Pregnancy and baby

Breastfeeding: the first few days

How will breastfeeding help me bond with my baby? (0-9 months)

Media last reviewed: 27/01/2015

Next review due: 27/01/2017

In the first few days, you and your baby will be getting to know each other. It may take time for both of you to get the hang of breastfeeding.

This happens more quickly for some women than others. But nearly all women can produce the amount of milk their baby needs.

Preparing for breastfeeding before the birth

It’s good to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding before the birth. Knowing what to expect should help you feel as confident as possible when you've just given birth and want to breastfeed your baby.

Antenatal sessions, whether held by the NHS or another organisation, should cover the most important aspects of breastfeeding, such as positioning and attachment, expressing, common questions and concerns, and how to overcome them. You can find out more from your midwife, from family and friends, and useful helplines and websites.

There are lots of groups and drop-ins, some specially designed for pregnant women who want to know more about breastfeeding. You can find out more by asking your midwife, health visitor, local peer supporter or GP. Or visit your local Children’s Centre.

Skin-to-skin contact

Having skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after the birth will help to keep your baby close, warm and calm, and steady their breathing.

Skin-to-skin time can be a bonding experience for mum and baby. It's also a great time to start your first breastfeed because your baby will be alert and keen to feed. If you need any help, your midwife will offer support with positioning and attachment.

Your baby will be happier if you keep them near you and feed them whenever they’re hungry. This will help your body to produce plenty of milk.

Skin-to-skin contact is good at any time. It will help to comfort you and your baby over the first few days and weeks as you get to know each other.

Skin-to-skin after a caesarean

If your baby is born by caesarean section, you should still be able to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after the birth. Some births involve complications that mean skin-to-skin may be delayed. If this happens, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to breastfeed your baby. Your midwife will help you have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as it's possible.

Colostrum: your first milk 

Every pregnant woman makes milk for her baby, which is ready and available at birth. This milk is called colostrum and is sometimes a yellow colour. It's very concentrated, so your baby will only need a small amount at each feed (approximately a teaspoonful).

Your baby may want to feed quite frequently, perhaps every hour. But they will begin to have longer feeds less often when your milk comes in, in a few days. The more you breastfeed the more milk you'll produce. The time between feeds will vary, and you and your baby will settle into a pattern, which may change from time to time.

How often will my baby breastfeed?

All babies are different, and it may depend on the type of birth you've had. Your baby should feed within the first hour after birth to get off to a good start. Babies then sometimes have a sleep and afterwards will start to give you signs that they're ready for the next feed. These signs may include:

  • starting to move about as they wake up
  • moving their head around
  • finding something to suck, usually their fingers 

Building up your milk supply

Around two to four days after birth you may notice that your breasts become fuller and warmer. This is often referred to as your milk "coming in". Your milk will vary according to your baby’s needs. It will look thin compared with colostrum, but gets creamier as the feed goes on.

Each time your baby feeds, your body knows to make the next feed. The amount of milk you make will increase or decrease depending on how often your baby feeds. In the early days, "topping up" with infant formula can decrease your milk supply.

Feed your baby as often as they want. This is called baby-led feeding (it's also known as "on-demand" or "responsive" feeding). Let your baby decide when they’ve had enough. It's not necessary to time the feeds. In the beginning, it can seem that you're doing nothing but feeding, but gradually, you and your baby will get into a pattern of feeding (routine), and the amount of milk you produce will settle.

It's important to breastfeed at night because this is when you produce more hormones (prolactin) to build up your milk supply. At night, your baby will be safest sleeping in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you.

The let-down reflex

Your baby’s sucking causes milk stored in your breasts to be squeezed down ducts towards your nipples. This is called the let-down reflex.

Some women get a tingling feeling, which can be quite strong. Others feel nothing at all. You'll see your baby respond, and their quick sucks will change to deep rhythmic swallows as the milk begins to flow. Babies often pause after the initial quick sucks while they wait for more milk to be delivered. If your baby seems to fall asleep before the deep swallowing stage, check they’re effectively attached.

Sometimes you'll notice your milk flowing in response to your baby crying or when you have a warm bath or shower.

Leaking breast milk

Sometimes, breast milk may leak unexpectedly from your nipples. Press your hand gently but firmly on your nipple when this happens. This usually helps very quickly. Wearing breast pads will stop your clothes becoming wet with breast milk. Expressing some milk may also help.

