Feeding your baby & building close, loving relationships
We recommend parents connect with their growing baby during pregnancy.
Take time each day to relax and think about your baby, stroke your baby bump, notice when baby moves and talk to your growing baby. We would encourage partners and siblings to join in too. This will help parents be more responsive once baby is born and is good for baby’s development. These connections start the foundations for close and loving bonds that continue after parents meet their baby.
“New babies have a strong need to be close to their parents, as this helps them to feel secure and loved. When babies feel secure they release a hormone called oxytocin, which acts like a fertiliser for their growing brain, helping them to be happy.” Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative
This relationship is further supported by skin to skin commencing at birth and being repeated throughout baby’s early weeks and months.
All babies benefit from skin to skin as it helps them feel safe and secure and adjust to the outside world when this occurs initially directly after birth.
At birth skin to skin should last until after the first feed, for at least an hour or for as long as mother wishes (however mother decides to feed her baby). If this isn’t possible immediately or is interrupted, then skin to skin should be introduced as soon as possible.
Skin to skin
All mothers will be encouraged to offer the first feed in skin contact when the baby shows signs of readiness to feed. For those mothers who go on to bottle feed, skin contact remains an important way to support the bonding process and therefore offering the first feed in skin contact is encouraged.
Skin to skin contact has been shown to provide the following benefits:
- Calms and relaxes both mother and baby
- Regulates heart rate and breathing in the baby
- Stimulates digestion
- Regulates temperature
- Enables colonisation of baby’s skin with mother’s friendly bacteria, thus providing protection against infection
- Stimulates feeding behaviour
- Stimulates the release of hormones to support breastfeeding and mothering.
After birth, babies who are placed skin to skin on their mother’s chest will let out a very distinctive birth cry and then enter a stage of relaxation, recovering from the birth. They will then start to wake and begin to move a little, as these movements increase they will actually start to crawl towards and familiarise itself with the breast.
Skin to skin contact is also a great thing for partners to do. It has all of the same benefits for the baby as skin to skin with the mother but it’s also a great way for partners to begin to build that special bond with their baby.
Skin-to-skin after a caesarean
If your baby is delivered by caesarean, you should still be able to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after delivery.
If you intend to breastfeed your baby, we advise you not to bring in formula milk as you already have milk in your breasts. 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. But nearly all women produce enough milk for their baby.It can undermine feeding by reducing your milk supply if attempting to do both and can introduce the risk of allergies and infection.
Breast milk gives your baby all the nutrients they need for around the first six months of life and brings a huge range of benefits. It’s good to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding before you have your baby. It will help you feel more confident and empowered for when you start.
In the UK, more than 73% of mothers start breastfeeding with most women choosing to because:
- Your breast milk is perfectly designed for your baby
- Breast milk protects your baby from infections and diseases
- Breastfeeding provides health benefits for you
- Breast milk is available for your baby whenever your baby needs it at the right temperature
- Breastfeeding can build a strong emotional bond between you and your baby
it can lower your risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer
- Breastfeeding is free, so it saves money whereas infant formula, sterilising equipment and feeding equipment can be costly
Even if you’ve already been formula feeding for a few days but you’ve changed your mind and want to breastfeed it’s not too late to start. Simply speak to your midwife or health visitor as soon as possible for support on how to build up your milk supply. The National Breastfeeding Helpline (0300 100 0212) is also a good place to get practical advice and top tips
Infant formula and responsive bottle feeding – Baby Friendly Initiative – Unicef UK
This simple, concise guide provides parents who are bottle feeding with an overview on how to bottle feed responsively and, for parents who are formula feeding, how to choose an infant formula.
Foreign language resources – Baby Friendly Initiative
These info sheets on breastfeeding and bottle feeding are available in multiple languages. Using straightforward language and simple illustrations to aid understanding, these resources can be used to support parents with the basics of feeding and responding to their baby.