Going home with a breastfed baby

Going home with a new baby was a very special experience for all of the women we talked to. They spoke of it being a nice family time and a chance to get to know their baby and to learn together day by day. Many of the women said that the first thing they did was to breastfeed and that gave them confidence that they could care for their baby. Some said that they spent most of the first night feeding because the baby was a little unsettled. Many women said that they changed their sleeping arrangements for a few nights with either the mother and baby or the father sleeping in a spare room so as not to disturb each other. Many women/families co-slept* with their baby as a way of minimising disruption at night (see 'Breastfeeding during the night')

Going home was a time of mixed emotions for many, especially the first-time mothers who were both happy and daunted at the same time. They sometimes felt a bit overwhelmed at first by the responsibility of caring for a new baby and worried over every little snuffle and cough. With no health professionals around or family with experience, some women worried whether they were doing it properly. Some caught themselves checking frequently on the baby's breathing. Several women talked about the state of their house which seemed to be significant to them and their spouse. Some women, usually from non-English backgrounds, talked about not going out of the home again for several weeks (see 'Cultural aspects of breastfeeding'). 

Many of the women came home early for a variety of reasons, including a dislike of hospitals, the desire to get back to an older child or children, and because they had their husband/partner at home to support and reassure them, especially in the middle of the night when things seemed like a problem (see 'Getting support for breastfeeding'). Some described how it took time for themselves and their baby to learn how to breastfeed and how they preferred not to have anyone watching. A few women, often those with other children at home, where possible opted to stay in hospital a little longer for a rest and to get their breastfeeding started before coming home to a busy household. A few women appreciated the opportunity of transferring to a cottage hospital where they could stay longer and the staff were more relaxed and helpful (see 'Support from hospital staff').

Most of the women mentioned the importance of having support in the home on their return. For some, that role was undertaken by their husband or partner or their own mother, while for others it was fulfilled by members of the extended family. Some women went to stay with relatives on their return from hospital, either because their own home was being redecorated or they were in the process of moving house or because it was their custom. Women from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds typically went to stay with their parents or parents-in-law straight after the birth of the baby (see 'Cultural Aspects of Breastfeeding'). Many of these women talked about having a lot of visitors who came to admire the new baby and pay their respects to the new mother. One woman spoke of being lonely when she returned to her own home after staying with her parents-in-law. Another said that while she appreciated the family support she was glad when eventually she, her husband and their baby moved into a home of their own with more privacy and freedom.

Some women did not have the support of a husband/partner or close family member when they went home. A few had a room for them and their baby in someone else's house and some lived on their own. One went to stay with a friend for a short period until she found her own accommodation.

*Footnote 1: Co-sleeping is common. Women who co-sleep with their baby get more rest and are likely to breastfeed for longer. There are precautions that a family can take to make co-sleeping safer. However, co-sleeping is discouraged when either of the parents is a smoker, has consumed drugs or alcohol or is excessively tired. Co-sleeping on sofas or chairs is not recommended.
Last reviewed November 2018.
Last updated November 2018.


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