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Feeding your newborn tips

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Newborn babies have tiny tummies, and breastmilk is easily digested, which is why they need to feed frequently – usually 8 or more times in 24 hours, around the clock, day and night. You’ll learn to pick up the cues from your little one when the time is right for each feed – to begin with your baby may stir, turn their head or open their mouth. Other cues include stretching or putting a hand to their mouth. To help you spot these little signals from your baby, take a look at pages 22-23 in the Off To A Good Start booklet.

A newborn’s routine can be very tiring for sleepy mums, but frequent feeds in the early weeks help make sure you have a good milk supply. And don’t worry if you find it a bit stressful and uncomfortable to start with – just like any other new experience, it gets easier. You’ll find lots of information and support here including ‘how to’ guides to help you at each stage of feeding your baby - from those first few days right through to 6 months and beyond.

Here are some other helpful tips to help you get off to a flying start.

Top tips for feeding

Tip #1: Helping them attach

Helping them attach

Helping them attach

Your baby will instinctively know how to attach themselves to your breast to feed, but you can help by working out the best position for you both. Hold your wee one close to you, supporting their neck, with their nose level with your nipple. This way, as your baby tilts their head back to feed, your nipple can safely reach the back of their mouth. Try touching your baby’s top lip with your nipple – they’re likely to lift their chin and open their mouth. And if you’re bottle feeding, gently place the bottle teat against your baby’s lower lip, pointing upwards. You can read more on positioning your baby and helping them attach here.

If things aren’t feeling quite right once they have attached, a gentle little finger in the mouth will break their suction so you can start again.

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Tip #2: Soothing sore nipples

Although your nipples or breasts shouldn’t hurt if your baby is correctly attached, it’s still very common to be slightly tender in the beginning. It takes practice for both you and the baby to get a good position and the baby correctly attached at the breast. Nipple cream can help wound healing if the nipple skin becomes broken – but to avoid hurting your nipples, or if they do become sore, it’s essential to work on positioning and attachment.

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Tip #3: Be prepared

Make sure you have everything you might need within arm’s reach before a feed - a magazine, a glass of water, or the remote. It really helps to be prepared. A quick trip to the loo, a well-placed cushion and you’re ready to feed.

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Tip #4: Build your bond

When you’re feeding, try to get lots of bare skin-to-skin contact, this keeps them calm and comforted and helps them to build an emotional bond with you.

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Tip #5: Just the two of us

Making sure that it’s just you feeding the baby in the beginning will help them feel secure. Later on, you can express your breast milk for your partner to bottle feed your baby but in the early stages it’s important not to confuse your baby or interfere with your milk supply.

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Tip #6: Relieve the pressure

Warm water and hand expressing can help milk flow if you have full or engorged breasts.

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Tip #7: Helping them attach

Keep going!

Keep going!

If you’re breastfeeding, keep at it – it does get easier with time, and your midwife or health visitor are there to help if you need it.

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What the parents say:

“I used to put a muslin cloth over my shoulder to cover my breast - just to give me - and also my baby - a little bit of privacy.”

Nikki, Mum of 1

“Breastfeeding is really rewarding, and it’s so much easier…there’s no sterilising, you don’t need to check the temperature, there’s nothing, you just feed and she’s happy.”

Kellie, Mum of 1

What the professionals say:

"We need to look at what comes out in the nappy - as a baby’s pee and poo are often good indicators that they’re getting enough milk. Be led by your baby - and if you're worried about how much milk they're taking, always check what's coming out. If you have any questions or need help with your baby’s feeding, advice and support is always there so don’t be afraid to ask."

Lesley Weir, Family Nurse

“If you’re having difficulties feeding, whether it’s bottle feeding or breastfeeding, doing skin to skin with the baby is really calming for the baby and really preparing the baby and yourself for a feed.”

Caroline Holden, Family Nurse

More information

If you’re worried about feeding your baby, get help immediately from your midwife, health visitor or visit the Feedgood website.

This article was created as part of 

NHS Health Scotland

Last updated: 8 Nov, 2018


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