Breastfeeding – health benefits and how to breastfeed your baby easily and successfully

It’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to feed your baby. Today, over 75% of new mums in England are choosing to breastfeed.

The annual National Breastfeeding Week is promoted by the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers and takes place this year on June 24 – 30 June and here at Small Steps we’re pleased to be playing our part in raising awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding as well as giving helpful advice on how to succeed most easily.

  • Breastfeeding - health benefits and how to breastfeed your baby easily and successfullyBreast milk is the only natural food designed for your baby.
  • Breastfeeding protects your baby from infections and diseases.
  • Breast milk provides health benefits for both your baby and you.
  • It’s free and available whenever and wherever your baby needs a feed.
  • It’s the right temperature.
  • It can build a strong physical & emotional bond between mother & baby.
  • It can give you a great sense of achievement.

Health benefits for your baby.

Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby. Exclusive breastfeeding (giving your baby breast milk only) is recommended for around the first six months (26 weeks) of your baby’s life. After that, giving your baby breast milk alongside other food will help them continue to grow and develop.

Breastfed babies have:

  • less chance of diarrhoea and vomiting and having to go to hospital as a resultBreastfeeding - health benefits and how to breastfeed your baby easily and successfully
  • fewer chest and ear infections and having to go to hospital as a result
  • less chance of being constipated
  • less likelihood of becoming obese and therefore developing type 2 diabetes and other illnesses later in life
  • less chance of developing eczema

Any amount of breastfeeding has a positive effect. The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.

Infant formula doesn’t give your baby the same ingredients or provide the same protection. Breast milk adapts to meet your baby’s changing needs.

Health benefits for you.

Breastfeeding doesn’t only benefit your baby. It benefits your health too as it:

  • lowers your risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer
  • naturally uses up to 500 calories a day
  • saves money – infant formula, the sterilising equipment and feeding equipment can be costly
  • can help to build a strong bond between you and your baby

Top Tips.

If breastfeeding feels a bit awkward at first, don’t worry. You and your baby may just need a little more practice. Breastfeeding is a skill that you and your baby learn together, and it can take time to get used to.

Skin-to-skin contact.

Try to have skin-to-skin contact straight after birth. This will help you bond straight away as well as keeping your baby close, warm and calm.

Breastfeeding - health benefits and how to breastfeed your baby easily and successfullyIt’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 remind 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.

Get comfortable & into the right position for you & your baby.

There are lots of different positions for breastfeeding. You just need to check the following points.

  • Are you comfortable? It’s worth sorting out a drink, book etc before a feed as it can take some time! Remember when you feed to relax your shoulders and arms.
  • Are your baby’s head and body in a straight line? If not, your baby might not be able to swallow easily.
  • Are you holding your baby close to you, facing your breast? Support their neck, shoulders and back. They should be able to tilt their head back and swallow easily, and shouldn’t have to reach out to feed.
  • Is your baby’s nose opposite your nipple? Your baby needs to get a big mouthful of breast from beneath the nipple. Placing your baby with their nose level with your nipple will allow them to reach up and attach to the breast well.
  • Try to do as many night feeds lying down in bed as you can. – it’s less tiring for you.

Attach your baby properly

Although breastfeeding can be a little uncomfortable for the first few days, it shouldn’t be really painful – if it hurts it probably means that your baby isn’t latched on properly so the best thing you can do is de-latch and reposition them – don’t be afraid to try a few times to get it right. A bad latch will cause problems like sore nipples and your baby won’t be feeding efficiently. It really is worth the trouble to get it right and once you’ve got the hang of it, it will become second nature to both of you!

  • Hold your baby close to you with their nose level with the nipple
  • Wait until your baby opens their mouth really wide with the tongue down. You can encourage them to do this by gently stroking their top lip.
  • Bring your baby on to your breast.
  • Your baby will tilt their head back and come to your breast chin first. They should take a large mouthful of breast. Your nipple should go towards the roof of their mouth.

Try to relax & enjoy it! 

  • Don’t be tempted to clock watch or time feeds. A newborn baby can seem to want to feed ALL the time – but don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. Try to rest when your baby sleeps and go with the flow as much as possible.
  • Try not to panic about your baby’s weight. Some fluctuation is normal and your health visitor will let you know if there is something to worry about.
  • Try not to supplement with formula feeds as it can have a negative effect on your supply. If your baby seems especially hungry let them continue to suckle as much as they want as it will let your body know they want more and your supply with increase to meet their demand after a day or so – growth spurts are common and this probably will happen!

More information.

Association of Breastfeeding Mothers

NHS Why breastfeed?

NHS Breastfeeding guidance

La Leche League

Enjoy this special time from The Small Steps Team

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