Feeding your baby

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust are currently working towards becoming accredited with the UNICEF Baby Friendly award. The UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative works with health care professionals to provide parents with the best support to build close and loving relationships with their baby, and to feed their baby in ways that support optimum health and development.

There are midwives, maternity care assistants and an infant feeding specialist to offer advice and support to you. They can offer support during pregnancy, after birth and once at home. 

UNICEF and the World Health Organization recommend exclusively breastfeeding your baby for at least the first six months of their lives, followed by the introduction of family foods with the continuation of breastfeeding until two years of age. Breastfeeding can continue for as long as a mother and baby wish, beyond weaning and the introduction of family meals if you choose.

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During pregnancy

During pregnancy you will have a full discussion about caring for and feeding your baby, including the benefits of breastfeeding with your midwife. This will provide you with all the facts you need to make an informed choice. You can always ask for further discussions with someone from the midwifery or health visiting team at any point. You can find lots of advice and resources at www.plymouth-latchon.org.uk/.

You can build on these discussions by attending antenatal classes where infant feeding will be discussed. Antenatal classes are a great way to meet other parents –to- be and find out more about pregnancy, labour and birth, and caring for your newborn baby.

Free NHS antenatal classes near you: Great Expectations on Eventbrite

Other antenatal classes: National Childbirth Trust

You can also prepare for breastfeeding by attending peer support groups such as latch-on groups and la leche league groups where you can meet other pregnant mothers and mothers who are currently breastfeeding their child. There are peer support workers to answer any questions, give advice and support on infant feeding.

It can also be helpful to watch some videos about mothers and their journey through pregnancy, birth and feeding which you can find here and on the baby buddy app.

Fathers can also look at ways to support you in your feeding journey by attending classes, appointments, watching the videos but also by downloading dad pad, a special app created just for dads.

Bonding with baby during pregnancy

Whilst you are pregnant not only is your body changing but your baby is growing and their brain is developing quickly. Taking time out to bond with your baby can support this brain development, helping with things such as remembering and understanding. It will also bring comfort to your unborn baby.

Your baby can feel when you touch and stroke your bump and may even push back. Getting to know your baby and their movements is a nice way to bond.

Your baby can also hear you so it’s a great time to talk, sing or even read books to your baby. Your baby will recognise familiar voices and familiar songs and stories once they are born and these can be used to comfort them.

After Birth

The first hour after birth is known to some as the golden hour.

Once your baby has been born, if everything seems well, then your baby should be passed, still naked, onto the skin of the mother’s tummy or chest. This is called skin-to-skin. This intimate bonding time allows you to get to know each other and for you to hold, touch, and stroke your baby for the first time. Skin to skin contact also helps to relax a mother and baby after birth, stimulating the release of hormones, which can help promote bonding.

If you and your baby are separated for any reason, every effort will be made to reunite you as soon as reasonably possible.

Once your baby has rested on your skin, they may start to show signs of being ready to have their first feed. You may notice them becoming more active, poking their tongue out, bobbing their head up and down or side to side, dribbling, and opening their mouth towards the breast. How long this takes will vary for every baby but enjoy your first skin to skin cuddle for at least an hour, the golden hour, to allow your baby to become interested in feeding. If left babies will very often find the breast and begin that first feed unaided but should you need some support your midwife and maternity care assistant will be there for you.

At Home

Before you leave the hospital, a midwife will offer to show you how to express your milk by hand. You will receive information about local and national support available once you leave hospital (available here). If you decide to bottle feed, staff will support you. They will ask if you want to be taught to make up a bottle properly, talk to you about paced, responsive feeding and will answer any questions you have.

Once at home it is important to care for your baby responsively. You cannot ‘spoil’ your baby by giving them love, touch and reassurance.

Responsive breastfeeding involves a mother responding to her baby’s cues, as well as her own desire to feed her baby. It is important to remember that feeding is not just for nutrition, but to ensure your baby and you feel loved and comforted.

Breastfeeding can calm your baby, reassure them if somewhere new, and settle them after the heel prick test or any immunisations, as well as providing nutrition. It can also help mother to meet her own needs, by feeding if she needs to sit down and rest, if she needs to feed before going out such as picking an older child up from school and to offer some relief. Breastfeeds can be long or short and at varying times in the day, depending on why the mother and her baby have decided to feed.

How can family and friends help

Family and friends have a role to play in supporting feeding. It takes a village to raise a baby and you are all part of the team.

As well as reading about breastfeeding, watching videos and knowing where you can access outside support some of the tips below might come in useful

  • Encourage her to have plenty of rest.
  • She may appreciate help with housework, cooking, shopping or taking care of older children.
  • Try and be sensitive to her feelings, the way you say something can be just as important as what you say.
  • Offer her lots of encouragement and tell her how well she is doing.
  • Encourage her to eat regularly and to have a balanced diet.
  • Respect her feeding choices. Never ask when she is going to give up breastfeeding- just support her for as long as she wants to continue
  • Try not to offer too much advice, sometimes simply listening can be the best help you can give.
  • Reassure her that baby’s appetite may vary, for example during a growth spurt, often around 10-14 days and again at 6-8 weeks.
  • Offer to go along with her to antenatal groups, Latch On groups, read the leaflets and watch the breastfeeding videos .
  • Remind her how well she is doing and that you are proud of her!

Getting Support

Here are some links to other sources of support:

Local

National

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Maternity Line

The Maternity Line number is 01752 430200.

The Maternity Line is for all calls related to pregnancy from 20 weeks gestation, labour and newborn babies.

Before 20 weeks gestation the GP should be contacted

If it is an emergency, 999 should be called.