when he wants to, and give him lots of opportunities to ‘ask’ by having him close to you, cuddled in, skin to skin. If ever feeding hurts in these early days, talk to the midwife. Tenderness is normal; pain that gets worse as time goes on, rather than better, is not.