Breastfeeding and bottlefeeding Q&As answered by our health visitor

Worried about your baby’s weight gain, or whether you’re producing enough milk? Our health visitor tackles your questions about feeding your baby…

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Q: I’m ready to stop breastfeeding and get my baby onto formula milk. What’s the best way?

A: A gradual approach will probably suit you both best. Start my introducing a formula feed at the time of day when your baby’s generally at his happiest. Sometimes it’s easier if someone else offers this feed, with you out the room, so he’s not confused as to why you’re not feeding him.

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Most babies will object as it takes time to get used to the change. If he really resists, try offering expressed milk first and then move on to formula. Then the speed you go is up to you. Increase the frequency and amount of formula, dropping the morning and evening feed last. As you do, you’ll produce less milk. Your breasts may feel uncomfortable, so wear a supportive bra and take paracetamol if you need to. When your baby can sit up, from about 6 months, you could skip bottles altogether and try a soft-topped beaker. From 12 months your baby can move to cow’s milk.

Q: My 6 week old is feeding all the time and I’m worried my milk supply’s dwindling. Can this happen?

A: Babies have a growth spurt around 6 weeks old, so they do seem to be constantly hungry around that time. Don’t worry though – your baby’s bigger demand for milk leads to an increased supply to ensure you’re meeting your little one’s growing needs.

Keep an eye on the way you attach and position your baby while he feeds, as good attachment will keep your milk supply going. Feed on demand until your baby’s had enough and comes off himself.

Night feeds are important too, as levels of prolactin (the breastfeeding hormone) are raised in the night and will help produce your next day’s supply. In a few days, your little one’s feeding pattern will settle again – until the next growth spurt that is.

Q: I’m breastfeeding and really enjoying it, but I worry whether my newborn’s getting enough milk with each feed. How can I be sure?

A: Feeding on demand stimulates milk production, and at first newborns feed between 10-12 times in a 24-hour period, some days more. Noting how many feeds you give can reassure you. Look out for these signs too:

  • A baby who’s well attached will finish a feed when he’s had enough, so let him dictate when the feed ends.
  • If he’s feeding properly you’ll notice his cheeks are full, not sucked in, there’s a rhythmic sucking pattern and you can hear swallowing.
  • Breastfed babies who are getting enough milk produce at least six wet nappies a day and two poos the size of a two pound coin.
  • Post-feed, a satisfied baby will rest and be content for a while. These periods of peacefulness increase as he grows.
  • Reviewing his growth at a clinic will reassure you that he’s gaining weight.

Q: I’m breastfeeding my newborn, but how often should he be feeding?

A: The frequency and duration of breastfeeding varies from baby to baby, but generally newborn babies feed somewhere between 10 and 12 times in 24 hours, with each feeding lasting between 5 and 30 minutes.

Breastfeeding on demand, and for as long as baby wants, will help establish successful breastfeeding. However, this is all dependent on correct attachment and positioning. Once you and your little one get to grips with him getting on the breast well, the rest will follow.

Q: I’m breastfeeding for the first time and my 2 week old isn’t gaining weight as quickly as she should. Is this normal?

A: Weight gain is one of the many ways to check that breastfeeding is becoming established, but it’s by no means the only one. By around 2 weeks old, most newborns are on their way back to their birth weight. But it’s very early days, so please don’t lose heart as this is all quite normal.

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It takes most new mums about a month to get the hang of breastfeeding, so for now focus on practising good attachment techniques. Once you master this and feed on demand, your milk supply will settle and everything else will follow. Your baby should feed at least six to eight times in 24 hours (up to 12 times is fine). Let her come off the breast when she wants, then offer your other breast. Your baby should have at least six wet nappies and pass at least two poos the size of a £2 coin every 24 hours. A breastfeeding supporter can offer extra help, so speak to your local children’s centre or health visitor.

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