Feeding your baby
Our maternity services are accredited by the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. We believe breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby.
We aim to provide a high standard of support whatever your chosen method of infant feeding.
Maternity staff will give you an opportunity to discuss the benefits and management of breastfeeding before your baby is born. Useful conversations for all parents include:
- skin to skin contact following the birth and in the early weeks – this contact is important for bonding, optimal brain development and getting breastfeeding off to a good start
- keeping you and your baby close (rooming in)
- practical skills and knowledge needed to successfully breastfeed your baby – see the Public Health Agency’s book Off to a good start
If your baby is in the Neonatal Unit, the benefits of breast milk can be even more important. You will be shown how to express milk by hand and then with a breast pump. Download further information on expressing breast milk.
Expressing breast milk
If your baby has been born early, very small, very ill, or with other medical problems, you may be asked to consider expressing your breast milk.
You will start by hand expressing your colostrum (first milk) within two hours of giving birth. After a few days, you will progress to using a hospital-grade breast pump. Midwives and neonatal staff will teach you how to hand express and use a breast pump.
Breast pumps are available on postnatal wards and in the neonatal unit. The Maternity Hospital also has a small number of pumps available to borrow and take home. Breast pumps can be loaned from the charity TinyLife for a small fee.
You will need to express 8 to 10 times in 24 hours to establish your milk supply, including at night. This is sometimes difficult when you are tired, but it is really important as the milk producing hormone prolactin is at its highest level at night.
Don’t worry if you only get a few drops to begin with. Every drop is precious and your milk supply will increase with time. Help and advice is available if you experience any problems.
Breastfeeding mothers groups
Breastfeeding mothers groups are available across Northern Ireland. They are usually organised by health professionals such as community midwives and health visitors.
These groups promote breastfeeding by providing support and information to mothers. Breastfeeding mums get an opportunity to share experiences and help each other.
You are welcome to attend a breastfeeding mothers group at any time before or after your baby is born. Details are available from:
Specialist breastfeeding support
If you are having concerns about breastfeeding at any stage, our midwives and health visitors are here to help.
If the midwife or health visitor believes specialist help is needed, they can refer you.
If you decide not to breastfeed your baby, our staff will support you to formula feed.
Choosing formula can be very confusing, but it’s important that a baby starts on first milk that is suitable for the whole first year of life.
You can download: