What you need to know

  • When you’re pregnant, it’s good to think about how you want to feed your baby and talk about this with your midwife.  
  • Breastmilk provides your baby with all the nutrition they need to grow in the first six months.
  • You can hand-express colostrum (your first milk) from 36-38 weeks.
  • You can prepare yourself for breastfeeding by eating lots of healthy foods and drinking plenty of fluid. 
  • Sometimes mums need extra nutritional support through pregnancy and breastfeeding such as for those with type 1 diabetes, Coeliac Disease or those who have undergone bariatric surgery – your doctor can help with dietary advice in these situations.
  • Ask breastfeeding friends and whānau if you can watch them breastfeed, and ask any questions you may have about the process. Advice on how to help baby latch on to the nipple may be particularly useful. 
  • Going to breastfeeding, childbirth, antenatal or parenting education classes may be helpful.

Thinking about feeding your baby

When you’re pregnant, it’s good to think about how you want to feed your baby before they’re born.  

For some mums there are many things to consider, like your cultural beliefs, personal circumstances, and your own physical and mental wellbeing.  

Talk to your partner, whānau, lead maternity carer or midwife about it, and have a plan so they know how they can help you.  

How your body prepares for breastfeeding

While you’re pregnant, your body’s preparing itself for breastfeeding.  

Your milk ducts and milk-producing cells are developing, and more blood is going to your breasts than before, making your breasts bigger during pregnancy. Breast size has nothing to do with your ability to breastfeed though – it’s simply not true that smaller breasts make less milk.  

Your nipples and areola (the area of skin around your nipple) also get darker, so they’re easier targets for your new baby. 

Why breastfeed?

Giving your child breastmilk provides your baby with all the nutrition they need to grow in the first six months. It’s the best food because it’s designed specifically for your baby and their individual nutritional needs. It's easy for your baby to digest, adapts to your baby’s needs, is the right temperature, and it’s free. 

Here are some of the other reasons to breastfeed: 

  • being breastfed gives your baby protection against some illnesses
  • breastfeeding may protect against a raft of things like eczema, asthma, reflux, some bowel diseases, and some childhood cancers. It may also reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life
  • a baby in a whānau with food allergies may have less risk of developing allergies if they’re breastfed
  • breast milk may protect babies from diarrhoea, ear infections and respiratory infections. If they do get an infection, breastfed babies usually won’t be so ill. 
  • research shows that women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer. 

The Ministry of Health recommends babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and Plunket supports that recommendation. We’re here to help you if you’re having trouble with breastfeeding, or anything else. Call PlunketLine any time on 0800 933 922 

The first milk is called colostrum. Colostrum contains proteins and antibodies to help cell growth, and to protect your baby from infections. Colostrum also helps your baby pass the first dark green poos they produce, called meconium. While you can freeze expressed colostrum, it is advised that you consult with your health professional first, as it could interfere with your plans to establish a breastfeeding routine.

Breastfeeding also has advantages for you:  

  • gives you a chance to rest while you are feeding your baby 
  • helps you to feel close to your baby 
  • saves you time 
  • is free 
  • may reduce your risk of some cancers and bone disease. 

How you can prepare to breastfeed

  • Look after yourself. Drink plenty of fluid, and eat a range of healthy foods, including: 
    • fruit and vegetables 
    • breads and cereals 
    • milk and milk products 
    • lean meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes, and nuts and seeds. 
  • Talk with your doctor about your dietary needs - sometimes mums need extra nutritional support through pregnancy and breastfeeding such as for those with type 1 diabetes, Coeliac Disease or those who have undergone bariatric surgery.
  • Find support people. Whānau who have breastfed themselves, or who encourage breastfeeding, may be good support people for you. 
  • Ask breastfeeding friends and whānau if you can watch them breastfeed, and ask any questions you may have about the process. Advice on how to help baby latch on to the nipple may be particularly helpful. 
  • Going to breastfeeding, childbirth, antenatal or parenting education classes may be helpful.

Breastfeeding NZ (Ministry of Health)

Need free support or advice?

Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922