Breastmilk provides babies with exactly the right nutrition they need for a healthy development. In addition, it increases the bonding process, thus the development of closeness, trust and love between the mother and the baby. Breastfeeding is not always easy at the start but, with the help of the attending midwife, self-belief, as well as help and support from the partner, friends and grandparents, breastfeeding is certain to become an enjoyable experience.

During pregnancy, hormones ensure that the breasts enlarge and are prepared for breastfeeding. In a first pregnancy, tiny milk sacs and milk ducts in the breast develop into fully functioning milk glands to allow the woman to breastfeed her baby after the birth.

The high-nutrient first milk (colostrum) after the birth is very important to the newborn. The consistency of the milk changes afterwards. It will take some time before mother and child are a well-established team and when breastfeeing seems to come naturally to the mother. Then, however, both will be able to relax and enjoy the experience.

Breastfeeding after a caesarean section

Breastfeeding after a caesarean section is good for the baby and helps the uterus to begin to return to its normal size. This is particularly important after a c-section.

If breastfeeding does not work straight away, or if the baby cannot be with the mother, pumping milk is a recommended alternative. This ensures that the breasts will produce enough milk for the baby later.

Introducing solids, returning to work and weaning off the breast

At around six months of age, the baby will show interest in solid food. However, breastfeeding should continue while introducing solids. Over time, breastfeeding will gradually be replaced by solid foods. It is important to provide tiny quantities of solid food in the beginning, and gradually increase them. The amount of milk the mother produces will also gradually decrease until it is fully replaced by solid food.

Women returning to work can express and store breast milk and feed it to the baby in a bottle as soon as the child is able to clearly distinguish between breast and bottle. Breastmilk can be kept in the fridge for 72 hours or can be frozen.

Preterm birth and breastfeeding

Especially for preterm infants breastmilk plays an important role in their development. If possible, mothers should try to breastfeed or pump the milk for their babies. If it cannot be used due to sickness or other problems, pumping breastmilk is very important to guarantee breastfeeding later, once the health of mother and child allows it. Breastmilk, however, the valuable it is for the development of preterm infants, also bares risks, such as transmitting the CM virus to the child. Good care and counselling in the hospital is crucial to ensure the best use of breastmilk.

Download our factsheet on breastfeeding a preterm baby