Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby for the first 6 months of their life. Following the introduction of solid food from around 6 months, breastfeeding can continue to be enjoyed by you and your baby (helping you both stay healthy) for as long as you both wish.
Breastfeeding can help to protect your baby from diarrhoea, vomiting, constipation, allergies, eczema, chest, ear and urinary infections, cancers, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and in later life from being overweight, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Breastfeeding also has health benefits for you, such as reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, hip fractures, heart disease and obesity.
For any more support or advice, please contact your Health Visiting Duty Line, details can be found in the Getting support section.
If your baby is positioned properly and attached well to the breast, you’ll notice:
In the early days and weeks, babies feed around 8–12 times in 24 hours. They also feed for as long as they need to. Feeding times can vary from a few minutes to as long as 40 minutes per feed.
Feeding patterns vary over a 24 hour period. Your baby will usually have a time in the day when they need to feed almost continuously. This is sometimes called cluster feeding and may last up to 2 hours.
Breastfed babies also feed throughout the night. This is essential and normal as they’re growing rapidly and have very small stomachs. It also helps the mother to produce the milk-making hormone prolactin which is higher during the night; producing this hormone helps the mother to fall asleep faster, produce more milk and makes the baby more contented.
Babies usually gain weight following their centile line recorded in the Personal Child Health Record (known as the Red Book). It’s normal for babies to lose a little weight following the birth, but they should soon regain this within a few days.
Your baby should have around 6 wet nappies in 24 hours and 2 dirty nappies. This may change as breastfeeding becomes established after 4–6 weeks.
To help position your baby properly:
The CHINS method developed by Dr Lynette Shotton, Northumbria University, is an easy way to remember the key points of getting your baby positioned and attached well, whether you’re lying, sitting or standing. Ensure you are comfortable and relaxed then:
C – Close
Keep your baby close to you so they can get enough breast into their mouth.
H – Head free
When your baby wants to attach to the breast, they will tilt their head back allowing them to lead with their chin as they come onto the breast.
I – In line
Your baby should be in alignment with you and their neck aligned with their back so they don’t have to twist their neck and body to reach the breast, which makes swallowing more difficult.
N – Nose to nipple
With your nipple just below your baby’s nose, your baby will start to root. When their mouth is nice and wide, help them quickly onto the nipple to ensure a good latch and pain-free feeding.
The NHS website has a great video which shows a good latch as well as lots of great information.
You can find more helpful articles on breastfeeding on our blog pages.
If you're thinking of returning to work while you're still breastfeeding - it doesn't mean you need to stop.
Employers have certain legal obligations to breastfeeding mothers. Before you return to work, give your employer written notification that you're breastfeeding, as they will need to conduct a risk assessment. Workplace regulations require employers to provide suitable facilities where pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can rest. It's also good practice for employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk. The toilets are not a suitable place to express breast milk.
You'll find lots of information on this on the Start4Life website, including advice on how to stop breastfeeding when you feel ready to. The NHS website also covers how to deal with going back to work and continuing to breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding and going back to work - NHS information (opens in new window)
Continuing to breastfeed when you return to work from Maternity Action (opens in new window)
Returning to work while breastfeeding from Working Families (opens in new window)
Pregnant workers and new mothers: your health and safety (opens in new window)
There are lots of reasons to express your breastmilk for your baby; from storing your milk to give when you have a planned night out to relieving some pressure if your breasts are engorged or you have a blocked duct. Giving expressed breastmilk also helps to protect and maintain your supply, especially as your baby gets older and you may be thinking about returning to work.
We would advise using gentle hand expressing in the beginning few weeks of your pregnancy as your body responds better to this more sensitive approach than from using a pump. Once your supply is established, from around 6-8 weeks, you can then use a pump if you find it easier.
When you first start to express, you may only see a few drops of milk forming - this is very normal and will increase with practice! UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative has a great video on how to hand express (opens in new window).
You might wonder about how to store your breastmilk. The Breastfeeding Network has some really clear information (opens in new window).
NHS information on expressing and storing breast milk (opens in new window).
Expressing Your Milk - La Leche League GB (opens in new window).
If you are breastfeeding
The evidence suggests that breastfeeding reduces the risk of babies developing infectious diseases. There are numerous live properties in breastmilk that help to destroy harmful germs and boost your baby’s immune system. If you are mixed feeding and wish to exclusively breastfeed, please contact the Health Visiting duty line (details below) for advice and support.
If you are breastfeeding while infected with Covid-19
Follow the advice given by Public Health England. There is no current evidence that the virus is passed through breastmilk.
If you are breastfeeding and offered your Covid-19 vaccine
You can have any of the Covid-19 vaccines if you are breastfeeding There is no current evidence that the virus is passed through breastmilk. For more information please see the Gov.uk website.
You can find additional support with breastfeeding on our blog pages
Get support as early as possible to get breastfeeding off to a good start. Talk to your Health Visitor or ask them about your local breastfeeding clinics.
You can text a health visitor for support and advice with your baby and we'll text you back.
If you need to make or change an appointment, please contact your local health visiting team.
This telephone number is not for professionals who need to speak to the Health Visiting Service. Please use your normal method of contact.
These helplines may also be useful:
Off to the best start
From Bump to Breastfeeding information and videos
Breastfeeding tips for parents
The benefits of breastfeeding
The first few days of breastfeeding
Tips for partners to support with breastfeeding
Start 4 Life