The Essential Guide To Breastfeeding

September 14, 2023

The Essential Guide To Breastfeeding

Breast milk is a vital source of nutrition for your baby packed full of essential nutrients to help your baby grow and develop – while protecting them from infections.

This guide to breastfeeding by Childhealthy includes the benefits of breastfeeding, tips for breastfeeding, and techniques.

Before we begin it is really important to let all parents know that we fully understand and respect parents’ choices regarding how they feed their baby. While the benefits of breastfeeding are very well recognised, this guide is designed simply to inform parents; we recognise that it may not be possible to breastfeed in all situations. There are many sources of support for parents wishing to breastfeed, but many babies we look after are fed with formula milk or are combination fed with breast milk and formula.

mother breastfeeding her child

How Does Breastfeeding Work?

Breast milk is produced following hormonal changes during pregnancy and after the baby’s delivery. In the first few days, small volumes of milk called colostrum are produced that are high in immune proteins and other many other beneficial components for the baby’s health. You will find that your body produces more milk a few days after giving birth to meet the greater demand for milk. As the months go by, enough milk will be made to fulfill your baby’s needs. Once you stop breastfeeding, your body reacts and stops producing milk.

Some mothers choose to express their breast milk so they can give it to their baby at a later date. Breastfeeding can make your breasts feel sensitive. However, this is nothing to worry about, it is the result of your blood supply increasing. Painful, cracked or bleeding nipples should always be checked.

Benefits Of Breastfeeding

The benefits of breast milk are well recognised and we look at some of these below:

  • Boosts immune system and protects your baby from diseases and infections
  • Breast milk is designed for your baby’s needs
  • Milk is readily available when your baby requires it
  • Lowers the mother’s risk of some health conditions

Tips For Breastfeeding

Below is a list of tips that can help you start your breastfeeding journey on the right track. We will delve into some more detail regarding these tips as we travel further through this guide.

  • Tip 1: Usually breast milk is the only source of nutrition needed in the first 6 months. In some cases, this may not be possible and formula milk is needed. There are also some situations when an earlier introduction of solids is recommended. Always discuss with your GP or paediatrician if concerned.
  • Tip 2: Breastfeeding can take time to establish, do not be too hard on yourself and ask for help and support. 
  • Tip 3: Stay close to your baby after birth. This will help you set the foundations for a strong bond and successful feeding.
  • Tip 4: Feed your baby frequently and tend to their needs. 
  • Tip 5: Practise position and attachment during the first few days to find a technique that works best for you and your baby.

How To Breastfeed

During the early weeks, your baby will require regular and frequent feeding. Although this may sound daunting, it will get better over time, and the number of feeds will progressively decrease.

Positioning is really important for successful breastfeeding. Make sure you are well supported and position your baby close to your chest. Place your nipple on your baby’s lips to encourage them to latch on to your breast tissue. Make sure your baby’s bottom lip is off centre over the areola. Support your breast while your baby is feeding until they have got into a steady rhythm. If at any point you experience pain, take your baby off the nipple and allow them to reattach. Once your baby has stopped feeding, place your clean finger between your baby’s gums to break the seal.

Breastfeeding Positions And Techniques

There are several breastfeeding positions that you can attempt. Try them out to find a comfortable position that works best for you and your baby.


Slightly lean back on your bed/sofa by propping yourself up with cushions. Place your baby on your tummy and gently guide them towards your nipple.

Cradle Hold

Place your baby’s head on your forearm and ensure their ears, nose, and hips are in line. Use your hand to support the length of their body.

Rugby Hold

Also known as “the clutch”, this position will require a pillow by your side. Lay your baby on the pillow – so they are under your arm. Your hips should be touching one another. Place your baby’s nose in line with your nipple and support their neck with the palm of your hand.

How Long Should You Breastfeed For?

International guidance advises breastfeeding your baby exclusively for the first six months after birth, with solid food in addition from 6 months and to continue for 12 months or older. All mothers and babies are different and in some cases, formula milk is introduced, solids may be recommended earlier than 6 months and breastfeeding continues for shorter or longer than this recommendation. We support parents and look after infants in all situations.

Newborn Breastfeeding

During the first week after birth, you should try and breastfeed your baby often and on-demand. Feed them when they want, for as long as they wish. The number of feeds will naturally decrease over time. Aim to feed them around 8 – 12 times a day. However, if your baby is bringing up milk after a feed and you are worried, please contact your GP or paediatrician.

You should be aware of some cues that tell you your baby is hungry. These include:

  • Restlessness
  • Sucking on fingers/fists
  • Murmuring sounds
  • Head-turning

If you want to increase your milk supply, you should aim to breastfeed at night, as this is when you produce more of the vital hormone prolactin to build up your supply.

What Is Responsive Feeding?

Responsive feeding creates a close bond between you and your baby. The process involves the mother responding to the baby’s cues – and her instincts to feed them when they need it. We have highlighted the typical cues in the section above. Responsive feeding is important because your baby needs to be fed little and often. You will find that even after a feed, they can get hungry again in a short amount of time. By responding to your baby’s cues, you ensure that they get enough milk while providing them with reassurance and comfort. It helps consolidate that strong mother and baby bond. Regular wet nappies, a content baby and steady weight gain are the best indicators that all is going well.

Foods To Avoid When Breastfeeding

Below is a list of foods and common medications you should avoid when breastfeeding. You must notify your doctor about any medication you take before breastfeeding to ensure that it won’t harm your baby.

  • Oily fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines (limit to two portions per week)
  • Swordfish and marlin (include high levels of mercury)
  • Caffeine (a stimulant that can make your baby restless)
  • Alcohol (limit to one/two units a week)
  • Codeine
  • Herbal remedies if unknown ingredients
  • Decongestants – including some nasal decongestants 
  • Aspirin

Common medications you can take

  • Asthma inhalers
  • Most antibiotics
  • Vitamins
  • Painkillers like paracetamol

Help and advice

At Childhealthy, we understand that feeding your baby with breast or formula milk can be difficult and daunting for parents. Our team of paediatricians can advise and support you and if needed put you in contact with a lactation consultation specialist – who can give you all the advice you need to start your breastfeeding journey. If you would like to find out more, please don’t hesitate to book a consultation today. We aim to respond to your query as soon as possible.

For breastfeeding support, please contact any of the following helplines:

  • National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0212.
  • Association of Breastfeeding Mothers: 0300 330 5453.
  • La Leche League: 0345 120 2918.
  • National Childbirth Trust (NCT): 0300 330 0700




Disclaimer: Information contained in this article is intended as general advice and does not replace a medical assessment. If you are concerned about your child please contact your doctor for advice.


Related articles

a baby drinking a bottle of milk April 24, 2023

Baby Bringing Up Milk Straight After Feed: What Should I Do?

Read more a child eating in their high chair and laughing April 24, 2023

Coeliac Disease In Children

Read more A paediatric doctor examning a child's arm for signs of an allergy. April 5, 2023

Allergy Blood Test: Types, Accuracy And Results

Read more View all articles

Book your appointment

Clinic, remote appointments and home visits are available daily.

We can always find a time to suit you, so please do ask if you are having difficulty finding a suitable time.

Book an appointment