top of page

Feeding Your Baby


If you have any questions, concerns, or need some advice (whether you are breastfeeding or using first infant formula), call the NCT helpline (0300 330 0700).

"Whether Your Baby is being Breastfed or Formula Fed, Or Both, Just remember that You are doing an Amazing Job and professionals are here to support you with whatever you decide. 


  • Breastfeeding is a skill that takes time to get the hang of. Lots of mums wonder if their baby's feeding well and getting enough - especially in the first few days. But once you've mastered it, you'll probably find it's the easiest and most satisfying way to feed your baby.

  •  If you have any breastfeeding worries or concerns, the best thing to do is speak to your midwife or health visitor, or search a group:

What is colostrum?

  • Colostrum is the first milk your breasts produce in the few days following birth. It is thick and golden yellow in colour . Colostrum is very concentrated and full of vitamins and antibodies. All of this helps your baby grow and fight off infections . It also helps expel meconium – the black, sticky poo babies are born with .

  • Your baby will only need about a teaspoonful at each feed because colostrum is so concentrated. To begin with your baby may want to feed often, perhaps every hour. They'll begin to have fewer, longer feeds after a few days. The more you breastfeed, the more your baby's sucking will stimulate your supply and the more milk you'll make.

  • After a few days the colostrum will be replaced by more mature milk, which is more liquid and greater in volume . Approximately two to four days after birth you may notice your breasts are warmer and fuller feeling; this is known as your milk coming in .


The let-down reflex

  • When your baby starts sucking at your breast, this releases the hormone oxytocin, causing the tiny muscle cells around the alveoli to contract and squeeze out breastmilk. This squeezing is known as the let-down reflex . Some women get a tingling feeling, which can be quite strong, while others don’t feel anything. Both are normal.

  • You may notice your baby respond when your milk ‘lets down’. Their quick sucks will change to deep rhythmic swallows as the milk begins to flow. Babies often pause after the initial quick sucks, while they wait for more milk to arrive . There may be a number of let downs every time you breastfeed, which you may or may not be aware of.

  • You may also feel some contractions in your belly during the first few days of breastfeeding your baby. These are known as afterpains and feel like mild labour contractions. They are caused by oxytocin shrinking your uterus (womb) back to its pre-pregnancy size .


Breastfeeding frequency

  • Mums start producing mature milk as soon as their baby is born. This happens whether their baby is ever placed at their breast or not. You may notice this surge in production as your milk coming in around two to four days after the birth. Your breasts may look and feel fuller than before .

  • After this, you continue to make milk as a result of milk being removed from your breasts. This happens either as your baby drinks the milk or by you expressing it with your hands or a breast pump .

  • When breastfeeding is going well, this is what drives the milk supply. As milk is removed, your body gets the signal to make more. Your baby will never fully empty your breasts. If your baby feeds a lot, your body increases the milk supply in response .

  • Young babies typically feed frequently, at least eight times in 24 hours (or more), often in clusters of feeds with small gaps in between. Counting the feeds is not realistic, as you might not know whether your baby is starting a new feed or ending a previous one .


Changes in your breast milk

  • The fat content of your milk gradually increases as the milk is removed. So when breasts are less full, the fat content is proportionately higher . Healthy, effectively feeding babies usually get the right milk intake and type of milk for them .

  • When your baby seems to have had sufficient on one breast, you can switch sides and offer the other breast. Your baby may show they’ve had enough of one breast by coming off it or slowing right down. Not all babies take both sides each time. Some are happy with one, while other babies show they want three, four or more sides at a session .

  • "Breastmilk constantly changes to meet your baby’s needs. It is responsive to changes in the mother’s diet, bacteria and viruses in the environment and the baby’s feeding behaviours."

  • Breastmilk content also varies according to the time of day. Evening milk contains more components that relax and aid babies sleep, while daytime milk contains different elements that stimulate activity .

  • Breastmilk can also change in response to the baby or mother’s illness, with an increase immune cell levels to aid recovery . After your child’s first year in the world, the fat and energy content of breastmilk increases to meet their growing needs .


