When you’re expecting a baby there are so many things to think about and decide on that you might start to feel overwhelmed. You may be so caught up making plans for the birth that you don’t have head space to think about how you will feed your wee one once they arrive. But it’s a good idea to have a think about your feeding options and what feels right for you. Remember, you can always change your mind!
Feeding choices and birth plans
Share your thoughts on feeding with those caring for you during and after the birth, like your family and your midwife. Mums often write a birth plan about where they want to give birth, who they want to be there and what pain relief they are thinking about. However, they sometimes don't include how they think they'll feed their baby. It’s a good idea to have an idea of what you’d like to do before your baby comes along. You can always change your mind when they arrive!
Exclusive breastfeeding means feeding your baby breast milk only. If you've decided you want to exclusively breastfeed your newborn, be sure to put this in your birth plan. Make it clear that you want immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth, and that your goal is to begin breastfeeding within the first hour. Tell whoever is coming with you to the hospital that you want to breastfeed so they can help make sure the hospital staff know.
Remember, if you start off exclusively breastfeeding but find it’s not for you and your baby, you can always switch to another method later on – there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind. Just take each day, week and month as it comes.
Formula feeding means feeding your baby cow's or goat's milk that's specially treated to be suitable for babies.
It's completely up to you how you decide to feed your baby, so if you opt for formula feeding, don't feel that you have to provide an explanation. However you decide to feed your baby, it’s lovely to give your first feed while making skin-to-skin contact with them. This is a lovely way of getting to know your new arrival.
Expressing milk, where you collect some of your milk to feed your baby with, can be the best option for many mums. You might decide you want to feed your baby expressed milk even if you are able breastfeed.
There are lots of reasons for expressing breast milk. Some babies need to be given expressed milk if they’re born early or are ill. Some mums feed expressed milk when they are out and about and some just because they prefer it. Partners can also feed expressed milk to their baby, allowing you to have a rest or to go out.
Some mums choose to do a mixture of breastfeeding and expressing – it's completely up to you. If you already know you'd like to express milk, talk to your midwife and make a note in your feeding plan.
You can find out more about expressing here.
If you've not decided how to feed your baby yet, that’s absolutely fine. You can talk about it with the midwife looking after you when your baby’s born. Have lots of skin-to-skin contact after birth and if breastfeeding seems right, let it happen. You can talk through your options and any worries you may have with your midwife.
However you decide to feed, it's important to know to feed responsively. This means feeding your baby as soon as they show signs they're hungry and allowing them to feed for as long as they want. You can also decide to offer a breastfeed before your baby asks for one, for example when your breasts feel very full or if you just want to sit down, have a rest and feed. It’s a partnership between you both. You never need to worry about 'spoiling' your baby.