Help and support for breastfeeding

For more information on how to get comfortable and make sure your baby is properly attached, see Positioning and attachment.

If you're very uncomfortable or sore, ask for help. Midwives, health visitors and trained volunteers can offer information and practical help with breastfeeding. Talk to your midwife or health visitor about the information and support available in your area. Or call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.

You may also want to check out the Netmums breastfeeding and expressing forum.

The early days and weeks

In this video by Best Beginnings, new mums Angela and Teresa talk about the early weeks with their babies and their experiences of breastfeeding

Media last reviewed: 22/10/2014

Next review due: 22/10/2016

Page last reviewed: 02/10/2014

Next review due: 02/10/2016


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The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

ejw1980 said on 04 July 2014

I have just had my 4th baby 7 yr gap between this one and my youngest and I've fed them all 2 until they were 2yrs other one went on the bottle at 6 wks I truly forgot how hard it is to breastfeed and how demanding it is,its really hard work and when you have others to run around after it is even harder but I wouldn't change it for anything it's so easy ( if you can do it) I understand how some people struggle my milk just wasn't there for my middle child she just wouldn't settle so she went on the bottle,it's not for every baby or every mum first few weeks you literally never move the baby never sleeps unless there on the breast and no one else can feed them you can't go out anywere unless your back home within the hour to feed,your breasts are always filling up and hard but you shoudnt get any pain unless baby isn't latching on properly and just munching on your nipple,I do think it's hard to enjoy your baby the first few weeks everyone else can pick them up for cuddles but all you get is is them rooting for there next feed even tho you've literally just sat there2 hours feeding them,it's hard work and tireing nothing like the midwife tells you about I do it purely because I'm lazy why get up to make bottles when you have it on tap,no washing bottles no steriliser to buy,but it's catch 22 you don't have the colicky sicky baby but you do have the clingy demanding baby that you cannot leave with anyone,for me tho I wouldn't change a thing :)

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Ladyrogo said on 12 June 2014

All the people on this video found Breastfeeding easy, if I had watched this a week ago it would have made me feel terrible as I've had a bad time getting to grips with the pain.

Everyone one I know said Breastfeeding was difficult and painful and that is the reality of it, it would be good to see someone on the video who has overcome the worst of it.

After 2weeks of constant Breastfeeding, the pain is becoming more bearable as my baby's mouth is getting bigger, I want to let people know that is isn't plain sailing, but it does get better and you have to be very, very strong to keep trying.

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Roe B said on 15 October 2013

Just to mention that my and the second comment below about the video was about the previous video that was on this page, not the present one.

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Sadie2011 said on 05 June 2013

I agree with Roe B re the 'how do I bf my baby DVD' It isn't particularly positive about Breastfeeding at all and suggests twice in a very short film the prospect of formula feeding instead.
To be more factually correct re positioning and attachment, it should refer to the UNICEF principles.
I also didn't agree with how the mother and baby were using a cushion before getting latched on - any cushions used for support or comfort should be added AFTER baby is latched on accurately in my opinion- that way the cushion is fitting in around mum and baby not the other way around.
I'd suggest that this needs reviewing ASAP, I just can't beleive that this is on the NHS website to try and promote bf. Very disappointingly poor.

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Roe B said on 17 May 2013

The information on this page and the 'Early days and weeks' DVD clip are helpful and accurate. However, the DVD clip 'How do I breastfeed my baby' is both inaccurate and unhelpful. Instead of giving useful information about starting breastfeeding and how to ensure that it goes well, tt sets someone up for switching to bottle feeding from the beginning. It also talks about 'nipples' when it should be talking about 'breasts'. The baby takes a big mouthful of breast. If they only take the nipple, they will not be able to get the milk and the mum will get sore. It also suggests that the baby will 'rest' after each swallow, which is ludicrous. What they probably mean is that they may pause very slightly after some swallows. However, it the baby was falling asleep after each swallow, we would be concerned that no milk was getting transferred. For the baby's brain and emotional development, it is important for the mum to be interacting with her baby during feeding, whether breast or bottle, so suggesting a magazine or the telly does not help. Breastfeeding is the only natural way - other ways may be acceptable, but they are not natural. I don't know who put this video together, but one would think it was sponsored by formula milk manufacturers. It should be removed.

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