If you choose to breastfeed, it’s recommended that babies should consume only breast milk for around the first 6 months of their lives. After this, it is recommended that they continue to be breastfed for 2 years and beyond, alongside eating other foods.
Regardless of how long you choose to breastfeed, it's good to know that both you and your baby benefit from every breastfeed given.
Breast milk only
It's particularly important to give your baby only breast milk in the early days as not doing so can affect your milk production.
If you find it difficult to only breastfeed or you don’t want to, try to give as much expressed breast milk as you can. If your partner wants to help with feeding, then you can express your breast milk for them to give to your baby.
When to feed your baby
If your baby's hungry or thirsty they'll show signs they want to be fed. They might:
put their hand to their mouth
They might become agitated or upset if you don't feed them on time. Try calming them by:
giving skin-to-skin contact
talking and stroking
Keeping your baby close will help you recognise these signals. Responding to their needs won't spoil them, but will help them feel safe and secure.
In the first 24 hours after the birth, babies usually wake and feed often to get your milk supply started. Sometimes it seems like a lot of feeding but it’s normal and will settle down.
Your baby's tummy is about the size of a cherry on day one. As their tummy's so tiny:
small amounts of milk at each feed will fill them up
they'll need to feed frequently (8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period)
This helps your body to keep producing the right amount of milk for your baby.
Remember, it’s not possible to overfeed a breastfed baby.
As your baby's tummy grows they'll start to take a bit more at each feed.
Feeding them as often as they want will help your body prepare a good supply of milk for the days, weeks and months ahead.
As your baby feeds more and grows, your breasts will make more milk and the gaps between some of the feeds will get longer.
Responding to your baby’s feeding cues will ensure they feed frequently. This is entirely normal.
Dads and partners
Dads and partners can help mum by:
taking an interest – find out about breastfeeding and what's normal, so you can give help and suggestions if your partner is struggling
understanding it takes time and practice for mum and baby to get the technique right while feeding – it can be useful to have your help
looking after her while she’s breastfeeding and making sure she's comfortable
Emotional support and encouragement from dads and partners are as important as practical help.
Getting support to breastfeed
Your midwife, health visitor or family nurse will give you lots of information and help, and show you:
how to hold your baby
how to help them take your nipple and breast in the right way - this will help them to feed well and prevent sore nipples and other issues that new mums sometimes get when breastfeeding
UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative
All Scottish maternity hospitals, neonatal units and health visiting services are taking part in the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. This means that staff are trained to give you as much support as you need to feed your baby.