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What to expect

The experience of breastfeeding is different for everyone.

For lots of mothers it is overall a very positive experience, a chance to be close to your baby, and provide them with nutrition, comfort and love in a way that no one else can. 

At times it can also feel like hard work, and the responsibility can feel overwhelming. However, these negative feelings are usually temporary. It can be useful to know what to expect from breastfeeding, especially in the early weeks and months.

Frequency of Feeding


Think about every time you have had something to eat or drink today – whether it was just picking a grape from the fruit bowl as you passed by, a cup of tea or a main meal. Like us, babies like to eat little and often, and breastfeeding offers a way to satisfy lots of needs: comfort, reassurance, warmth, drinks, as well as a ‘main meal’.

Your baby will also have a tiny stomach. On day one it is only the size of a marble, and can only take a few millimetres of liquid at a time. It grows quite quickly in the first week or so, but is still only about the size of a large egg by one month.

Babies may not feed regularly – sometimes going for longer stretches between feeds and then ‘cluster feeding’ or having frequent feeds for a period of time. To begin with this can feel unpredictable, but after a few weeks you may find that your baby has adopted his or her own rhythm or pattern of breastfeeding and you may start to expect when they will need feeding. It is likely that this pattern will change as your baby grows!

Every baby is different; some feed at regular intervals, some feed constantly. Some babies can consume lots of milk in a few minutes and others take longer to get the milk they need. All can be normal, as long as baby is healthy. Knowing the signs that your baby is getting plenty of milk can help reassure you. See is my baby getting enough milk?

Feeding at night


All young babies need feeding during the night. For breastfed babies this can also help with your milk supply as your hormone levels are highest during the hours you normally sleep. The good news is that if you are breastfeeding and your baby is in your room, you can feed them back to sleep without having to disturb your rest too much. Breastfeeding also includes special hormones that promote babies sleep, and helps you to go into a deeper sleep more quickly in between feeds.

Take a look at our feeding at night page.

Will it hurt?


Some women experience discomfort when breastfeeding. Sometimes this can be a tenderness or sharp pain at the beginning of the feed which subsides after a few seconds.

Other women experience pain or discomfort for other reasons. Usually this can be improved by encouraging baby to take a deeper ‘latch’ so the nipple is further back in his mouth. Sometimes these difficulties resolve over time, but because without the right information about what works, it can take time for you and baby to master a comfortable technique, seeking support with painful breastfeeding is essential. See our support page.