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Feeding a Baby: Breast or Bottle

For some parents feeding a baby can be a real struggle. We’ve got some tips to help you through it.

Split screen of baby bottle feeding and baby breastfeeding

Learn as you go

When you start feeding your baby it might take a while to get things on track.

Often parents put a lot of pressure on themselves or feel pressured by others to do everything perfectly or have all the answers. Just remember, there’s always a learning curve involved with each new baby.

How you feed your baby is your decision. Others may offer advice or think that they know best, but you have a choice and can make the decision you feel is best for you and your baby.

“A newborn is tiring regardless of how they are fed. It is normal to need help in the early days so don’t worry if you need extra support during this time – it isn’t a sign that you’re failing”

- Sky, Parentline counsellor

What to expect in the first weeks

It can take a while to understand your baby's needs and settle into a feeding routine. Here’s some things to consider:

The more you breastfeed your baby, the more milk your body produces

It is normal for babies to be fed up to 8-12 times a day

Your baby gives you signs that they might be hungry by opening their mouth, turning their head, sucking their hands and crying

Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at first but it shouldn’t hurt so seek out help if it’s hurting you

Always follow the instructions when making up formula for your baby

Try breastfeeding as the first option or combine in a bottle if giving formula 

Bottles can be used for breastmilk, formula and water - don’t add anything else to bottles

While it’s important for baby to feed, try not to force your baby to finish the bottle if they seem full

It is possible to overfeed your baby when bottle feeding but paying attention to their signs of fullness will guide you on when is enough

Regardless of the amount or how it is given, any breastmilk you can give your baby is good for them

Deciding how to feed your baby

There's lots of things to think about when deciding how to feed your baby:

  • Breastfeeding can protect you and your baby from a range of illnesses
  • With the right help and support most women can breastfeed
  • Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to everyone
  • It is possible to combine breastfeeding and infant formula
  • Not everything is going to work for you and your baby - that's ok
  • It’s ok to change your plans as your baby grows
  • Holding your baby close during feeding encourages bonding
  • Pay attention to signs that your baby is getting enough to eat

Making changes to the feeding routine

If your're thinking about changing your baby's feeding routine, here are some facts that might help you decide:

  • It is normal for your baby to cry and have unsettled periods every day even if they are feeding well
  • Your baby cries for many different reasons, it is not always because they are hungry
  • It is normal for your baby to be fed many times throughout the day and night
  • Changing from breastfeeding to infant formula doesn’t mean your baby’s sleep will improve
  • A lot of parents need help establishing feeding and sleeping routines in the first couple of months

Seeking support

It can help to talk through your options with someone who understands.

Here's a list of supports you can check out:

We're here to help

Caring for your baby is a full time job and it can be stressful sometimes.

This content was last reviewed 03/05/2018

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