Breastfeeding provides all the nutrition your baby needs during the first six months of life. The first milk (colostrum) is thick and yellow in colour. It is very rich in protein and antibodies that will help give your baby a great start to life. Breastfeeding has a number of other benefits for your baby, including:
- Satisfies both thirst and hunger
- Protects baby while their immune system is still developing
- Reduces incidence of infections
- Helps reduce the risk of obesity in childhood and later in life
- Supports bonding between mother and baby
It is recommended to exclusively breastfeed up until 6 months of age. Once solids are introduced at 6 months, you can continue breastfeeding up to 2 years of age.
Don’t forget to look after your own wellbeing while breastfeeding, including eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of fluids. See the Australian Guide to Health Eating for more information.
You can usually start breastfeeding within the first few hours after birth. Holding your baby skin to skin against your chest, they may find the nipple and begin feeding without any help. Your midwife or lactation consultant can also help to guide you to achieve comfortable positioning and good attachment, which are both key elements of successful breastfeeding.
Achieving good attachment is important because you are less likely to experience certain feeding problems, such as cracked nipples, if baby is well attached to your breast.
Signs of good attachment include:
- Baby’s chin tucked into the breast with mouth wide open and bottom lip curled back
- Baby’s nose is clear and just touching the breast
- More of the areola will be visible above your baby’s top lip than below it
- Your baby’s cheeks should not be sucking in and there should be no clicking noise during sucking
There shouldn’t be nipple pain but you might feel a stretching sensation as your nipples adjust to breastfeeding.
Video on attachment – Raising children network
How often should I feed?
During the first week of life most babies will gradually develop a pattern of feeding 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period. You should feed your baby whenever they show signs of hunger. The more you feed your baby, the more milk you will make. Allow baby to feed until she/he stops sucking and swallowing, and offer your other breast.
Breastfeeding is natural but it can take time for you and your baby to learn what works best for the two of you. If you have any questions or any problems, don’t be afraid to seek help from your midwife or lactation consultant, or you can call the Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268 (1800 mum2mum).
The Australian Breastfeeding Association runs a number of Breastfeeding Support Groups across Australia. You can search for your nearest group on their website.
More information on breastfeeding is available at these sites: