Breast Feeding

Breastfeeding is good for you and your baby. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months - meaning breast milk only with no water, other fluids or solids followed by supplemental breastfeeding for two years and beyond.

Human breast milk is the perfect nutritional fluid for young babies. In addition to being a warm, sterile source of liquid and energy it contains a complex mixture of hormones, antibodies and enzymes that are important for healthy development. These cannot be provided by artificial formula milk.

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of infection in babies and has long-term benefits for children by reducing their risk of obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers.

Despite the WHO recommendations breastfeeding rates are disappointingly low. Many women are discouraged from breastfeeding when they run into problems with simple issues such as care of cracked nipples and positioning of the baby. They often get conflicting advice from health professionals and friends or struggle to find help at all.

Planning for breast feeding

Be prepared! Make sure that you get all the information that you need before your baby is born. There are so many myths surrounding breastfeeding that it makes things very confusing for the new mother.

Depending on your circumstances, advice may be obtained from experienced family and friends, your regular doctor, obstetrician or midwife, or community support groups such as LaLeche.

If you have any doubts or questions, then a session with a lactation consultant during the later stage of your pregnancy may be very useful. A Lactation Consultant is a nurse with special training and an interest in breastfeeding. Antenatal workshops for pregnant women are run because breastfeeding is a learnt art and pregnancy is the ideal time to learn. The pregnancy workshops aim to give practical answers and a realistic picture of what to expect. They also provide an opportunity to meet other expectant mums.

Once the baby is born ensure that you feel comfortable during the early days of feeding.

Frequent skin-to-skin contact with your baby in the first few hours of life and frequent unrestricted breastfeeding are both very important. You may also need help and encouragement with positioning and latching as this increases chances of successful feeding.

Milk supply is calibrated in the first couple of weeks after birth so it is important to resolve any breastfeeding problems promptly. Your baby may struggle to start breastfeeding initially. This is common with new babies; especially those born early or after a long labour. The lactation consultant or midwife can advise and reassure. Young babies often need up to twelve breastfeeds in 24 hours to cope with their rapid growth. Frequent and efficient (plenty of swallowing) breastfeeding in these early weeks ensures a good ongoing milk production. The length of the feed varies and should not be controlled; the fat and protein content of the breast-milk increases during the feed and thereby increasing the caloric intake.

New mothers often have "tender" nipples but sore nipples are due to damage. Painful breastfeeding requires assessment. Most painful breastfeeding will be resolved by improving the baby's position on the breast and ensuring that the baby has a large mouthful of breast tissue in his / her mouth.

A varied and balanced diet is essential to support both mother and baby.

If you are struggling with anything - ask for help early! You should know who to contact 24/7 for advice. Your midwife or obstetrician may well be your first port of call, but if things are not going well speak with a Lactation Consultant. Breastfeeding is a learnt art. At the clinic the lactation consultant will watch you feeding your baby, as poor technique is often the cause of the problem. Any problems can be rapidly corrected.

Providing all of these options requires a breastfeeding-friendly environment. The NICE guidelines were developed in 1991 to ensure a baby friendly hospital environment.


Breast Care Book

Comprehensive Information and
advice on all aspects
of breast care.

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