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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS

What to expect


In the first few days, you and your baby will be getting to know each other. It may take time for both of you to get the hang of breastfeeding.

Before the birth

Find out as much as you can about breastfeeding before the birth. Knowing what to expect will help you to prepare and make you feel more confident.

Antenatal sessions should cover the most important aspects of breastfeedings, such as positioning and attachment, expressing, common questions and concerns and how to overcome them.

There are also lots of groups and drop-ins specially designed for pregnant women who want to know more about breastfeeding. You can find out more by asking your midwife, health visitor or GP or visiting our Help and support section.

After your baby is born

Having skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after the birth will help to keep your body warm, calm your baby and help with the first breastfeed.

Every pregnant woman makes milk for her baby, which is ready and available at birth. The milk is called colostrum and is sometimes a yellow colour. It’s very concentrated so your baby will only need a small amount at each feed (around a teaspoonful). Your baby may want to feed frequently, up to every hour, but they will begin to have longer feeds less often. The more you breastfeed, the more milk you’ll produce. You and your baby will settle into a pattern, which may change from time to time.

Your baby will give you signs that they’re ready for a feed. These signs include:

  • Starting to move about as they wake up
  • Moving their head around
  • Finding something to suck, usually their fingers

Building up your milk supply

Around two to four days after birth, you may notice that your breasts become fuller and warmer which is often referred to as your milk ‘coming in’.

Each time your baby feeds, your body knows to make the next feed. The amount of milk you make will increase or decrease depending on how often your baby feeds. It’s important to breastfeed at night because this is when you produce more hormones (prolactin) to build up your milk supply.

The let-down reflex

Your baby’s sucking causes milk stored in your breasts to be squeezed down ducts towards your nipples. This is called the let-down reflex.

Some women get a tingling feeling and others feel nothing at all. You’ll see your baby respond and their quick sucks will change to deep rhythmic swallows as the milk begins to flow. Babies often pause after the initial sucks while they wait for more milk to be delivered. If your baby seems to fall asleep before the deep swallowing stage, check they’re properly attached.

Sometimes you’ll notice your milk flowing in response to your baby crying or when you have a warm shower or bath. Breast milk may also leak unexpectedly from your nipples. Press your hand gently but firmly on your nipple when this happens. Wearing breast pads will stop your clothes becoming wet with breast milk.