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Breastfeeding timeline


Your baby may not be here yet, but your body is getting ready to provide milk for when little one makes an appearance.

Changes in your breasts may have been one of the first signs of your pregnancy, as your breasts started to tingle and grow in preparation for making milk.

At the end of your pregnancy you may have already started to produce colostrum. Some women will see evidence of this as small amounts may drop out. Others might not see anything, or would need to hand express to see signs of colostrum. 


Baby’s first feed

Where possible its best to offer your baby the opportunity to breastfeed in the first hour after giving birth. Skin to skin contact after giving birth is a wonderful way to get to know your baby and give them an opportunity to find your breast and feed.

If you and your baby need to be separated for any reason, ask your health professionals for support to express, or have skin to skin contact with baby as soon as is practical.

At the moment you will be producing colostrum for your baby. This is a yellowish, sticky substance that contains lots of important nourishment for your baby. It is sometimes described as ‘liquid gold’ because it is so good for your baby.

It is highly concentrated so your baby only needs tiny amounts at a time, which is good because their tummies are only tiny too! As long as baby does 1 or 2 wee’s each day, that is a sign they are getting enough milk. Keeping track of the number of wet and dirty nappies can help your midwife to support you. This page contains information about what to expect in your baby’s nappy 

In the first few days babies might like to feed very frequently.  Responding to your baby’s cues for feeding frequently will help you establish your milk supply.  Other babies might be feeling very sleepy after their experience of being born, and need encouragement to feed.  Ask your midwife for support if you are worried about frequency of feeding. 

Days 3-4

Around day 3 or 4 your milk will change from colostrum to what is more recognisable as milk. You will be starting to make larger quantities and it will change colour to white-ish. Around this time your breasts may feel very full, warm and tender. Along with this you might experience some low mood, tearfulness, or mood swings. This is due to a big surge in your hormones and for most mums settles down in a day or two.

Your baby is still likely to need frequent feedings around the clock.

Around this time you will notice your baby’s poos will change in colour and texture. As they get softer and more yellowy that is a great sign that baby is getting plenty of milk.


At around two weeks, and again at six weeks, you may notice your baby needs to suddenly feed more often, and for longer. This is not a sign of low milk supply, but is most likely to be a growth spurt. Keep feeding as baby wants, and try to rest and eat when you can. Use that support system!

It might often feel like all you are doing is breastfeeding. This is not forever and you are setting up a milk supply for long term breastfeeding that will get easier.

WEEKS 6-12

Congratulations for breastfeeding for 6 weeks or longer. 

Over this time you may find that your breasts no longer feel quite so hard and full. This is not a sign that your milk supply is less, just that your milk supply has established and that baby’s demands are starting to settle down. You might notice that your baby’s feeds are a little more predictable.

This also means that if you wish to express milk then now may be a good time to begin.

As you have both had a little more practice, you might find you feel a bit more comfortable about breastfeeding outside the home. If not, do look at our information about this with tips of how to feel more confident.

Your baby will be due their first set of immunisations. Breastfeeding them afterwards can help them settle from the shock and give you both a chance to recover.


Hopefully your breastfeeding relationship has now established and you are past the difficulties of the early days.

Sometimes in this period babies start waking up more at night and wanting feeds. This can lead parents (and particularly other ‘advice givers’) to suggest that baby is hungry and needs solids / formula milk in the day to ‘keep them going’ through the night.

Research shows that breastmilk is all babies need in the first six months, and the World Health Organisation recommends feeding babies with nothing but breastmilk until they are 6 months old. 

Sleep changes that may occur at this age and sometimes parents believe this is a sign that their baby is hungry and ready for more than breastmilk.  However, these sleep changes are more likely to be due to baby’s developmental stage. Giving solids will not necessarily solve the problem, and may even make things worse! Remember your breastmilk is a complete source of calories, nutrients and vitamins as well as protection from illness. Research even shows that breastfed babies sleep better than formula fed babies at this age due to sleep-inducing ‘tryptophans’  in breastmilk.

Babies can be very distractible at this age which can make feeding difficult. Feeding in a quiet location and reducing distractions can help!

At this age exclusively breastfeeding will be using up about 500 calories a day for mum, so try eat a balanced diet if you can. Eating plenty of nutritious snacks can help you keep up the calories.

Breastfeeding until now has helped to protect your baby from a whole range of severe infections and protected their health for life. Well done!


If you choose to continue breastfeeding after 6 months, you are in good company. The latest data showed that nearly 35% of mothers were still breastfeeding at 6 months and this rate has increased in the last 5-10 years. Milk is an important part of a baby’s diet until they are over one, and breastmilk still provides an excellent source of nutrition as well as passing on antibodies to protect against illnesses.  The World Health Organisation recommends continuting to breastfeed alongside the introduction of solid foods until baby is 2 years or older. 

Breastfeeding is also an important way to keep bonding with your baby. As he/she learns to explore the world, breastfeeding is a great way to ‘check in’ with mummy.

If you are going to return to work, this doesn’t mean you need to stop breastfeeding. See our ‘going back to work‘ page for more information. Breastfeeding is a great way to re-connect with your baby after you have been apart.


Even when babies can drink cow’s milk, there is no reason to stop breastfeeding if you don’t want to. Breast milk is still an excellent source of nutrition. When an older baby or toddler feeds less often, the milk becomes more concentrated with nutrients and antibodies. This can be reassuring if your toddler is unwell, or going through a fussy eating stage. Breastfeeding still provides comfort, and can quickly soothe away bumps and grazes that are inevitable parts of toddler life. Breastfeeds can even help to soothe or prevent a toddler tantrum.


Don’t hesitate to ask for help. There is plenty of support available if you need it.

Find out more