Breast milk is a fantastic first food for babies because it protects them from illness, which formula milk can’t do.




Health benefits

Breastfeeding or baby receiving breastmilk by other means has many health benefits for mum and baby and can reduce the risk of the following illnesses/conditions:


Gastroenteritis, respiratory illness, diabetes, ear infections, colitis, allergies, obesity,

Urinary tract infections, certain childhood leukaemia, cardiovascular disease, coeliac disease

Necrotising enterocolitis (a serious bowel condition in premature babies)

Sudden infant death syndrome


Breast cancer, osteoporosis, ovarian cancer


Positioning and attachment of breastfeeding

Although there are many different positions you may want to try depending on how comfortable you feel, the positioning of your baby are all underpinned by some key principles below:



You can find a useful video on positioning and attachment here and there is also information on breastfeeding in the 'Best Beginnings' video 'From Bump to Breastfeeding'.


Visit our breastfeeding resources page for other useful information. 

You can also find information in other languages here.


Hand expressing

In the first couple of days after you have had your baby the amount of milk (colostrum) that you will produce will be very small, therefore it is better to hand express and use a sterile syringe to store the colostrum.  Research has shown that hand expression can be more effective at removing milk in the first few days after birth when the colostrum is thick and the breasts are swollen. 

Learning how to hand express during your pregnancy can make you more comfortable touching and feeling your breasts.  Experimenting slowly with techniques to figure out what it takes to get drops of milk can be empowering, especially during pregnancy before there is any pressure to express milk for baby.

A video showing hand expression technique can be found here.

If I'm breastfeeding, why do I need to know how to hand express?

Hand expression of breastmilk is a useful skill in the presence of breastfeeding problems, or to assist with baby attaching to the breast and can be likened to something you keep in the first aid box when there may be problems!

Hand expressing


Information on expressing breast milk and storage can be found on the Breastfeeding network web pages.

There are lots of signs to suggest that breastfeeding is going well, our leaflet 'How can I tell breastfeeding is going well' can be found on our patient information leaflet page.  If you have any concerns, you can ask your Midwife.


Frequently asked questions

Q. Why is breastfeeding important?

A. Breastmilk is the normal food for babies, it is a complete food containing all your baby's nutritional needs for the first 6 months of life, It satisfies both hunger and thirst; extra water is not needed. Breastmilk not only meets the baby's nutritional requirements, it increases your baby's resistance to infection and some long-term illnesses.

Breastfeeding is important for mothers too

  • It's convenient, cheap and always there when you need it.
  • It's always fresh, clean, safe and at the right temperature.
  • It can quickly soothe an unhappy baby.
  • It helps your uterus return to its normal size after childbirth.
  • It gives you a chance to sit down during the day and rest.
  • Mothers who don't breastfeed have increasd risks of cancer of the breast and ovaries
  • Breastfeeding helps create a close and loving bond between you and your baby and can be a deeply satisfying experience for you both.


Q. I have sore nipples, is this normal for the first few days of breastfeeding?

A. Sore nipples can be a sign that baby is not attaching to the breast effectively; ask your Midwife or Maternity Support Worker to check the way baby attaches to the breast. If it is thought that baby is attached optimally, your nipples should not get sore. There are other factors which may cause sore nipples i.e. if baby has a tongue tie, this can be assessed by a health care professional and a referral made to the correct department if it is deemed appropriate.

You can find some useful information here from the Breastfeeding Network.


Q. How can I tell that my breastfed baby is getting enough milk?

A. There are signs to look out for to ensure that baby is getting enough, our leaflet 'how can i tell breastfeeding is going well' can be found on our patient information leaflets page.


Q. I want to express my breastmilk, how do I store it?

A. Expressed breastmilk can be stored at 4°C for not more than 5 days in your refrigerator at home.  The breastmilk should be stored in a sealed container towards the back of the refrigerator and not in the door compartments.

  • You can store your breastmilk in a freezer at -18°C for not more than 6 months at home.
  • Breastmilk can be stored for 2 weeks in the ice compartment of a refrigerator at home.
  • Fresh breastmilk can be stored in a sealed container for no more than 4 hours  at room temperature.


Q. I want to give my breastmilk to my baby via a bottle, are there any tips?

A. It is recommended that you express at least 8 times in a 24 hour period to maintain your supply; in practice this means expressing fairly frequently during the day with one expression between midnight and 06:00hrs (one of the hormones to stimulate your supply is high during this period of time).

It is recommended that you limit the number of people who feed your baby during the early days and weeks, this is because your baby will be familiar with your technique and will feel safe and secure, this also helps you to build a close and loving relationship with your baby.

It can be a good time to express when you are close to your baby, this is because the hormone levels for making milk will be higher.


Q. I am being sick, is it safe to carry on breastfeeding?

A. As with most illnesses the antibodies you are making to fight the infection will be passed to your baby via your breastmilk. It is safe to carry on breastfeeding as your milk will help protect your baby from getting the same illness or at least make it milder.

For vomiting and / or diarrhoea, try drinking water or other clear drinks to help you keep your fluid levels up. Even small amounts of fluid taken regularly will help. You don't need to eat food to keep making milk. Your breasts may feel softer but you will still have enough milk. Your baby may want to feed for shorter times but more often when you are ill. You may need help from relatives with caring for baby, who can then bring baby to you for the feeds.

See your GP if you are concerned about your own illness.


Q. I haven't managed to stop smoking altogether, would my baby be better being fed formula or is it still worth breastfeeding?

A. It is still much better to breastfeed if you smoke. Breastfeeding will still protect your baby from infections and provide nutrients they can't get from formula milk.

If possible, limit your smoking to after a feed and go outside, to keep the smoke to a minimum (breastfeeding and bottle-feeding). Consider using nicotine patches to reduce your need for a cigarette, these are safe to use while breastfeeding and will reduce the amount of nicotine in your breastmilk. It is important to avoid smoking in the same room as your baby.

If you or your partner smoke, it's important not to share a bed with your baby (co-sleep). This is known to raise the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), particularly if you smoke, you have recently consumed alcohol, or you're taking medication that makes you sleep more heavily.


Q. I have been diagnosed with postnatal depression and told I have to stop breastfeeding my 3 month old daughter because of needing medication, is this correct?

A. Most of the new drugs that nay help with depression are not licensed to be given to breastfeeding women.  However there is information about the amount of the drug which will reach the baby through breastmilk.  Most drugs can be taken during breastfeeding and only small amounts pass into breastmilk.  You can check this information here but should still discuss the risks with your GP or a pharmacist.  

It is important that you enjoy your time with your baby, so please don't be put off taking medication. Breastmilk with a small amount of drug is very beneficial. Some people think that formula would be safer but this is not true. It may be that breastfeeding is a time for you to relax and enjoy at the moment, so concentrate on looking after yourself and your baby but accept help with routine tasks.


Q. Is it ok to have some alcohol whilst breastfeeding?

A. There's some evidence that regularly drinking more than two units of alcohol a day while breastfeeding may affect your baby's development. But an occasional drink is unlikely to harm your breastfed baby.

It's recommended that breastfeeding mothers have no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week.  One unit of alcohol is approximately a single (25ml) measure of spirits, half a pint of beer, or 125ml (small) glass of wine, although this depends on the strength of the drink

If you do intend to have a social drink, you should try avoiding breastfeeding for two to three hours per unit after drinking.  This allows time for the alcohol to leave your breast milk.  You will need to make sure breastfeeding is established before you try this.   You can find more information here regarding this subject. 

Back to 'feeding your baby'.