Support to help you breastfeed:

For information on: 


If you have any questions, concerns, or need some advice (whether you are breastfeeding or using first infant formula), call the NCT helpline (0300 330 0700)

Formula Feeding 

Be prepared: what do you need?

  • Whether you’re bottle-feeding your baby using formula milk, expressed breastmilk, or a combination of the two, it helps to be prepared. Make sure you buy any kit you’ll need like bottles and teats. There are many different types of bottles and teats for sale. It may take a while to try a couple of different ones to see what works best for you and your baby.

  • You can also buy additional equipment if you like. For example, some parents like the convenience of electric bottle warmers, some mums will express milk by hand, while others will use an electric breast pump. There is also a range of sterilisation equipment available to buy.

Making up a bottle

  • When making up a bottle always make sure that you put hot water, at least 70°C, into the bottle first in order to sterilise the powder. Use the measuring scoop that came with the milk. Different brands have different sized scoops so you could accidently use too much or too little milk powder.

  • Bottles and teats need thorough washing and sterilising before each use. Read about how to sterilise bottles and teats, and know how to safely prepare a formula feed.

  • "It’s important to follow good hygiene practices like always washing your hands before preparing your baby’s feed and following any instructions on the formula packaging. This is to help prevent your baby picking up an infection." 

  • How to Sterilise your baby's bottles:

Bond with your baby

  • Feeding your baby, especially in the early days, can be a good time for closeness and bonding. So, whether it’s you or your partner who would like some special time with your little one, make sure you’re comfy and create a calm environment. It’s better to limit the feeding to you and your partner in the early days to build a close and loving relationship with your baby and help them feel safe and secure.

  • Some babies respond well to background music, while others prefer it to be quiet. As they get older, most babies will enjoy looking up into your eyes.

How to hold your baby for bottle feeding

  • Hold your baby close to you. They should be fairly upright, with their head supported - so they can breathe and swallow comfortably. Support your baby so they're slightly raised and able to look at you. Babies shouldn’t be flat on their backs or left alone with a propped-up bottle when they are being fed to avoid any risk of choking.

  • Try talking to your baby gently and look into their eyes to reassure them during feeds. This helps them to feel safe and loved.

Hot or cold milk?

  • Some babies prefer their milk cool while others like it warm. Always check the temperature of the milk from your baby’s bottle on the inside of your wrist before you feed them to make sure it’s not too hot. This is necessary in order to avoid scalding their mouth. It should be warm or cool, not too hot. You don’t need to warm it up at all if you don’t want to or your baby doesn’t mind.

How to feed your baby using a bottle

  • Rub the bottle teat against your baby’s upper lip gently to encourage them to open their mouth and draw the teat in, rather than forcing it into the mouth. Tip the bottle horizontal with only a slight tilt just enough to ensure the teat is filled with milk and not air. This also prevents milk from flowing too fast. Be guided by your baby’s reactions while feeding. They should be able to suck and swallow, without spluttering, and without pushing the teat out with their tongue.

  • The bottle teat needs to be full of milk during the feed, so that your baby doesn’t swallow too much air. If the teat becomes flattened while you’re feeding them, pull gently on the corner of their mouth to release the vacuum. If the teat gets blocked, it should be replaced with another sterile one

‘Pacing’ feed

  • Babies feed in bursts of sucking with short pauses to rest. When your baby slows their sucking and swallowing, you can help ‘pace’ the feed by partially moving the bottle teat out and then letting them draw it in again. This mimics the stop-start motion of breastfeeding. This can also help avoid over-feeding your baby. Interrupting the feed from time to time also gives your baby a chance to register how full they are and how much more they need – helping them to control their intake.

  • If your baby gets upset at having the teat removed, tip the bottle downwards while it remains in their mouth, which will stop or slow down the flow. Holding the bottle horizontal to ground with only a slight tilt will also ensure that baby doesn’t gets milk while they’re pausing for a rest.

  • Further information on Responsive Feeding:



If you have any questions, concerns, or need some advice (whether you are breastfeeding or using first infant formula), call the NCT helpline (0300 330 0700)

bottom of page