advice

hungry little mouths:
how to feed a baby

One of the first and most important jobs you have as a new mum is to feed your little one. They'll be pretty hungry after making their grand entrance, but if you've never fed a baby before, you're at the start of a wonderful learning curve.

Here are a few baby feeding tips to make meal times that tiny bit easier the first time round, and to make sure your newborn is getting all the nourishment they need.

mother breastfeeding her baby

1. breast or bottle?

Deciding whether to breastfeed or bottle feed should happen well before you go into labour, so that everything is set up ready for that first feed. There is a space in your birth plan for you to write this down.

Don't worry if you change your mind at any point: if you have trouble (or simply don't enjoy) breastfeeding there's no shame in switching to a bottle. However, it is harder to switch from bottle to breast once your baby has started on formula. If you're currently undecided, it might be better to start with breastfeeding and take it from there.

2. getting comfortable

Sit comfortably: you could be here for a while! Feeding time isn't just about food, it's also about bonding. When mothers breastfeed, they release a hormone that relaxes both them and the baby. Hold your little one close and look into their eyes while they enjoy their meal.

  • If breastfeeding, hold your baby close so that their nose is level with your nipple. Wait for them to open their mouth (or encourage them to, by gently stroking their upper lip). Bring them to your breast and they should take a nice big mouthful. You'll both enjoy it more if your nipple is pointing to the roof of their mouth, and their mouth is around the lower part of your areola: the dark skin which surrounds your nipple.
  • If bottle feeding, you should hold your baby semi-upright, supporting their head so that they can swallow and breathe at the same time. You might also want to recline yourself to a 45-degree angle so that gravity (rather than your biceps) keeps them in place. Gently rub the teat against their lips. They'll open their mouth and you can pop the bottle inside. Keep it tilted at an angle so that the teat is completely full of milk. You don't want baby to accidentally swallow any air, as this can lead to painful trapped wind (and lots of crying).

3. pacing the feed

If your baby slows down, it doesn't mean they've finished eating. They might just be taking a break. Breastfeeding babies stop and start a lot during mealtimes, and with bottle-fed babies you can mimic this by gently taking the teat out of their mouth. Leave it sitting on their lips so that they can suck it back in when they're ready for more.

4. when to feed

Babies (especially newborns) have very erratic eating patterns. You'll soon fall into your baby's schedule, and they'll definitely let you know when they're hungry. It's easier to feed them if you can start to tell when they're feeling peckish: as they get older they'll begin to make little head, mouth and hand movements before they start crying so that you know it's time for a feed. Remember: no two babies are the same. Some are like the hungry caterpillar, who need to feed almost constantly, while others can go a few hours without food. Sometimes they'll eat more than usual for a few days and then slow down again. If you have any questions or concerns, both your health visitor and your GP are on hand to reassure you.