Newborn babies should be given to the mother to hold immediately after delivery. They should have skin-to-skin contact with the mother and begin breastfeeding within one hour of birth.

Skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding soon after birth stimulate production of the mother’s breast milk. Breastfeeding also helps the mother’s womb contract, which reduces the risk of heavy bleeding or infection and helps to expel the placenta (afterbirth).

Colostrum, the thick yellowish milk the mother produces in the first few days after giving birth, is the perfect food for newborn babies. It is very nutritious and full of antibodies that help protect the baby against infections. Sometimes mothers are advised not to feed colostrum to their babies. This advice is incorrect. Newborns benefit from colostrum.

The newborn needs no other food or drink while the mother’s milk supply is coming in and breastfeeding is being fully established. Giving any other food or drink may slow the production of milk. It can also increase the chance of diarrhoea and other infections. The milk produced by the mother is nutritious and the right amount for the newborn. The baby should breastfeed as often as she or he wants.

A baby who has problems suckling in the first few days should be kept close to the mother, offered the breast frequently, helped to take the breast and given breast milk expressed directly into the mouth or fed expressed breast milk from a clean cup (not from a bottle). The mother should receive help to improve the baby’s attachment and suckling, and should also be shown how to express breast milk, if necessary.