The Rotunda Hospital recommends breastfeeding because it is the best start in life for babies. We are accredited as a ‘baby friendly’ hospital, which means that we provide care, which is researched based and recognised as best practice, so that pregnant women and new mothers receive the support they need to breastfeed successfully.
We support informed decision making for women and we will support mothers whatever decision they make about feeding their baby. It is not necessary to make this decision until after you have held your baby skin to skin after birth. We recommend that you take the time to read through this section and discuss any questions you may have with your midwife or doctor.
You will hear lots of opinions and stories about other people’s feeding experiences. While much of the advice and information you get from friends and family will be very useful, some of it may confuse rather than guide you. In this section we aim to give you the information that you need to help you decide what is best for you and your baby.
If your baby is born prematurely or is unwell then it will be vital that you provide breast milk for your baby. You will be advised and supported by the midwives on how to establish and maintain your milk supply.
How breastfeeding works
The first milk your breasts produce is called ‘colostrum’. This milk is ideal for your baby for the first few days. It is made in small quantities so your baby will feed frequently, which is perfectly normal. The more your baby feeds the more milk you will produce. As well as providing nutrition for your baby,Colostrum contains large numbers of antibodies and an abundance of other molecules that helps your baby to fight infections.
After about three days your breasts may become engorged. They may feel heavy and full. This is normal and is due to an increase in the blood and milk supply to your breasts. It usually settles within 24 – 48 hours with frequent feeding and if necessary by using cold compresses on your breasts between feeds. Sometimes when this happens you may have to hand express to soften the areola (area around the nipple) so that the baby can attach properly to the breast.
When your baby is feeding effectively at the breast, at the begining of the feed the milk is higher in water and carbohydrate and lower in fat content. After the first “let down” and as the feed progresses the fat content increases.
It is important that you don’t restrict how long your baby spends feeding. Babies will vary the length of their feeds. Just like us, they may fancy a quick snack or will want to settle in for a full three-course feast! Offer your baby the second breast when baby stops feeding effectively with long deep bursts of sucking and swallowing. Always offer your baby the second breast although they may not take it. Offering the second breast increases your milk supply. The more milk baby removes, the more milk you make. Throughout a breastfeed your baby’s sucking will send messages to your brain to ‘order’ milk for the next feed.