Breast milk is specifically designed for human babies, to meet all their nutritional needs for the first 6 months and then alongside weaning foods for up to 2 years or longer. Formula milks are a substitute for breast milk, and when designing the nutritional profile breast milk is used as a baseline. Most are made from cows milk that has been modified to meet the specific nutritional requirements of babies up to age one. In the UK there are strict guidelines that govern the manufacturing, sale and promotion of infant formula milk.  More information on the ingredients and composition of infant milks can be found on the first steps nutrition website.

However, feeding a baby is about much more than the milk and nutrition – it is a time for bonding with your baby and helping them to feel secure and loved. In the breastfeeeding relationship, this occurs very naturally through the way that the mother has to hold the baby to feed, and the hormonal changes that occur in her body. When a baby is bottle fed there is a need to pay more attention to how the baby is held and the parents’ interaction, so that the experience is one that builds this bond with the parent.

Feeding cues

All babies have early signs, before they cry, that lets their parents know they want milk. They may begin to move their head, open their mouth or suck their fists. Offering a baby a feed when they show these early cues helps them to remain calm and to build trust that their parents will respond quickly when they need something.

Maintain close contact with your baby throughout the feed

Hold your baby close to you, even in skin to skin when you bottle feed. The reassuring presence of a parent or caregiver will help them feel safe and loved and will release oxytocin (the hormone that helps with bonding) in both the parent and baby.

Help your baby to pace their feeds.

Babies that are breastfed will naturally regulate their own intake of milk, bottle fed babies can find this more difficult and may over feed. Hold your baby in an upright, almost sitting position. Hold the bottle in a horizontal position tilted only enough to keep milk in the teat.

Do not force the bottle into the baby’s mouth, instead encourage your baby to open his mouth by stroking the side of his cheek. Place the bottle gentle into the baby’s wide mouth allowing his lips to gently surround the wider part of the teat.

Stop the feed frequently, after 1-2oz , and gently wind your baby. Offer the bottle again if they still appear hungry.