milk matters:
breastfeeding vs bottle feeding

Babies are hungry little things; newborn tummies want feeding every two to four hours. Luckily, milk has all the good stuff they'll need for the first few months. That leaves just one question among new mums: should I breastfeed or bottle feed? Here's a quick peek at both to help you decide.

mum breastfeeding her baby


Breastfeeding can be a really lovely experience for both mum and baby. It isn't always easy to begin with, so you might need some extra support to get you started. Having a chat with your midwife or health visitor can be really reassuring. They might even be able to arrange for a trained breastfeeding consultant to visit you at home. Sometimes it's just a case of trying a different position for feeding, or making sure that baby's head is at just the right angle.

It's worth popping along to a breastfeeding support group too, as you'll be able to chat to other mums, and share in your milk mishaps. The NHS has lots of advice for breastfeeding mums, and there’s a helpline you can call on 0300 100 0210.

the pros of breastfeeding

  • breastfeeding gives your baby all the nutrients they need
  • it also helps your little one to fight off infection, and reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
  • it's 'on tap'! There's no need to sterilise bottles, or wait for them to cool down
  • there are also health benefits for mum, including a reduced risk of breast cancer and other illnesses
  • breastfeeding can help you lose your baby weight quicker
  • once you’ve both got the hang of breastfeeding, you can express milk to feed in a bottle. Handy if it's dad's turn for the nightshift, or you just fancy a bit of 'you' time

breastfeeding tips

  • make sure you're drinking plenty of water, as dehydration can affect your milk supply
  • if you're having trouble getting your baby to latch on, try tickling their nose with your nipple. They should be able to smell your milk and then tilt their head at just the right angle to drink comfortably
  • if you feel self-conscious breastfeeding when you're out, some department stores and shopping centres have a breastfeeding room. You might also find breastfeeding tops help, as does a large muslin or pashmina
  • baby will take all it needs from you, so you'll need to eat healthily, including plenty of protein
  • you might need to pop a daily Vitamin D tablet in the winter months

bottle feeding

Baby formula milk is usually made from cow's milk. It'll have been specially treated and had extra vitamins and minerals added to it. Your baby's needs change as they get bigger, so you'll need to choose a baby formula which is suitable for your child’s age. There are several brands to choose from.

If your baby is allergic to cow's milk, your doctor will be able to recommend an alternative infant formula. You'll mainly use powdered infant milk, which has to be mixed with freshly boiled water and left to cool. It's a good idea to have some cartons of ready-to-feed liquid formula to hand too, for those times when baby just can't wait!

the pros of bottle feeding

  • you can see how much milk your baby is taking
  • dads and grandparents can help to feed your baby
  • bottle feeding can help a dad to bond with his child
  • you don't have to worry about feeling self-conscious when you're out and baby needs a feed
  • you don't need to express milk if you're going to be away from your baby

bottle feeding tips

  • there are lots of different types of bottles and teats to choose from. You'll usually want to stick with one type of teat and flow rate to start with
  • choose the right teat for your child’s age. As they get bigger, they may want a teat that releases the milk more quickly
  • tilt the bottle so that the teat is full of milk. This will help to stop your little one from swallowing air, which could give them wind
  • follow all the instructions on the pack and never add anything extra to the milk
  • wash and sterilise bottles and teats carefully, as soon as you can after feeding your baby. This will help to prevent bacteria from spreading

combination feeding

Often, feeding your baby isn't a question of breastfeeding vs bottle feeding. Many mums choose to mix up how they feed their baby, using some breast milk and some formula milk. Some breastfeeding counsellors do recommend waiting until you and your baby are confident and comfortable with breastfeeding, before trying to introduce a bottle though. It's worth having a chat with your health visitor or a breastfeeding counsellor to help you decide whether you're ready. Try the national breastfeeding helpline on 0300 100 0212.