If the number of books on infant feeding is anything to go by, there are literally thousands of approaches that are ‘guaranteed to work’. You may have even read about some of these in preparation for the birth of your baby.
Be mindful that not all approaches work for all babies, or even for you! You don’t need to blindly follow other people’s advice – trial and error is often the best way of finding out what works for you and your baby. Above all, trust your instincts.
Attachment is the two-way bond that develops between you and your baby as you communicate with each other by touch as well as talking. Strong attachment helps your baby's brain to grow, particularly the part of the brain that is important for communicating and forming relationships with others. Your baby feels safe, secure and loved and so learns to love others.
Feeding is a really important time for developing this bond whether you choose to breast or bottle feed. It isn't just about giving your baby energy to grow into a healthy child and adult. Responsive feeding describes how you recognise and respond to your baby's hunger signals or 'cues'. Hold your baby close to you, make eye contact and talk in a loving way. Learn to understand when your baby is no longer hungry and trust your baby's feeling of fullness. Sometimes your baby will only want to feed for a few minutes, sometimes for much longer, in the same way we sometimes just want a drink and a quick snack and at other times a three course dinner!
There are a few differences between responsive breast and bottle feeding:
Responsive bottle feeding
Responsive feeding of expressed and formula milk:
TOP TIP when bottle feeding:
Hold your baby in an upright position and keep the bottle more horizontal rather than facing downwards. Stop the feed regularly to give your baby a rest.
Look for early feeding cues. They may start to wriggle when they wake up, find something to suck especially with their hands. Crying is a late sign and you may need to soothe your baby before trying to feed. Remember crying does not always mean your baby is hungry. They may want a cuddle or need their nappy changing. They may have drunk too much and feel uncomfortable or are feeling unwell.
Pace the feed:
Overfeeding bottle fed babies:
Size and volume of a newborn's stomach
Did you know? this picture shows the approximate size of your baby's stomach and how much milk it can hold at each feed.
For more advice and information see:
This is the easiest way to feed your baby when out and about. You do not need to take any equipment with you, just yourself. Breast milk is the correct temperature, amount and no preparation required.
How do I re-heat my expressed breast milk?
From the fridge
From the freezer
We do not recommend using a microwave to warm any of your baby's milk or food. Microwave cooking causes hot spots which can burn your baby's mouth.
Did you know?
To support breastfeeding mothers to feel more confident to feed their baby in public, Breastfeeding Welcome Schemes are being introduced in many towns and cities. Private and public sector buildings are welcoming mothers to breastfeed their baby.
Remember you are protected by law to breastfeed in public.
Pre made formula
This is the easiest way to feed your baby formula when out and about.
Formula Preparation Machines
At present there is no published research and insufficient evidence that these machines are safe in preparing infant formula. The Department of Health recommend that powdered infant formula is made up with freshly boiled water and left for no more than 30 minutes so that it remains at a temperature of at least 70 degrees.
Children and adults are all shapes and sizes, most of which are healthy. In this section we want to explain the growth charts and help you understand what you can do to help your baby grow up healthy and happy.
In your Personal Child Health Record (PCHR) you will find growth charts. Do read the information pages that come with them. The chart describe the growth patterns of thousands of normal, healthy, breastfed babies and toddlers from around the world and older children from the UK. Healthy bottle fed babies should follow the same growth patterns as breastfed babies. The lines are called 'centiles' and they simply describe how your baby's weight, length and head circumference compares with other children of the same age and sex. For example - if your baby's weight is on the 25th centile this means that if you weighed 100 babies of the same age and sex and ranked them from light to heavy, 75 babies would be heavier than yours and 24 lighter. We expect a baby to gain weight along one of these centiles or in their own channel between two of the centile lines. Which centile is healthy for your baby depends on where they started out - their birth weight - and factors they inherit from their parents . There is no 'best' centile. There will be variation above and below their centile and it is wise not to weigh and measure babies too often because these natural fluctuations can cause unnecessary concern - what matters is the pattern over time. Usually no more than monthly weighs are necessary for the first six months, every two months from six months to a year and every three months after that; unless there are particular concerns and your health care professional requests that you have your baby weighed more often for a period of time.
Generally speaking a healthy baby's length and weight will be 'in proportion' i.e. will have their length and weight within one of the major centile lines of each other and certainly no more than two.
Weight is fantastic for assessing the health of a baby. Crossing the centiles up and down may be a cause for concern. Historically most emphasis has been on monitoring babies who appear to be gaining weight too slowly - and your midwife and health visitor will watch out for this. It is likely to become apparent quite early on and the most common cause is difficulties with feeding. It is normal - and healthy - for a baby to lose some weight in the first few days of life and only is this exceeds 10% will your midwife be concerned. There is some evidence that this early weight loss helps 'set' appetite and feeding patterns for the rest of the child's life. These days poor weight gain is pretty rare and for this generation we are much more worried about babies who cross the centiles upwards across the chart because this is very unlikely to be healthy. The illustration shows several typical patterns of weight gain - healthy and unhealthy.
Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis; simply put, the more you breastfeed your baby, the more milk you will produce. If your child is attached properly, you are both comfortable and you are feeding her/him when she/he asks for it, then you will make plenty of milk.
Breastfeeding can also be used to comfort and calm babies, or when your breasts feel full, or when you just want to sit down and rest: It's impossible to over-feed or ‘spoil’ an exclusively breastfed baby, or for them to develop ‘bad habits’.
It is really important to use the correct methods when preparing a bottle of milk for your baby, to avoid many problems such as infections, under or overfeeding. Always carefully follow the manufacturers’ instructions but be aware that the amounts recommended will not suit every baby. Just because your baby is crying doesn’t necessarily mean they need a feed– being able to read your baby’s ‘hunger signs’ (see above) will avoid them being overfed – overfeeding in infancy is strongly associated with obesity in childhood and adulthood.
See guide to bottle feeding
Make sure your bottles and teats are sterilised.
When bottle feeding, sit your baby almost upright and keep the teat full of milk, otherwise your baby will take in air. If the teat becomes flattened while you're feeding, gently poke a clean finger into the corner of your baby's mouth to release the suction. If the teat gets blocked, replace it with another sterile teat.
Your baby may need short breaks during the feed and may need to burp sometimes. When your baby does not want any more feed, hold them upright and gently rub or pat their back to bring up any wind. This may only be a small amount.
Don't forget to throw away any unused formula or breast milk after you have finished feeding your baby.
If you choose to introduce infant formula after breastfeeding, it’s best to do it gradually, to give yourself time to adapt and to give your body time to reduce the amount of milk it makes. It usually helps to give the first few bottles when your baby is happy and relaxed – not when they're very hungry.
It may also help if someone other than you gives the first few feeds, so that your baby is not near you and smelling your breast milk. It can take your baby a little time to get used to the bottle, so keep trying and don’t force your baby to feed.
First milk: This is often described as suitable for newborns. It is based on the whey of cows' milk and is thought to be easier to digest than other types of infant formula. This should always be the first formula you give to your baby. Unless your midwife, health visitor or GP suggests otherwise, this is the only infant formula your baby needs. Your baby can stay on this formula when you start to introduce solid foods at around six months and continue on it throughout the first year.
There is no evidence to suggest that changing the brand of infant formula your baby drinks does any good or harm. However, if you think a particular brand of infant formula disagrees with your baby, try another. Your midwife or health visitor will be able to discuss this with you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for support and information to help you with feeding. No problem is too small – if something is worrying you, the chances are that other parents/carers will have felt the same. Your midwife, health visitors or a breastfeeding counsellor to help you position your baby may help boost your confidence and improve feeding for you and your child.