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When should I start reducing the amount of milk that my baby takes?

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Helen

Hi everyone,

I often get asked 'when should I start reducing the amount of milk that my baby takes? I have just started weaning him and am confused as to when one of his bottle feeds should be dropped.'

It is quite common for parents to be concerned and confused about this as the last thing they want to do is leave their babies short of energy and important nutrients during weaning, yet they don't want to be overfeeding them either. Weaning can be a bit of a hit and miss affair until both of you have established a routine, and babies will often eat more on some days than others for no apparent reason, so their milk intake can fluctuate quite a lot.

So, I encourage parents to be as relaxed and flexible about this as possible and to follow a few basic principles -

  • At the start of weaning, continue to give your baby's usual milk feeds at mealtimes, preferably after you have given them food. The quantities of food eaten at this stage are small and your baby still relies on milk to meet all his nutritional needs.
  • Usually at around 6-7 months, or once your baby has got used to eating solid foods at 3 mealtimes each day, try dropping one of his milk feeds (at lunchtime, say) and offer water or diluted fruit juice in a feeding beaker instead at that mealtime. Often babies show you themselves that they don’t need milk at a mealtime by gradually taking less as they start to eat more; this is a good time to drop this feed, but remember to offer another drink instead to make sure your baby doesn’t get thirsty.
  • Throughout weaning and up to the age of 1 year your baby still needs plenty of breast milk or formula each day, usually with a milk feed morning and evening and other feeds in between as required.  The exact amount will depend on how much solid food your baby eats and you should let your baby decide how much milk he has. As a rough guide, formula fed babies will need about 500-600ml (1 pint) formula per day once weaning is established. 

Hope this helps!

Bye for now,

Helen

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The right age to wean a baby?

Posted on 14 January 2011 by Helen

Hi Everyone,

There’s been a lot of media coverage today about the best age to start weaning babies, with the question being raised whether current weaning advice to start at 6 months of age is appropriate for all babies. So what is the right age?

Although breastfeeding is undoubtedly the best way of feeding a baby for the first few months of life, the research team of highly respected paediatricians in the UK who have today published their report in the British Medical Journal believe that exclusive breastfeeding for the whole of the first 6 months of life might not be the best for all babies.  From reviewing the latest evidence they believe this may increase the risk of food allergies and iron deficiency anaemia in some babies and that they would benefit from earlier weaning, sometime between 4-6 months of age.  Recent reports from the European Food Safety Authority (2009) and the British Dietetic Association (2010) also acknowledge that some babies might be ready for weaning before 6 months and that it is safe to do so between four to six months.

The UK research team were keen to point out that they support the World Health Organisation’s advice for exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months for babies in developing countries where the circumstances are quite different to the UK, but from their review of the evidence accumulated since the publication of the WHO’s advice in 2001 they believe the official advice for the UK should now be revisited.

Other professional bodies and charities like the NCT are, however, standing by the current advice, whilst the Department of Health’s nutrition committee is due to report on infant feeding later this year. So it looks like the debate will continue for some time to come!

Lots of mums complain to me about the amount of conflicting advice they receive about infant feeding and I guess this latest media flurry isn’t going to help them one little bit. But, as always, I would advise that you discuss weaning with your health visitor and then choose the best age for your baby with them. Each baby is different and it’s foolish to think that weaning at exactly the same age is going to suit all babies, but what is important is that the powers-that-be look at the best evidence and come up with the best advice for babies to ensure they achieve optimal growth and development. Nobody can dispute that surely?!

Until next time....
Helen

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Breastfeeding when returning to work

Posted on 26 November 2010 by Helen

Hi everyone,

Someone asked me on Twitter if you can continue to breastfeed when returning to work and the answer is definitely yes.

Obviously it will depend on how many hours that you work and the times of the day that you will not be around to feed your baby that will determine how you will work around this. It will also depend on the age of your baby as to how workable this will be, with babies over 6 months being easier to leave with bottles generally as they are getting used to foods other than milk at this time too.

