The first 24 hours of breastfeeding: Getting off to the right start

When babies are first born they are usually wide awake, alert and ready to feed. It’s UK hospital policy to minimise time a mother and her baby spend apart to promote early established breastfeeding. The midwife is therefore on hand to support you with positioning and latching, so as to make the most of this golden hour.

Photo by Alex Hockett

Sleepy phase:

You’ll often here the phrase ‘a baby never sleeps so good as that first night in hospital!’ Well labour is as exhausting for your baby, as it is for you. Nevertheless, as they go through a sleepy phase you are still encouraged to feed them regularly (every 3-4 hours) to stimulate your supply.

Equally if your birth has been more complicated and there is a delay getting baby to latch, you can still encourage milk supply by hand expressing or using a breast pump.


A way some midwives initially establish a latch, is by placing baby onto a mothers chest right after birth and allowing baby to root naturally for the breast. This is thought to establish a strong latch and connection as it occurs through babies own reflexes and instinct. It’s also beautiful to watch.

Feeding cues:

As a new mum you might not be aware of cues for feeding baby. Crying is a late cue so here are a few ones to watch out for:

  • Moving hands towards mouth.
  • Sucking on tongue, lips, hands or fingers while asleep or awake.
  • Searching for the nipple (aka rooting)
  • Making small sounds.


Feeding Amounts

Some babies feed little and often, others large and more spread apart. Its difficult to truly tell how yours will feed in the first 24 hours, so it’s important to both follow your instinct and your babies. Feed as regularly as you like – it’s great for the supply, closeness and for practice! We would recommend at least 3-4 hourly and not any longer from the beginning of one feed to the next. The first few feeds can take up to 45 minutes- don’t be alarmed!

How do you know baby is feeding well?

Aside from how they may look and act (irritable, crying, hunger cues) – babies nappies are a great way to tell how well they are feeding. What goes in, must come out after all!

Wet nappies: 2-3 in the first 24 hours and a good liquid poo- dark (black) in colour to start and changing over the next days and weeks. (You will become obsessed with babies poos, totally normal!)

Please note that your baby may lose some of their birth weight initially- and that’s not necessarily because shes not getting enough milk! By day 5, she should start putting weight back on. The midwives/health visitors will weigh your baby to ensure they are growing correctly.


Remember; C sections can cause the milk to come in a bit later and also cause soreness on the abdomen with positioning. Try and persevere, it may take a bit longer but with persistence and the right support from a lactation consultant/ midwife its possible to establish a good supply and feed.


  • Skin to skin for the win! It helps baby adjust to the outside warmth, gets baby used to his providers, and helps mum feel the goodness she needs to release the right hormones to get her supply going!
  • Be kind to yourself. Breast-feeding can be difficult to establish and takes perseverance and the right support. It can be normal to struggle at the start but it doesn’t necessarily mean your chances are over.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from professionals; lactation consultants, lactation groups, midwives, GPs, doctors.
  • Positioning is everything! After the ordeal your body has been through, be kind to yourself. Pillows, supports, comforting, calm and relaxing environments- really help to create a great atmosphere for you and baby. 


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