Breastfeeding is a natural way to feed and has many benefits for both baby and mum. Breast milk contains all the nutrients a growing baby needs for the first six months of life. Because the milk contains antibodies (which help to fight infection and bacteria), breastfed babies are also less likely to develop problems such as infections, allergies or asthma.
Breastfeeding also has health benefits for mothers, and it’s a great opportunity to bond with your new baby.
It is important to remember that breastfeeding can be challenging – it takes time to get used to and it’s a learning curve for you and your baby. Lots of mums experience challenges when breastfeeding – you can talk your Maternal and Child Health nurse or call the Maternal and Child Health Line if you have any concerns or need support.
No physical preparation is required to breastfeed, but learning about it can boost your confidence. Almost all women can produce breast milk as this is made in the mother’s breast after your baby is born. But that doesn’t always mean it’s easy to do – sometimes it takes practice and patience to learn.
As the breast milk leaves your breasts, your body knows to produce more. You will naturally produce the right amount of breast milk to feed your baby. The more your baby drinks on the breast, the more milk is made.
Some mums can experience engorged breasts, when one or both of your breasts make more milk than baby is drinking. This can result in sore and painful breasts and can sometimes make feeding your baby difficult.
If you are concerned there is lots of support available. You can speak to your Maternal and Child Health Nurse or call the Maternal and Child Health Line on 13 22 29. For information on other breastfeeding issues read Breastfeeding Information (pdf - 1.07mb) from the Royal Children's Hospital.
It’s only when your baby is feeding about 8-12 times a day that your milk supply is established. This is usually at four to six weeks, after which it’s common for your breasts to feel empty and soft to touch. At this point many women feel they’ve ‘lost their milk’, especially because many babies will experience growth spurts! Have confidence, you and your baby will get it right. If you are concerned, check with your Maternal and Child Health nurse.
Sometimes babies spit up (positing), and reflux is common in babies, particularly after a feed. The milk can come back up the throat with a burp; or if they have fed quickly, the milk spills out of their mouth.
Around six months of age, your baby needs extra nutrition provided by foods, but breast milk is still important for your baby’s feeding and development until at least 12 months of age.