Becoming a parent can be an exciting time, when you will be offered new information, which will enable you to make choices for your new baby. During pregnancy, new parents may want to find out more about how they are going to feed their baby.
The Department of Health recommends giving only breastmilk (exclusive breastfeeding) for the first 6 months of an infant’s life, followed by a gradual introduction to solid foods (known as weaning). Breastfeeding can continue for as long as a mother and baby wish, beyond weaning and the introduction of family meals if you choose.
Once your baby has been born, you should have the opportunity to spend some time with him or her, as long as there is no need for any immediate medical attention. If you and your baby are separated for any reason, every effort will be made to reunite you as soon as reasonably possible.
Many mothers, and sometimes fathers, choose to enjoy “skin to skin” contact with their baby. 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. 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 (known as rooting). How long this takes and how it presents will vary for every baby but enjoy your first skin to skin cuddle for at least an hour, to allow your baby to become interested in feeding.
You do not need to decide how to feed your baby until after he or she is born. If you choose to breastfeed, every feed will make a difference to your baby's health by stabilising their blood sugars, protecting their gut and providing natural antibodies against disease.
Like all new skills, breastfeeding can sometimes take a little practice before you feel confident about your own abilities. Your baby is also learning to breastfeed for the first time, so you may want to ask for some guidance from a member of the midwifery team or trained peer supporter.
Benefits of breastfeeding for baby
- The first milk a mother produces is called colostrum, this is packed full of infection fighting antibodies
- Breastfeeding is an opportunity to spend time being close to your baby, which helps to stimulate their brain development
- Breastmilk gives your baby all the nutrients they need, in exactly the right amounts
- Breastmilk is easily digested by a baby’s immature gut
- Breastfeeding helps protect your baby from ear, tummy and urinary infections by passing on the mother's antibodies
- Breastfeeding produces hormones which help a mother and baby to bond
- Breastfed babies are less likely to develop childhood diabetes or become obese in later life
- Breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from asthma or eczema
- Breastmilk is available at all times, at the correct temperature and its free
Benefits for Mum
- Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of developing ovarian and breast cancersMothers who breastfeed are less likely to suffer from weak bones/hip fractures in later life
- Breastfeeding helps a mothers uterus to contract faster
- Breastfeeding can help delay the return of your periods
- Breastfeeding uses up at least 500 calories every day
- A mothers breastmilk is uniquely made for her own baby and contains millions of infection fighting antibodies
- Breastfeeding gives a mother and baby time to get to know each other
For more information about local Latch-on breastfeeding group and links to National breastfeeding organisations, visit: www.plymouth-latchon.org.uk
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.