Your health visitor is here to listen to you, help you make the choice that is right for you and support you with your baby’s feeding whatever decision you make.
When it comes to feeding your baby, breast is definitely best. Your body starts to prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy and unlike artificial milk, it isn’t made to a standard formula. It actually changes as the weeks and months go by to suit your growing baby’s needs and is proven to be beneficial for both yours and your baby’s health.
The longer you can breastfeed, the more health benefits your baby will get, but also any breast milk that you’re able to give your baby is good for them.
A new born baby has a very small tummy that initially holds 1-2 teaspoons colostrum (first milk) each feed, which is perfect for your baby. As more breastmilk is produced, the amount your baby gets at each feed increases every day.
Unique elements in your milk encourage growth and prevent harmful bacteria in your baby's tummy which can help reduce your baby’s risk of:
- Ear infections
- Breathing (or respiratory) infections and wheezing
- Digestive (gastric related) infections such as diarrhoea and vomiting
- Allergies such as eczema
- Dental alignment issues
- Sudden Infant Death
Breastfeeding can also reduce your risk of:
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
Breastfeeding is free and always ready to go
- Breastmilk never runs out, so it's always available
- It's always at the right temperature
- There's nothing to sterilise
- No formula to buy, which can cost hundreds of pounds a year
A special thing between you and your baby
- You can't beat the feeling that 'you' made your baby grow - it creates a special bond
- It makes you proud and gives you confidence as a mum
Planning to breastfeed
Planning to breastfeed your baby is a wonderful decision for the long term health, development and growth of your child. There are many health benefits for mothers and babies when breastfeeding.
Partners, other family members and friends are very important in supporting you while you breastfeed too, helping you give your baby the best possible start in life. Knowing how they can support you can help to you plan and help them to feel involved.
- Your partner helping with night feeds.
- Your friends being there to talk to.
- Grandparents keeping the older children entertained and helping round the house.
UNICEF Baby Friendly
Derbyshire Family Health Services are committed to supporting mothers to breastfeed and helping you to sustain that choice. We’re guided by the principles of UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative and in February 2014, along with Derbyshire County Council Children's Centres, we were awarded full Baby Friendly accreditation. This means that across Derbyshire, breastfeeding is supported and protected.
Find out more
- Reasons to be proud about breastfeeding
- Benefits of breastfeeding (link to The benefits of breastfeeding - Baby Friendly Initiative (unicef.org.uk)
- Watch this video about biological nurturing
Skin to skin contact
Skin-to-skin contact following your baby’s birth is a great way to begin your breastfeeding journey because it will:
- Help to calm and comfort your baby
- Help stimulate your baby’s digestion and interest in feeding
- Stimulate your hormones to support breast feeding
Breastfeeding is a skill
Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it is also a skill that can take time for you and your baby to learn. It can take up to 1 month for your breastfeeding to become fully established.
Whilst you’re learning to breastfeed it’s best not to use dummies or teats. Dummies can make it harder to know when your baby needs feeding because they soothe your baby, so you may miss their feeding cues which can have an impact on your breast milk supply. Teats can sometimes cause your baby to get confused between how they would attach to the breast and feed from a teat.
How do I know when my baby needs to be fed?
Getting to know your baby’s feeding cues will help you to know when your baby is hungry.
Some common signs your baby is hungry are:
- Moving more in their moses basket or crib
- Sucking their fist or fingers
- Smacking their lips or making murmuring sounds
- Start to root by turning their heads and opening their mouths
How often does my baby need to be fed?
After the first few days of life your baby will feed very frequently. This is normal. A breast fed baby can feed every few hours and every baby is different.
Most babies will want to feeding at least 8 -12 times per 24 hours including overnight. Night time feeds are particularly important because the hormone that produces breast milk is higher at night time.
Breast feed your baby as often and for as long as they want to feed. You can offer the breast for comfort or to settle your baby.
Your baby may feed for between 5 and 40 minutes at each feed. They may want to feed from both breasts, which is normal. As your baby grows and develops, they might get quicker/more efficient at breastfeeding and you’ll notice they won’t want to feed as often or for as long.
What is cluster feeding?
