Breastfeeding is a normal part of life and nurturing a baby.

Newborn babies may feed anywhere between eight to twelve times a day.

Breastfeeding is often the first real challenge mothers face with their newborns. Rest assured there is plenty of advice and help to encourage and support you with this important job.

Breastfeeding
The World Health Organisation recommends you exclusively breastfeed your baby for six months minimum and up to twelve months if possible, in conjunction with the introduction of solids. The nutritional value of breast milk to a baby decreases after twelve months, although it can still provide health benefits after this time. This is because breast milk adjusts itself to suit the needs of the baby, providing exactly the right amount of nutrition that is required for a certain period of time. Feeding a baby on demand helps to prolong milk production and newborn babies may feed anywhere between eight to twelve times a day.

Your baby may have trouble latching but he is born with the rooting reflex which enables him to find his mother’s nipple when his cheek is placed nearby, so persistence is vital. 

Your baby may have trouble latching but he is born with the rooting reflex which enables him to find his mother’s nipple when his cheek is placed nearby, so persistence is vital in establishing breastfeeding in the first month. Many women abandon breastfeeding because they believe their milk supply is insufficient for their baby’s needs but frequently feeding should ensure there is a good supply. Some characteristics of good feeding behaviour include audible swallowing and periods of deep rhythmic swallowing interspersed with pauses. You can assess your child’s nourishment though weight gain, growth in length or head circumference and if your baby has thoroughly wet nappies, bright eyes, good skin tone, and if they remain generally contented amongst periods of fussy behaviour.

Some mothers may prefer to or temporarily have no choice but to express milk rather than feed directly from the breast. This can be done with massage by hand or using a breast pump. Expressed breast milk can be stored at room temperature for up to six hours but should be moved to a the fridge as soon as possible, where it can be kept for up to 48 hours, or in the freezer where it can be kept for up to six months. The nutrient level drops over time but still contains more antioxidants than formula.

Thaw breast milk by running the bottle under lukewarm water or moving to the fridge for 24 hours, not in the microwave or on its own, at room temperature. Remember that breast milk can only be frozen once.

Formula feeding
For mothers who are unable to breast feed, formula is a completely safe alternative. Formula is made up of modified cow’s milk, whereby the carbohydrate, protein, and fat levels have been altered and vitamins and minerals have been added, so that it closely resembles breast milk. Most formula milks are sold dried in packaged in tins and cool, boiled water needs to be added although some are available ready-made. Prices vary by brand and type. Be aware of expiration dates and storage temperature and when preparing formula follow the directions on the label exactly. Formula that is given with an incorrect water to formula ratio can lead to your baby not receiving adequate nutrients for their growth and development if it is too diluted, and becoming dehydrated or suffering from kidney problems if it is concentrated. Formula that is prepared but unused within 48 hours must be disposed of, not stored or reheated.

Doctors recommend that mothers delay expressing and feeding babies from a bottle or supplementing breastfeeding with formula until babies are at least six weeks old as sucking from a bottle can result in a refusal of the breast. If you want to continue with breastfeeding in conjunction with feeding from a bottle, such as women who return to work and leave expressed milk for their child minder to feed to their baby or who supplement with formula, but still like to breast feed at night, this is worth remembering.

Breastfeeding Helpline
1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 2 686) is run by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) and utilises the real-life experience of over 200 trained volunteer counsellors each week who help other mums with issues including the early days with a new baby, expressing and storing milk, weaning, supply and what to do when baby simply says no!

Find out more in Essential Baby's Breastfeeding forum.