Feeding your baby

Feeding can be a lovely time to get to know your baby and to bond. At the start you’re going to be doing a lot of feeding.

How can I tell if my baby is hungry?

Your baby will let you know they’re hungry with early feeding signs such as:

  • getting restless
  • sucking their fist or fingers
  • making murmuring sounds
  • turning their head and opening their mouth (known as rooting).

Crying can also be a sign of hunger. But looking out for these signs and feeding a baby before they cry is much easier than waiting until they are upset.

How often should I feed my baby?

Your baby has a tiny stomach when they are born (the size of a marble) so you need to feed them often, probably every couple of hours at first, both day and night. It may feel like you’re doing almost nothing apart from feeding your baby at first. Don’t worry. As they grow, their stomach will grow so there will be longer gaps between feeds.

Breast or formula?

The World Health Organization recommends that all babies are exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and then for 2 years or as long as mother and baby want to, alongside solid food. 

There are lots of benefits to breastfeeding. For example, it helps reduce the risk of your baby getting infections now and in the future, and it reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits. Any amount of breast milk has a positive effect, so it is worth trying if you can.

However, there are many reasons why women decide not to breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding after a time. Whatever the reason, whether you want to try combine feeding for a while or formula feed your baby instead, there is no reason for you to feel guilty. It’s your right to choose how to feed your baby and you can change your mind along the way if you want.

Finding the best way to feed your baby can sometimes be difficult or stressful and some mums change the way they feed their baby because they’ve had problems or lost confidence. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, because it’s important that you’re happy about how you’re feeding your baby.

Your midwife or health visitor are there to help you find the best way forward for you and your baby. You should also be given details of local support groups or feeding drop-in clinics after your baby’s birth if you want to speak to someone between appointments.

More about feeding your baby

  • Mum breastfeeding baby.

    Breastfeeding information and support

    Breast milk is a fantastic first food for your baby because it protects them from illness. Breastfeeding has lots of benefits for you, too.

  • 'FAQ' written in pink chalk on black board.

    Breastfeeding FAQs

    Here are some answers to common questions about breastfeeding.

  • A breast pump.

    Expressing

    Expressing milk means squeezing milk from your breast so you can store it and feed it to your baby later.

  • A photo of a mum breastfeeding her baby with bottles visible on the table in the foreground

    Combine feeding

    Combine feeding is when you offer your baby bottles of expressed breast milk or formula alongside breastfeeding. It’s sometimes called combination or mixed feeding, or partial breastfeeding.

  • Dad bottle-feeding baby formula.

    Formula feeding

    Formula is man-made milk that is designed for babies and can be used in combination with, or instead of, breastfeeding. Formula feeding is perfectly safe, just make sure you take care every time you make a bottle.

  • 'FAQ' written in pink chalk on black board.

    Formula feeding FAQs

    We’ve answered your questions about formula feeding.

Sources

NHS Choices. Breastfeeding: the first few days https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/breastfeeding-first-days/ (Page last reviewed: 02/102016. Next review due: 02/10/2019)

The Royal Wolverhamptom NHS trust. Feeding cues and rooming in. https://www.royalwolverhampton.nhs.uk/services/service-directory-a-z/infant-feeding/feeding-cues-and-rooming-in/ 

Sue Macdonald, Gail Johnson, Mayes’ Midwifery. Edinburgh: Baillir̈e Tindall Elsevier, 2017)

NHS Choices. Benefits of breastfeeding https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/benefits-breastfeeding/ (Page last reviewed: 28/02/2017. Next review due: 28/02/2020)

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    Last reviewed on May 9th, 2019. Next review date May 9th, 2022.

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