Your baby might want to feed more often at certain times during the day. This is known as cluster feeding.
Cluster feeding helps to increase your breast milk production to meet your growing baby’s needs. It will settle.
Why is the end part of breastfeeding so important?
At the start of the feed your baby receives the thirst quenching milk. It’s important your baby stays on the breast long enough for them to receive the fatty milk, which comes a bit later on.
At the start your baby will suck quickly, this helps to get your breast milk flowing. They will then start to settle into a suck and swallow pattern. You’ll know when your baby is at the end part of the feed with the high fat milk because they may look like they are asleep, or they may have short sucks which may feel like a fluttering on your breast.
The end part of your baby’s breastfeed is very important because it’s when your baby is drinking the high fat milk they need for their growth.
How do I know if my baby is getting enough breast milk?
After your baby’s first week there are many ways you can tell they are getting enough breast milk:
- Having at least 6 wet nappies every day
- Your baby’s urine should be pale
- Having at least 2 soft yellow poos every day
- After the first few days your baby’s poos will be soft, yellow and seedy and your baby will usually poo several times per day
- Settled and content after feeding
- Gaining weight consistently after the first 2 weeks. It can be normal for babies to lose a certain amount of weight after they have been born
- It’s not uncommon after 6 weeks of age for breast fed babies to sometimes go up to 10 days without having a poo
Does my baby need any other drinks other than breast milk?
Breast milk is all your baby needs to feed on for the first 6 months. They don’t even need water.
It’s recommended that all breast fed babies are given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth even if you are taking a vitamin D supplement as a breastfeeding mum.
You can carry on breastfeeding when you start weaning your baby, when they will also need some water.
You can continue to breast feed for as long as you and your baby want to.
More information and support:
There are many myths, stories or beliefs about breastfeeding that are heard and passed on to mothers, whether or not they happen to be true facts is another matter.
Below are ten commonly heard myths, plus a short explanation:
Breastfed babies need to be given drinks of water in hot weather
NO – breastmilk contains everything a baby needs for the first six months, it changes to meet the individual needs of each baby. When it’s hot, babies often have shorter, more frequent feeds to receive more thirst-quenching milk. It’s also been shown that if breastfed babies are given water, they will take less breastmilk which in turn can reduce a mother’s milk supply.
Larger breasts make more milk than smaller breasts
NO – the size difference is the amount of fat each breast contains and not the capacity of the breast to make milk.
You have to be careful what you eat when you’re breastfeeding
NO – there are no special foods to include or avoid when breastfeeding, but it’s important for every mother (whether breastfeeding or formula feeding) to look after herself by eating and drinking fluids regularly. Breastfeeding mothers may feel more hungry and thirsty, so this is not the time for dieting.
Breastfeeding makes breasts saggy
NO – pregnancy changes the shape of a woman’s breasts, so they may feel different after having a baby. After breastfeeding, over a period of time, fat is laid back down in the breasts.
Breastfeeding is a painful business
NO – this shouldn’t be expected, because painful, misshapen or damaged nipples are usually signs that attachment needs some adjustment. There are new sensations when breastfeeding for the first time which will soon become familiar. Understanding how babies attach and having the right help and information at the beginning will minimise problems.
Expressing your breasts shows how much milk is in them
NO – babies are usually more efficient at moving milk than breast pumps. Something mechanical doesn’t tend to have the same effect on a mother’s hormones (let-down reflex) as her baby.
Spacing out breastfeeds gives your breasts time to fill up with milk
NO – by spacing out feeds you will lower the hormone that makes milk which will start to reduce your milk supply. Breastfeeding more often will increase this hormone and signal your body to make more milk.
There is little difference between breastmilk and infant formula
NO – infant formula has no antibodies, living cells, hormones or enzymes and does not change to meet the individual needs of each baby at various stages of growth and development. Formula milk is universal, not individual.
There is no way of knowing how much milk a breastfed baby takes
NO –while measuring the exact amount of milk available to the baby could be tricky, there are several ways of knowing your baby is taking plenty of milk.
