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Infant feeding from birth to around 6 months

Breastmilk or first infant formula is the best source of all the food and fluid your baby needs in the first 6 months of life. If you are breastfeeding, breastmilk will continue to give your baby extra protection against illness, for as long as you carry on breastfeeding, and is good for you too.

Baby's development

From birth, your baby will be:

  • sucking
  • rooting and giving other feeding cues
  • able to attach at the breast

Baby's digestive system and kidneys are immature so are unable to cope with foods, other than breast milk and/or infant formula.

From 4-5 months, your baby will:

  • reach out for objects, interested in what other people are doing and enjoy watching other people eat, but not needings solids yet.
  • be often more wakeful at night
  • have times when they want more frequent feeds for a few days

What food/fluids to give your baby

Milk:

  • breastmilk, according to baby's cues

or, if not breastfeeding:

  • use infant formula milk only.

The evidence does not show any benefit from other types of formula. Babies will be more hungry at some times than others, so allow them to take more or less at different feeds, using a responsive bottle feeding style.

In hot weather, breastfed babies may feed more often as breastmilk is a drink as well as a food. Formula-fed babies may need extra boiled and cooled tap water.

What to avoid

  • all foods other than breastmilk or first infant formula
  • all other fluids, if breastfed
  • adding cereal or other food to milk in bottle
  • baby fruit juices
  • any other vitamins apart from Healthy Start vitamin drops for your baby unless recommended by a health professional

Healthy Start vitamin drops: all babies need vitamins A, C and D. Healthy Start vitamins are available for FREE in Islington for babies and children from 4 weeks to 4 years of ages. The Healthy Start vitamin drops provide the recommended amount of vitamins for babies and children below 5 years of age when given daily. For any further information, discuss with your health visitor.

The Healthy Start vitamins are available from health centres and children’s centres across Islington.

When and how to feed your baby

Watch for and follow baby’s hunger cues.

Look for rhythmic deep suckles and the baby’s jaw dropping, showing they are swallowing.

Remember that feeding is also about love, comfort and relaxing together. Hold your baby close to you when feeding them. Smiling at and talking to your baby while feeding is vital for their development.

If you respond quickly to your baby’s needs, it will make them feel secure and more confident.

Starting solids

Until around six months all your baby need is breastmilk or first infant formula. Before six months your baby has not developed enough to digest any other food. Wait until your baby shows the following signs before introducing solids:

  • Can sit up with minimal support and hold up his head
  • Can reach out to grab and bring the item to his mouth
  • Can move food from the front of the mouth to the back to swallow.

When your baby has developed all of these signs it is most likely that his gut is developed enough to digest food and is ready to have solids.