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Feeding your baby isn’t always as straightforward as you’d like. Read on

How often should I feed my newborn?

Approximately every two to four hours. At the beginning, a feed may take up to an hour, but once you and your baby get into a routine, it can take five to 10 minutes. Just relax and be patient – it can take up to six weeks to master breastfeeding. If you’re bottle-feeding, keep offering milk until your baby decides they’ve had enough – amounts will vary and they’ll pull away when full.

How can I avoid sore nipples?

Always wait until your baby’s mouth is wide open before latching on for a breastfeed. At the end of the feed, try this simple trick: gently place one or two fingers in the corner of their mouth before withdrawing to ‘break the seal’. Nipples heal more quickly when exposed to the air, so if they’re sore, go bra-less at home and change wet breast pads frequently.

Why have I got swollen, tender breasts?

If you delay a feed, or even if your bra is too tight, you can get what is known as engorged breasts. Once breastfeeding is established (at around six weeks), it’s less usual, but if it does happen, soak in a hot bath and stroke your breast down towards the nipple to encourage milk flow – and get measured for a new bra! As with all medical issues, you should see your doctor or other healthcare professional if you have concerns.

Is this mastitis?

Engorgement can develop into mastitis, an infection causing flu-like symptoms and red, inflamed patches on the breast. It may seem odd but keep feeding on the sore side as this will help unblock the duct, and see your doctor as soon as possible as you’ll need antibiotics. Lining your bra with a cabbage leaf at the first signs of tenderness – savoy is meant to be the best – won’t prevent or cure mastitis but may help to relieve the soreness.

Will expressing help?

You’ll need a breast pump – a manual pump is good for occasional use, while an electric pump is best for regular use. Expressing at the same time each day may help prevent engorged breasts – try in the morning, when you’ll get the most milk. Then your partner can help with feeding and give you a break. But don’t worry if you can’t express at first – it takes practice. A warm bath may help milk flow, or try expressing from one breast while your baby feeds on the other side.

What kind of water is best for formula?*

Use boiled tap water that’s at least 70°C (to kill any harmful bacteria) when making up formula in a sterilised bottle – don’t use mineral water or softened water, as these contain too much salt. Let the feed cool to body temperature  – test the temperature of the formula on your wrist; it should feel warm or cool but not hot – before giving it to your baby. Find out more about making up infant formula at NHS Choices.

What can I do if my baby is constipated?

Formula-fed babies are more prone to constipation, so if your baby is straining, offer 30-60ml of cooled, boiled tap water between feeds.

Should I worry about allergies?

If you have a strong family history of eczema, asthma or food allergies, your baby might need a hypoallergenic or non-dairy formula. Your health visitor will be able to advise you (you should avoid soya formulas for the first six months). More information about soya-based formula can be found at NHS Choices.

Why does teat size matter?

Too small and you’ll have a frustrated, exhausted baby; too big and the milk will gush out of their mouth. Have a chat with your health visitor if you’re not sure.

How can I help my sicky baby?

Most babies bring up a little milk after a feed, but some seem to regurgitate a lot (known as reflux) and are immediately hungry again. If your baby is growing and healthy, this is nothing to worry about. However, if your baby’s not putting on weight, ask your health visitor or GP about treatments for reflux.

* Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. The Department of Health, UNICEF, paediatricians and midwives all agree that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is best, if possible. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breastmilk, and reversing the decision to stop breastfeeding is difficult. The social and financial implications of using an infant milk should be considered. Improper use of an infant milk or inappropriate foods or feeding methods may present a health hazard. If you use an infant milk, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use carefully – failure to follow the instructions may make your baby ill.