Every mother produces breast milk that changes to meet the needs of her baby at different stages of life. Milk produced by the mother of a toddler has a different composition from the milk produced for a newborn, and milk from a mother who has given birth prematurely is different from that produced for full term babies.

Breast milk produced by the mother of a premature baby has extra nutrients (calories, fat, protein, and vitamins) and contains live cells and antibodies to protect their immature immune systems from infections. Breast milk is also easier to digest and has been shown to reduce the incidence of gut problems in premature babies.

Unfortunately sick and premature babies are often separated from their mothers, for this reason it is important to begin stimulating the breasts as soon after birth as possible by using hand expressing and a double breast pump. Premature babies are often too immature to feed at the breast immediately after birth and mothers will need to express their milk to start off with until the baby is able to breast feed or take a bottle.  All staff on the neonatal unit are trained to help and support you with breast feeding/expressing. Many units have a member of the team called an  ‘Infant Feeding coordinator’ who has additional knowledge and expertise around infant feeding, including breast feeding and expressing.

To help express your milk there will be breast pumps available to use on the neonatal and the facility to loan a breast pump – please talk to your baby’s nurse about this or see the section  below ‘Support for mothers breast feeding/expressing’ for home loan options.

Donating Breast Milk: if you are lucky enough to produce a lot of breast milk, in excess of what your baby needs you can donate milk to the North West Human Milk Bank to be used for other preterm and sick babies across the country.- click here for information on how to donate breast milk and speak to the nurse caring for your baby!

Information leaflets & resources to support mums breast feeding/expressing:

NCT: Breast feeding: a good start

UNICEF: Off to the best start

UNICEF: How to Hand Expressing Video

UNICEF: Other support organisations – national support


Drugs In Breast milk Information Service (Infant Feeding Network: if you have a specific question about medications or treatments, please message the Drugs in Breast milk information service Facebook page or email or telephone  0300100 0212 to speak to a pharmacist directly.


Benefits of breastfeeding

The UK has one of the lowest rates of breast feeding in the world.  More than 73% of mothers start breastfeeding unfortunately this number falls dramatically in the first few weeks and months of a baby’s life.
These are some of the reasons why:
  • your breast milk is perfectly designed for your baby
  • breast milk protects your baby from infections and diseases
  • breastfeeding provides health benefits for you
  • breast milk is available for your baby whenever your baby needs it
  • breastfeeding can build a strong emotional bond between you and your baby

Formula milk does not provide the same protection from illness and does not give you any health benefits.

Health benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
Breastfeeding has long-term benefits for your baby, lasting right into adulthood.Any amount of breast milk has a positive effect. The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.Breastfeeding reduces your baby’s risk of:

Giving nothing but breast milk is recommended for about the first 6 months (26 weeks) of your baby’s life.

After that, giving your baby breast milk alongside family foods for as long as you and your baby want will help them grow and develop healthily.

Breast milk adapts as your baby grows to meet your baby’s changing needs.

Health benefits of breastfeeding for you
Breastfeeding and making breast milk also has health benefits for you. The more you breastfeed, the greater the benefits.Breastfeeding lowers your risk of:

