Top breastfeeding questions

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastmilk is basically food that’s tailor-made to your baby’s needs. In the first few days, it’s packed with immune boosters that can help prevent them from getting sick. Plus, breastfeeding has been shown to lower your baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and childhood leukaemia. What’s in it for you? It can help to lower your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis. Let’s not forget that it’s ready on-demand and doesn’t cost a thing.

Am I doing it right?

Can you hear your baby sucking and swallowing? That’s the first big indicator that things are working. Your baby’s mouth should be wide open and their bottom lip curled back beneath your nipple. You might feel a tingling sensation in your breast; this is the milk making its way down to your nipple. Does it feel uncomfortable? It shouldn’t. Your little nipper might be latched on in an awkward position. Place your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth to unlatch them and start again. Still not convinced things are working? Speak to your health visitor or midwife; remember they’re the experts in all things breastfeeding.

Are they getting enough milk?

The general rule of thumb is that you should feed your baby until they let go or fall asleep. Be confident that when this happens, they’ve had their fill. Offer both breasts at every feeding session, so they always have the option of more if they want it. It can be frustrating when you’ve got no measure of how much your baby is feeding but you can watch out for other signs they’re getting enough. Is your little person gaining weight? Do they seem healthy? Are they pooing twice a day? If so, you’re likely getting it right but do speak to your health visitor or midwife if you’re worried.

How can I increase my milk supply?

The trick is to feed your baby as often and for as long as they want in the beginning. This is going to keep the milk flowing and match the supply with the demand. To up your production, you could try expressing some milk after feeds too. Don’t forget to alternate between the breast you offer first each time. Struggling to remember which one you offered first last time? Keep a hair tie on your left or right wrist depending on which breast you need to start with next. Positioning and trouble latching can also cause low milk supply but that can be pretty easily resolved. Ask your health visitor to watch your baby feeding and they’ll be able to advise if anything needs tweaking.

How often should I breastfeed?

There isn’t a golden number for this but at first it will roughly be between 8 to 12 times over 24 hours. It really depends on your baby. Some prefer short feeds and often and others would rather one long feed that will keep them content for a couple of hours. The best thing you can do is sit back and let them take the lead. Keep an eye out for the signs (sucking, mouthing and wakefulness) and you’ll soon get into the swing of feeding them as and when they need a feed.

How long should each feed take?

Your pal sits for 45-minute feeds with her baby a couple of times a day but you’ve unbuttoned and done up your top more times than you can remember this morning. Some feeds will be short and some will be drawn out; both are normal. Just remember to always allow your baby to finish the first breast and then offer them the second to be sure they’ve had as much as they want. Still concerned? Ask your health visitor or a breastfeeding specialist.

What age should I breastfeed my baby until?

Sometimes you just want a concrete answer, we know. But there isn’t one, aside from the one that’s working best for you. If you’re going back to work, exclusively breastfeeding may not be realistic. If you’re having trouble expressing, switching to formula may be the best thing. Be realistic about it and remember there isn’t a wrong answer here. What do the experts say? For the first six months, NHS England recommends you breastfeed exclusively if you can. After that, assess what’s working and what’s not. The World Health Organisation says your kid can benefit from breastfeeding up to two years old or longer. Don’t forget you can do this alongside weaning and formula feeds.

Can I breastfeed in public?

Yes, you can. It’s legal anywhere in public across England, Scotland and Wales. Think about it: when you’ve got a hungry baby, it’s your priority to feed them. Try not to be self-conscious but if you’re new to this, we get that can be easier said than done sometimes. The best way to cope with this is to see other mums doing it. Hanging out with your mum friend group or meeting friends in baby-friendly places will help. Pick up a couple of breastfeeding-friendly tops; you can get ones that unbutton but still give you a bit of privacy.

What should I eat when breastfeeding?

You don’t have to eat anything special. Just take your normal balanced approach to eating when breastfeeding. Get in a range of different foods from across the food groups and keep things simple (and easily digestible) with fresh fruit and veg, pulses and lentils, and nuts and seeds. Eat regularly to keep your body ticking over and to keep up its milk supply. Try to skip on the caffeine or limit it to one coffee a day. It can get passed on through your breastmilk and may end up keeping your kid awake. An occasional drink is fine but just be aware that anything you eat and drink can make its way into your breastmilk, so it’s best to avoid or have a small amount  alcohol.

How do I express milk?

You can choose to do this with a pump or by hand. It can be easier in the first few weeks to use your hands. Make sure you’ve washed them well properly and the cup or bottle you’re expressing the milk into has been sterilised. Cup your breast with one hand and with your other hand in a ‘C’ shape with your forefinger and thumb; squeeze the breast gently. Make sure you’re doing this just away from the nipple, rather than on it. Apply pressure and then release. Keep repeating this and drops should start to appear. If you’re having trouble with this, please talk to your midwife or health visitor – they’re experts in this, we assure you. As for a pump, choose between manual or electric breast pump. You’re always you’re best reading the instructions here as how to do it can vary from pump to pump.