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Frequently asked Questions

How to breastfeed

baby feeding

Why is skin-to-skin with baby recommended? 

Holding your baby against your skin straight after birth will calm your baby.  It will also steady his breathing and help to keep him warm.

This is a great time to start your first breastfeed because your baby will be alert and will want to feed in the first hour after birth.  Your midwife can help with this.

Your baby will be happier if you keep him near you and feed him whenever he is hungry.  This will remind your body to produce plenty of milk.

You and your baby can enjoy skin-to-skin contact at any stage … however you’re feeding your baby.  

How will I know baby is hungry?

It is best to look out for early feeding cues.  Waiting for baby to cry will make it difficult to attach baby to the breast.

Early feeding cues include:  Baby sucking her fist, turning her head and rooting, rapid eye movements, restlessness.

What breastfeeding position should you use?

There are lots of different positions for breastfeeding. You just need to check the following:

Are you baby’s head and body in a straight line? 

If not your baby may not be able to swallow easily.

Are you holding your baby close to you?  

Support her neck, shoulders and back.  She should be able to tilt her head back easily, and she shouldn’t have to reach out to feed.

Is your baby’s nose opposite your nipple?

Your baby needs to get a big mouthful of breast from underneath the nipple. Placing your baby with her nose level with your nipple will allow her to reach up and attach to your breast well.

How do I attach baby to the breast?

  • Hold baby’s whole body close with her nose level with your nipple.
  • Let your baby’s head tip back a little so that her top lip can brush against your nipple. This should help your baby to make a wide open mouth.
  • When your baby’s mouth opens wide, her chin is able to touch your breast first, with her head tipped back so that her tongue can reach as much breast as possible.
  • With her chin firmly touching and her nose clear, her mouth is wide open and there will be much more of the darker skin (areola) visible above your baby’s top lip than below her bottom lip. Your baby’s cheeks will look full and rounded as she feeds.

What are the signs that baby is feeding well?

  • Your baby has a large mouthful of breast
  • Your baby’s chin is firmly touching your breast
  • It doesn’t hurt you when your baby feeds (although the first few sucks may feel strong)
  • If you can see the dark skin (the areola) around your nipple, you should see more dark skin above your baby’s top lip than below your baby’s bottom lip
  • Your baby’s cheeks stay rounded during sucking
  • Your baby rhythmically takes long sucks and swallows (it is normal for your baby to pause from time to time)
  • Your baby finishes the feed and comes off the breast on his or her own 

How often should I feed and how much?

Breastfeeding helps to build a loving relationship with your baby.  Feel free to feed your baby whenever you see that your baby’s hungry, if your baby is upset, if your breasts are feeling uncomfortable, or just because you enjoy it!   You can never over-feed or spoil a breastfed baby! 

Newborn babies usually get hungry frequently (at least 8 feeds in 24 hours, possibly more) but as they begin to grow and take more milk, they may start feeding less often. The frequency of feeds can increase during a baby's growth spurts, which often happen at around two weeks, six weeks, three months and six months, but every baby is different.

Let your baby thoroughly drain one breast and then offer the second breast. Sometimes baby will want more milk, sometimes not. You will know when baby’s finished the first breast as he will come off on his own. 

While you are breastfeeding, get plenty of rest and eat healthily. You do not need to have a special diet in order to produce enough milk.

How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?

Keeping an eye on the number of wet and dirty nappies is a good way to tell that your baby is getting enough milk.

  • In the first 48 hours your baby is likely to have 2 or 3 wet nappies.  Wet nappies should then become more frequent, with at least 6 in 24 hours from day 5 onwards.
  • At the beginning your baby will pass a black tar-like stool (poo) called meconium.  By day 3 this should be changing to a lighter, runnier, greenish stool that is easier to clean up. 
  • From day 4 and for the first few weeks your baby should pass at least 2 yellow stools every day (remember it is normal for breastfed babies to pass loose stools).

Your breasts and nipples should not be sore.  If they are do ask for help (see local breastfeeding support groups).

Your baby should be healthy and gaining weight after the first two weeks.

Is dummy use a problem?

Babies who have a dummy sometimes find it difficult to remember how to attach to mum’s breast.

Your baby will be less likely to feed when they need to, so won’t take in as much milk.

What is hand expressing?

Hand expressing means squeezing the milk out of your breasts by hand.   

This can be useful if:

  • Your breasts feel uncomfortably full
  • If your baby isn’t sucking well but you still want to give him mum’s milk
  • If you don’t want to buy or use a pump to express milk
  • In the first few days it is easier to express by hand

How to express milk by hand? 

Please refer to the Department of Health ‘Off to the Best Start’ leaflet 2012, or view hand expression page on Unicef Baby friendly initiative website.  


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