Busting some breastfeeding myths……
Myth: “It’s not that popular in this country.”
Fact: More than 73% of women in the UK start breastfeeding, and 17% of babies are still being exclusively breastfed at 3 months.
Myth: “Breastfeeding will make my breasts sag.”
Fact: Breastfeeding does not cause your breasts to sag, but pregnancy hormones can stretch the ligaments that support your breasts. Wear a well-fitting bra while you’re pregnant.
Myth: “People do not like to see women breastfeeding in public.”
Fact: Most people do not mind. The more it’s seen, the more normal it will become. The law protects women from being asked to leave a public space while breastfeeding.
Myth: “Formula milk is basically the same as breast milk.”
Fact: Almost all formula milk is made from cows’ milk. It can contain bacteria, which is why it’s vital to make it up with water hot enough to kill any bacteria (70C). It does not protect your baby from infections and diseases like breast milk does.
Myth: “Some women do not produce enough breast milk.”
Fact: Almost all women are physically able to breastfeed. Early, frequent feeding and responding to your baby’s cues give you the best start to establishing your supply. See Is my baby getting enough milk?
Myth: “If I breastfeed I cannot have a sex life.”
Fact: There’s no reason why breastfeeding should stop you having sex with your partner. Your breasts may leak a little milk while you’re having sex, but you can try feeding your baby beforehand or wearing a bra with breast pads in. Your vagina may feel a little drier than usual because of your breastfeeding hormones. Using some lubricant and taking things slowly will help.
Myth: “Breastfeeding hurts.”
Fact: Breastfeeding is a natural way to feed a baby and it should not hurt. If you experience pain in your breasts or nipples, it’s usually because your baby is not positioned or attached properly. Ask your midwife, health visitor or a breastfeeding specialist to watch a whole feed to help spot the problem
Myth: “My nipples are flat or even inverted, so I will not be able to breastfeed.”
Fact: Nipples come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Holding your baby skin to skin after birth will help them find the best way to attach themselves. Your baby breastfeeds, not nipple feeds, so as long as they can get a good mouthful of breast, they should be able to feed perfectly happily.
Myth: “Babies do not need breast milk once they start solid foods at about 6 months.”
Fact: Breastfeeding still has lots of benefits for you and your baby after 6 months. It protects them from infections and there’s some evidence that it helps them to digest solid foods. It also continues to provide the balance of nutrients they need. The World Health Organization recommends that all babies are breastfed for up to 2 years or longer.


There are many resources available to support breast feeding and expressing, in addition to seeking advice from from your midwife or neonatal nurse the following resources are also available to you:

Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend  chat-bot for fast, friendly, trusted NHS advice anytime, day or night.

You can also ask our Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend questions anytime, day or night. It’s available on:



local breastfeeding support group can be found here as well as the following peer support groups in the north west:


Liverpool Bambis: Breast feeding Peer Support for families living in Liverpool.



Breast feeding Together: Breast Feeding support in Wigan.


Breast Feeding Support in Trafford – Facebook page


UNICEF Breast Feeding Resources: These resources cover a range of issues around establishing and continuing successful breastfeeding.


Breast Pump Hire: many hospitals have breast pumps mothers are able to take home but unfortunately there is often not enough for every mum. there are organisations you can hire hospital grade breast pumps from, some are listed here:








We recognise whilst we promote breast feeding/expressing we understand some mothers may be unable to breast feed or choose to bottle feed.

UNICEF: Infant Formula & responsive Bottle Feeding – a guide for parents

Department of Health & UNICEF : Guide to bottle feeding 


Information for Healthcare Professionals:

First Steps Nutritional Trust: guides to infant milks for health professionals

UNICEF: Guidelines on providing information for parents about formula feeding

How the Baby Friendly Initiative supports parents who formula feed:

The Baby Friendly standards are designed to support the wellbeing and life chances of all babies, whether breast or bottle fed. Whilst breastfeeding is the best option for babies, and we work to support mothers to breastfeed, we also work to ensure that all babies receive high standards of care and the best possible chance to thrive regardless of feeding type.

For bottle fed babies, this work includes:

  • Enabling closeness between parents and their baby, which supports brain development and mental health
  • Helping parents to choose an infant formula, make up feeds and avoid over feeding
  • Supporting parents to lower costs
  • Protecting families from commercial interests and advocating for the rights of all babies at a governmental level.

All maternity and community services which are accredited as Baby Friendly must demonstrate that their staff support families who bottle feed. The following statement, published in January 2017 and available for download below, will explain this work in more detail, and help health professionals to demonstrate the impact of the Baby Friendly standards on the welfare of both breast and bottle fed babies.

How the Baby Friendly Initiative supports parents who formula feed: Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative Statement January 2017 (download pdf)



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Clinicians working within the NWNODN are dedicated and committed to improving the number of babies that receive their mother’s milk and supporting those mothers who wish to breast feed and/or express their milk.

Regularly Infant Feeding Leads and healthcare professionals, with an interest in infant feeding from a variety of backgrounds across the NWNODN, come together to share and learn about best practice. The group have collectively developed resources to improve care around infant feeding

For more information or to join one of our meetings please contact: or click here to see our next meeting dates.

We also welcome mothers to be part of our infant feeding work. if you would like to be part of the work we undertake please click here to visit are Parent Advisory Group page.