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.
Please click here to be redirected to our 'Collecting colostrum for your baby' page.
For more advice and information see:
We encourage all new mums to breastfeed their babies. If your baby is finding it difficult to breastfeed, you will be shown other ways of giving your baby breastmilk.
Expressing your breastmilk by hand, for example, will ensure a good milk supply for your baby. You can give your breast milk using a small, 1ml (millilitre) sterilised syringe or a sterilised feeding cup, depending on the amount of milk you are giving your baby.
(look for the '1ml' line on the syringe)
Syringe feeding should be used during the first
few days when you need to give your baby small amounts of colostrum or breast
milk (less than 3 to 5 mls).
How to syringe feed your baby
Please wash and dry your hands thoroughly before you start.
You need to hold your baby in an upright position and gently syringe no more than 0.2mls (millilitres) into your baby’s mouth at a time. Feed the milk in between their gum and cheek or onto their tongue. Allow your baby to swallow before giving them another 0.2mls (millilitres) and continue to do this until the feed has ended.
(Look for the '0.2ml' line on the syringe)
Important safety information
Infant feeding syringes have a free-fastening lid which must be removed before giving expressed colostrum or milk to your baby.
Always keep syringes and lids away from babies and children.
A feeding cup should be used when your baby needs to have feeds greater than 3 to 5mls (millilitres).
In order to protect breastfeeding, it is beneficial to use a cup rather than a bottle with a teat.
Cup feeding encourages your baby to use their tongue and lower jaw in a similar way as they would when breastfeeding. They are also able to smell and enjoy the milk when using a cup.
How to cup feed your baby
Please wash and dry your hands thoroughly before you start, and use a pre-sterilised, once-only cup at each feed.
Wrap your baby securely in a blanket to keep its hands out of the way so that it does not knock the cup out of your hands.
Sit your baby in an upright position on your lap to prevent choking and place a bib around your baby’s neck.
Place the cup so that it is gently resting on your baby’s lower lip. Do not press it down. The cup should be tipped so that the milk touches your baby’s lip. Wait and your baby will sniff the milk, push their tongue forward and start to lap or drink the milk.
Do not tip the milk into their mouth as this may cause them to choke. Keep your baby sat upright and the cup still. Do not move the cup away when they stop drinking.
Your baby will drink at their own pace with breaks when they will have a breather. At the end of the feed they may close their mouth to show that they have finished.
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.
Babies that are exclusively breastfed DO NOT need water from a bottle, they simply need more regular feeds from the breast - these may be shorter and more frequent feeds - so in other words make sure you offer a little more often. Keeping an eye on wet nappies will help you know that your baby is staying hydrated.
If you're bottle feeding, as well as their usual milk feeds, you can give your baby a little cooled boiled water. If your baby wakes at night, they'll probably want milk. If they have had their usual milk feeds, try cooled boiled water as well.
Babies need to be in the shade, only lightly dressed and kept cool.
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.
This is never and easy topic to broach but it is, without doubt, the most worrying risk to the future health and happiness of your baby. The research evidence is absolutely clear:
Do' and don'ts to help prevent your baby becoming overweight or obese:
Myths about weight:
'Obesity is inherited' - No it isn't. The obesity 'epidemic' has developed over the past 20 years but our genes haven't changed in that short time - they have generations to alter. Instead our lifestyles have altered and eating behaviour tends to run in families. Try to make your family healthier - it's worth it
'Breastfed babies cannot becomes overweight' - Yes they can. It is much rarer but happens. The longer you breastfeed the lower the risk. Breastfeeding is only partly protective and the choices you make about starting solids, the portion sizes, the foods you offer and swapping to bottle feeding will all have an impact.
'My baby is always hungry' - No, they aren't. Many families describe this and are tempted to either give up breastfeeding, try milks for hungrier babies (which are unnecessary) to introduce solids too early. Remember that babies cry for all sorts of reasons and it is important to recognise the difference between hunger cues and a baby who is crying about something else. Provided your baby is growing and gaining weight along their centiles they do not need any extra calories.
'My baby will slim down when they start exercising' - This is unlikely. Feeding habits start to develop in the first days and weeks of life. Not only are babies who are overweight at a year of age highly likely to be overweight when they start school, but they also have higher blood pressure. Yes - health differences even at a year!
'A big baby is a healthy baby' - Only if designed to be. We come in all shapes and sizes. It does not matter where your baby is on the growth charts provided they are not crossing the centiles up or down and their weight is within one major centile of their length. There is no 'best' centile. Encouraging your baby to cross the centiles upwards is rarely healthy even for a baby born small.
'We are a big-boned family' - Body Mass Index (BMI) allows for this. BMI is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used in classifying overweight and obesity. Most of you will know that a healthy BMI for adults is somewhere between 19-25, a range which allows for some people having a larger frame or being 'big-boned' - this is not a reason for having a higher than healthy BMI. In growing children, the healthy range varies with age and there are BMI charts for children over two. Your health visitor can show you these.
Babies just need breastmilk or an appropriate first infant formula for around the first six months of life. From six months they are likely to to start showing the signs of readiness for the introduction of solids alongside breast milk or formula.
Sometimes families think that a baby who is waking in the night when they have previously slept through, wanting extra milk feeds or chewing their fists is ready for solids. These are just normal behaviours when a baby grows and develops, not signs of hunger.
Even if your baby is bigger than other babies of a similar age, it doesn't mean they will need to start solids any earlier than six months.
If you think your baby is ready for solid foods before six months, or before all three illustrated signs appear, it is a good idea to talk to your health visitor or health care professional first.
Babies need to be included in meals with you and your family as soon as they start to eat solid foods. There is no need to make special foods for babies. Babies learn about enjoying food & how to behave at mealtimes by watching those around them. Being overweight often runs in families and this is thought to be at least partly due to the eating behaviours they see at home. It is important to try and set a good example to your baby by giving them lots of opportunities to try a wide range of healthy foods.
Sometimes babies need to try a new food several times before they accept it, so do not worry if your baby spits out foods to start with. Never force your baby to eat - just as with milk feeding, your baby needs to understand when they have had enough so they do not put on too much weight.
For further information about starting your baby on solid foods see:
Your baby is ready if they can:
NOTE: It's rare for these signs to appear together before six months.
When the time comes for you to return to work, it is beneficial for both you and your baby if you are able to carry on breastfeeding, even some of the time. You will both continue to get the health benefits from breastfeeding as well as being able to continue to get the health benefits from breastfeeding as well as being able to continue to enjoy that special closeness that it brings - it is a lovely way to be reunited when you are together again at the end of your working day. It is worth thinking about how you will manage this several weeks before you go back to work and you can get help with this from your health visitor or from the following:
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. For more information on how to contact your local Health Visiting team please click here.
Click here to download a PDF of the Healthy Infant Feeding Booklet