If possible you may well choose to breastfeed your baby before you go to work and then leave either expressed breastmilk or formula to be given to your baby at other feeds until you return from work. You will then be able to continue to breastfeed for the rest of the day.

It is important to remember that the volume of breastmilk your body produces is determined by the level of demand, so if you're giving your baby less of your milk the amount you produce will also reduce. Expressing milk will help to maintain this supply but if you are giving formula feeds then this supply will diminish. However, combination feeding can be very successful as long as the demand for breastfeeds continues.

Hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions.

Have a nice weekend,

Helen

 

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Hints and tips on changing from breast to bottle feeding your baby

Posted on 23 November 2010 by Helen

Hi again.

Breastfeeding is best, few people will dispute this fact. But, it isn’t always possible or desirable. Some can’t or choose not to breastfeed their baby from the start, whereas others start breastfeeding but then for one reason or another need to switch over to the bottle, either totally or partially. Whatever choice you make, it makes sense to discuss your feeding options with a health visitor or breastfeeding counsellor who is trained to give support and handy advice.

So, if you find yourself in the position of needing to switch over from breastfeeding to bottle feeding, perhaps because you’re returning to work, do I have any hints or tips to help make the changeover easier?

1. Start to introduce a bottle a few weeks ahead – just in case it takes a while for your baby to get used to it
2. Decide whether you are going to give your baby expressed breastmilk or formula, and if you go for the latter, decide which formula you want to use.  Sometimes babies take to the bottle better if it contains the familiar taste of your breastmilk at first, before moving onto a formula a bit later
3. Make sure the milk you’re offering is warm
4. Choose the perfect time to try the bottle, when baby is alert and slightly hungry (don’t wait until your baby is really hungry as they won’t be in the mood for trying something new if they are), and you are relaxed and not in a rush
5. Hold your baby so they are turned away from you so they are not trying to find your nipple
6. Stay calm and reassuring; try not to show any frustration you might feel if it doesn’t work out straightaway
7. Perhaps ask your partner or someone else close to the baby to give the bottle rather than you if they seem reluctant to take the bottle from you

For more information and tips, visit the HiPP Baby Club.

Have you tried to switch over from breast to bottle? What were your experiences? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,
Helen

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How much does my baby need to drink?

Posted on 10 November 2010 by Helen

Hi Everyone,

If I’m asked the question ‘How much drink should my baby have?’, I look at their age, weight, milk intake, stage of weaning, health, environmental conditions, and so on, and then consider how much they should have to meet their needs and to avoid dehydration.

Generally, babies less than 4-6 months should not be offered any additional drinks (water, diluted juice or others) other than their usual milk. Milk alone, either breast milk or formula, should be able to meet all their needs for nutrition and fluids up to at least 4 months of age, and giving additional drinks can be harmful if they reduce milk intake. However, an occasional additional drink may help if the baby has a fever, in hot weather or in centrally-heated houses where there is the possibility of dehydration, and a small volume of cooled, boiled water once or twice a day should do the trick in these situations.

For babies who have already started weaning onto solids, a small drink of water or diluted fruit juice can be given at mealtimes to ensure baby doesn’t get thirsty. Between meals, only water or milk should be offered because of the risk of dental decay caused by drinks containing sugars (whether naturally occurring or added). Milk continues to be really important throughout the weaning period though and milk feeds should be given 3-4 times a day, with at least a pint of milk (about 600ml) being consumed.

Toddlers need less milk (about 360-500ml each day), but they still need fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.

You should always keep an eye on how well hydrated your baby is. Regular wet nappies are important and signs of dehydrated should be acted on swiftly:

  • Dark yellow urine
  • A sunken fontanelle (soft spot) 
  • Dry or sticky lips and mouth 
  • Skin that has lost its elasticity

Hope this helps. Let us know if you’re not sure if your baby is getting enough.

Bye for now.
Helen

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