- They are usually more satisfied after a feed than before
- Nappies are wet and heavy, with several soiled ones each day in the early weeks
- They’re growing
- You can hear baby swallowing milk
- Your breasts feel softer and looser after a feed than before
- You can see your baby is taking effective long, deep nutritive sucks
Babies get all the goodness in the first few days of breastfeeding, that’s the most important time
NO- every day counts with breastfeeding. Colostrum (first milk) is a concentrated form of breastmilk because the volume is small. Mature breastmilk is equally important and continues to provide ongoing protection from infections throughout the period of breastfeeding. Whatever germs are present in the environment, mothers will provide antibodies, in their milk, to protect their babies.
You can breastfeed in a number of different positions. Finding one that is comfortable for both of you will help your baby feed as well as possible.
If you’re lying back in a well supported position with your baby lying on your tummy, they will often move themselves onto your breast and begin to feed.
You can try feeding lying on your side or in a chair, supported in an upright position. This will make it easier to hold your baby so their neck, shoulders and back are supported and they can reach your breast easily. Their head and body should be in a straight line.
- Hold your baby’s whole body close with the nose level with your nipple.
- Let your baby’s head tip back a little so their top lip can brush against your nipple. This should help them to make a wide open mouth.
- Their head should be tipped back and mouth wide open so that the tongue can reach as much breast as possible, chin firmly touching your breast first, nose be clear and much more of the darker skin visible above your baby’s top lip than below their bottom lip.
- Their cheeks will look full and rounded as they feed.
This information is taken from the Department of Health’s book Birth to Five which you can download.
Remember to keep you baby safe at all times.
Breastfeeding should feel comfortable and your baby should be relaxed making soft swallowing noises. If it doesn’t feel right, start again. Slide one of your fingers into your baby’s mouth, gently break the suction and try again.
Useful videos and further information
Most breastfeeding problems are linked to the way your baby attaches their mouth to your breast, including things like painful breastfeeding, sore or cracked nipples and swelling. Attachment can often be the cause of problems like prolonged feeding, poor weight gain or overly frequent feeding.
Signs that baby isn’t attaching their mouth to your nipple properly
- You can see baby’s bottom lip just under the base of the nipple
- Discomfort or pain
- Their mouth isn’t opening very wide
- Cheeks sucking in with each jaw movement
- They appear to not have sufficient breast in their mouth
- There’s a space between the chin and breast
- They constantly slide off the breast
- Rapid sucking with not many swallows
- Noisy feeding (usually clicking noises)
- Your nipple is misshapen when baby releases your breast
How do I know that my baby is feeding well?
- They have a large mouthful of breast and their chin is firmly touching your breast
- It doesn’t hurt you to feed (although the first few sucks may feel strong)
- If you can see the dark skin around your nipple, you should see more dark skin above your baby’s top lip than below their bottom lip
- Their cheeks stay rounded during sucking
- They rhythmically take long sucks and swallows (it’s normal for your baby to pause from time to time)
- They finish the feed and come off the breast on their own
Breastfeeding isn’t something you need to hide, but it’s important you do what makes you feel comfortable.
A few hints and tips
- You never need to go and hide in a toilet
- Try and get settled somewhere before your baby gets hungry. If they start crying, they might draw more attention to you
- In cafés, find a comfortable place to feed. If you have to keep moving your chair, it might upset the baby’s feed
- If you’d prefer to find somewhere out of the way to breastfeed, try these:
- Fitting rooms
- With your back to the room
- In the car
- Using your pram or buggy to help screen you and your baby
Breastfeeding is nothing to be embarrassed about, but knowing how to avoid flashing your boobs can help you feel more confident.
Using a sling can make carrying your baby easier because they put less strain on your back, plus they cover you up. You can feed your baby whilst they're in their sling, but we highly recommend you seek advice before trying this to ensure you're doing it safely. Carrying Matters have some really useful information to get you started.
The other thing that really helps is practice. The more you do it, the better you get at getting baby latched on quickly.
