Feeding your baby

Whether you choose to breast or formula feed your baby, there is support and advice to help you get started. This section gives you lots of information to help you make an informed decision. It’s really important that you are prepared, and feel confident about how to feed your baby.

Bonding through feeding

Feeding can be a very special time for mum and baby. It gives you the opportunity to hold your baby close and really get to know her. You might enjoy stroking her cheek or hands as she feeds and find that this is one of the best ways to enjoy precious time together and to develop a really strong emotional bond. Always hold your baby when you are feeding and enjoy this quiet, gentle time together.

You might find that feeding your baby gives you greater confidence as a new mum – particularly as you start to see her gain weight and fill out – that’s all down to you! And as you both get the hang of feeding, it will be a time that you’ll both look forward to.

Your baby’s appetite

In the early days, your baby’s tummy is very small – only about the size of a small egg. So, at this stage, she may want to feed every couple of hours. You’ll also find that some days she may want more milk than others. That’s all normal.

Feeding Cues

When your baby is hungry, you will see her ‘root’ – that is she will turn her head and open her mouth looking for food. She may also bring her hands up to her mouth, and stick out her tongue or make sucking faces. Rooting signals can vary between babies and can also vary for the same baby over time, so look out for your baby’s own rooting signals as a cue to start a feed.

Feeding patterns

Early on, your baby will feed little and often – she will feed, sleep and have wakeful periods according to her own little body clock – and the best way to deal with this is to go with the flow. If you’re tired, snatch a nap when she does.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, it’s important to get yourself comfortable for this special time. After all, you could be feeding for a while. Try out some different options. You may have a favourite chair or sofa, or find that sitting up in bed with lots of pillows behind your back works best for you. Do make sure that your back is well supported and that you hold your baby close.

Atmosphere is also important – especially in the early days. Choose somewhere that you feel calm, relaxed and comfortable – and where you have easy access to the telephone and a cold glass of water, as breastfeeding can increase thirst.

Your right to feed

An Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2005 which makes it an offence to prevent anyone feeding a baby in a public place. So, once you’re ready to go out and about with your baby, do remember that you have the right to feed her milk in public at any time – this includes anywhere the public have general access such as cafes, buses, parks or GP surgeries. And this is true whether you are bottle-feeding or breastfeeding.

How to tell if your baby is feeding well

Healthy, well-nourished babies have five to six wet nappies every day and pass soft, yellow stools after the first few days, if they are breastfed. The odd green stool is not significant in a breastfed baby. For both breast and bottle-fed babies, nappies are a great indicator of health!

Babies should be able to pass stools easily and regularly. Newborn babies pass stools more often (once or several times a day), and then the frequency sometimes declines after a few weeks. Some babies might feel a bit of discomfort before passing stools, and this can look very much like the rooting signals of hunger. Therefore, if your baby has fed recently (within the last 1-2 hours), then consider if her dissatisfaction might be due to discomfort rather than hunger. Sometimes such a discomfort can be relieved by lying your baby on her back and perform gentle cycling movements with her legs, bending her legs up towards her abdomen, or gently massage her abdomen in an anti-clockwise direction (follows the direction of the colon).

Some babies don’t gain weight as fast as others. Occasionally this can be because they aren’t getting enough milk, but usually it is simply because each baby is different. We know that breastfed babies grow at different rates to formula fed babies and this is normal.

Is my baby getting enough milk?

Well-nourished babies seem alert and healthy, and are comfortable and satisfied after feeding. If you are at all worried about your baby’s appetite or feeding, do speak to your midwife or health visitor.

Steady weight gain is a sign that feeding is going well and your baby is healthy. In the early days after birth, it is normal for a baby to lose some weight. Your baby will be weighed to make sure they regain their birth weight.

Four out of five healthy babies are at or above their birth weight by 14 days. If your baby loses a large amount of weight, your health visitor will talk to you about how feeding is going and will look at your baby’s health in general. After this, your baby will only be weighed during routine reviews unless there’s cause for concern. Your health visitor may ask you to bring your baby more often if they think they need more regular monitoring.

Generally, you don’t need to weigh your baby too often and no more than once a month up to six months of age, once every two months from six to 12 months of age, and once every three months over the age of one.

Here are some things to check for:

  • is your baby feeding at least 6-8 times a day (for the first 2-3 weeks)?
  • can you see her swallowing while she feeds?
  • is your baby back up to her birthweight?
  • does your baby have at least 6-8 heavy wet nappies over 24 hours (after the 5th day) and is her pee pale and odourless?
  • is your baby having dirty nappies at least once a day that are (after the 5th day) yellowy-mustard in colour?

Even if you baby seems unsatisfied after a feed, this might not be due to lack of milk as only very few mothers experience insufficient milk supply. Research shows that when babies are fed on demand, the milk supply will regulate to fulfill this demand for as long as you are breastfeeding exclusively.

Can I eat peanuts?

If you would like to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts (such as peanut butter) while breastfeeding, you can choose to do so as part of a healthy balanced diet, unless you yourself are allergic to them or your health professional advises you not to.

You may have heard about previous advice to avoid giving a child foods containing peanuts before three years of age, if there was a history of allergy in the child’s immediate family (such as eczema, hayfever, food allergy or other types of allergy). This has now changed because the latest research has shown that there is no clear evidence to say that this will reduce the chances of your child developing a peanut allergy.

If you have a child under 6 months and are not breastfeeding (you are feeding your baby formula milk), then there is no reason why you should avoid consuming peanuts, or foods containing peanuts, unless you yourself are allergic to peanuts or have been advised not to consume them by your health professional for other reasons.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should discuss these with your GP, midwife, health visitor or other health professional. For more information on healthy lifestyle and breastfeeding, visit the the NHS Choices website.

Last Updated: 23 September 2015
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