Clothes that work
- Any tops that unbutton from the bottom
- Stretchy tops that pull up
- Two-piece outfits
- Bras and tops made especially for breastfeeding
- Jackets, cardigans and shirts over a vest top are all great – use them as a screen and they’ll cover almost everything
- Scarves and baby blankets are also good at keeping things under wraps
Clothes that don’t work
- Items that are tricky to gain access to your breasts
- Items that make you feel really exposed
Further resources for breastfeeding in public
You don’t need to stop breastfeeding just because you’re returning to work, but if you do want to breastfeed while working, you need to tell your employer in writing in advance. Then they‘ll be able to make preparations for you.
Here are a few different options you can try:
- Ask your employer for flexible working hours to allow you to build your working day around breastfeeding
- Arrange childcare close to work, this way you can breastfeed during breaks or before and after work.
- Express breast milk by hand or by using a pump and store it safely so someone else can feed your baby while you’re at work
- Pregnancy and work – what you need to know as an employee
- Hand expression info from Problem Solving Mothers Guide
- A Guide For New And Expectant Mothers Who Work
Once you’ve expressed your milk by hand or by pump (always make sure equipment is sterilised), it is important to store it safely.
Milk should be stored in a fridge and carried home in a cool bag. Ask your employer to provide a fridge if you don’t already have access to one.
Milk can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days at 5 - 10°c or for 5 days at 0 - 4°c (usually at the back of the fridge). Breastmilk can be stored for up to 2 weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge or for up to 6 months at -18°c or lower in a freezer.
- Label and date breastmilk before putting it in the fridge or freezer
- Have a trial run with childcare before returning to work
- Be prepared by keeping an extra top and some breast pads at work
- Defrost frozen breastmilk in the fridge and use it within 12 hours, but don’t refreeze it once thawed
- If you’re using milk within 5 days of expressing it, it’s better to store it in the fridge than in the freezer
- Breastmilk must always be stored in a sterilised container
- If you use a pump, make sure you wash it thoroughly after use and sterilise it before use
- Don't use a microwave oven to warm or defrost breastmilk
Did you know you can rent breast pumps?
You can buy your own breast pump, or you can also rent them which can be useful if you want to test whether you get on with a pump before purchasing your own.
- The minimum hire term is 14 days, payable in advance.
- Single pump £29.70
- Double pump £39.60. This includes the purchase of the collection set(s).
- After the initial period, weekly payments of £9.90
- To hire a pump, contact Emilie Breastfeeding Counsellor
- Medela Symphony.
- £47 for first 14 days including pump set & delivery
- £47 for every 30 days thereafter
- Call 0161 776 0400
- Symphony Double Breast Pump Hire.
- £47.00 for first 14 days, including delivery and collection charges
- £47.00 for every 30 days thereafter
- Two pump sets, included in the price
- Customer service team: 0161 776 0400
Making sure you have all the support you need can be crucial in making breastfeeding work for you. So don't be afraid to ask family and friends for help and show them this information so they know how they can help you.
During the first few weeks of breastfeeding your role is going to be crucial. Mum needs to know she’s not in this alone and that you’re there to give her support 24 hours a day without ever putting her under pressure.
You don't have to feed your baby to bond with them so don't feel left out if mum's doing all the feeding. There are plenty of things you can help out with:
- Know what you need and who you can turn to for help and advice
- Be positive, patient and never suggest mum gives up
- Offer moral support
- Go to breastfeeding support groups together
- Be there at important times like first feeds and the 10-day check up with your health visitor
- Change nappies, change nappies and change more nappies
- Make snacks for night time feeds if mum is feeling peckish
- Give your baby their night-time bath
- Remember skin-to-skin contact is great for you to bond with baby too
Being a grandparent can be incredibly rewarding and the bonds you build with your grandchildren can be really special. You can also play a vital role in the first few weeks of breastfeeding.
On a practical level there are lots of things you can help with, but mum needs your support on an emotional level too. It’s important to recognise your support and approval really do matter, so try to be positive and reassuring, even if you did things differently when you had children.
- Provide emotional support and be positive
- Understand why breastfeeding is important, even if you bottle-fed your children
- Spend time with any older grandchildren and make sure they feel special
- Babysit when mum needs a rest during the day
- Provide reassurance that mum is making the right decisions for her family
- Encourage her to get additional support if she is struggling
- Help out around the house
- Make drinks, snacks and meals
Becoming a mum is an amazing experience, but when you’re spending all day with a baby you can sometimes feel isolated and lonely. And that’s where friends like you come in. By being there for your friend, you can make a big difference by reassuring her, making her laugh and helping her get things off her chest.
- Make sure your friend still has a social life
- Plan baby-friendly days out
- Find public places where she is happy to breastfeed
- Keep her up to date with the latest gossip
- Never discourage her from breastfeeding
- Reassure her she looks amazing
- Offer a sympathetic ear if things get her down
- Organise a get together with all her friends
- Encourage her partner to take the baby out to give her some quiet time
- Offer to take the baby out for a walk so she can have a break
Your health visitor is there for you and your partner throughout pregnancy and to support you with your new baby/babies. Their role is to:
- Help your baby avoid illnesses and stay healthy
- Talk to you about breastfeeding, general baby feeding or anything about your baby's behaviour that you're concerned about
- Give you advice if you're feeling down, anxious or depressed
- Suggest places to find help or get in touch with groups where you can meet other parents
The breastfeeding volunteers in Derbyshire are all managed by the Breastfeeding Network who train, supervise and support their development and the development of breastfeeding groups.
Breastfeeding volunteers aren’t healthcare professionals or health visitors, they’re mums who have breastfed and had further training on breastfeeding and how to support breastfeeding families. They’re there to listen to you, reassure you when breastfeeding is going well or signpost you to other resources when it isn't. It can be tricky to know if you're doing things right when your breastfed baby doesn't behave how you might expect them to.
Volunteers receive ongoing support, supervision and further training for however long they choose to support other breastfeeding mums in their community.
Breastfeeding peer support is recognised as an effective way to increase the number of women who choose to breastfeed and to help them continue breastfeeding for as long as they wish. They’re highly valued by breastfeeding mothers, especially in the early days after the birth of their baby when many mums find it useful to have someone else to discuss queries they have.
I’m thinking of becoming a breastfeeding volunteer
We greatly welcome any time women can spare to support breastfeeding mothers in their area, at locations, days and times to suit you.
Breastfeeding peer support is enormously valuable, even if it’s just for an hour or so here and there on an ad-hoc basis.
You can choose where you wish to provide breastfeeding support: antenatal classes or clinics, breastfeeding drop-in groups, over the phone or a mixture of all. You can also decide when you’re available to help that’s convenient for you; daytime, evening or at weekends and for as much or as little time as you wish. There’s no need to commit to regular timeslots, hours or days.
For more information visit The Breastfeeding Network's training page
What's in it for me?
The training to become a Breastfeeding Volunteer is run by the Breastfeeding Network – a charity which has been supporting parents to make informed choices about infant feeding for twenty years.
By completing the course, you will gain:
- The knowledge, skills and experience to support other new mums in your community with breastfeeding
- A nationally recognised Open College Network accredited qualification
- Work experience and up-to-date references to apply for a job in the future
- An opportunity to continue training to become a BfN Registered Breastfeeding Supporter
Training will be free to trainees and may include a crèche facility.
Women choose to volunteer to help other mums breastfeed for many reasons including:
- Making a positive difference to women and their families
- Using your own breastfeeding experience and skills to help others
- Giving someone else the same positive support you experienced
- Allowing other women to benefit from your knowledge, experience and support
- Gaining new skills and knowledge
- Making new friends and acquaintances
- Doing something different from your paid job
- Having fun
- Keeping busy
- Gaining work experience for a change of career
- Having the opportunity to work alongside other peer support workers and health professionals including midwives, family support workers and health visitors.
Once you’re a Breastfeeding Volunteer, you’ll be welcomed into your nearest group (need a link to find local groups). The Breastfeeding Network will provide:
- Access to a small, supportive, knowledgeable Facebook group where you can share triumphs and struggles with other volunteers (breastfeeding related or not)
- At least eight sessions per year with your Breastfeeding Network supervisor, to discuss recent volunteering experiences and keep up-to-date
- Discounts on tickets to Breastfeeding Network study days
- A Breastfeeding Network t-shirt
- And most of all, a huge sense of reward when you help mums to breastfeed happily and comfortably according to their goals