Feeding your baby


Your breastmilk is all your baby needs for the first 6 months. Your breastmilk continues to provide an important part of your baby's diet as he or she grows. From 6 months you can start your baby on solid foods and continue to breastfeed to 2 years or older. Breastfeeding is soothing and comforting for your baby and creates a special closeness.

When do I feed my baby?

It is best to feed your baby when he or she shows 'early feeding cues'.Breastfeeding booklet

Early feeding cues include:

  • Your baby's eyes moving over and back, even if his or her eyelids are closed
  • Your baby opening and closing his or her mouth
  • Your baby's hands moving towards his or her face or mouth
  • 'Rooting' turning his or her head side to side when you touch your baby's cheek, or trying to move towards your breast
  • Making cooing noise

Feeding your baby often when he or she shows early feeding cues and letting your baby feed as long as he or she wishes, helps to ensure that you have a good supply of milk. Your baby should have at least 6 wet nappies a day. This is a sign that your baby is getting enough milk.

When you are feeding your baby, hold your baby close to you and support your baby's body. Your baby should be able to reach your breast easily, without having to twist his or her head. When your baby opens his or her mouth wide, he or she can latch on well.

Some babies feed more at certain times of the day, often in the evening. This is normal. In the next few weeks your baby may develop a more regular pattern of feeding. It can take a week or two to get to know your baby. As time goes on breastfeeding gets more enjoyable and rewarding.

More information available on www.breastfeeding.ie/Getting-Started/

Breastfeeding Support

Support is available from your midwife, public health nurse, doctor, practice nurse and groups like Cuidiu, www.cuidiu-ict.ie and La Leche League, www.lalecheleagueireland.com

Ask your public health nurse for information on local breastfeeding groups or see www.breastfeeding.ie/supportsearch. These groups are a helpful way of meeting other mothers and getting information and support.

The leaflet 'Breastfeeding - a good start in life', provides useful information on starting to breastfeed, available in the publications section on www.healthpromotion.ie

How can I breastfeed outside the home?

Breastfeeding is really convenient when you are out and about with your baby.
Your breastmilk is

  • Always available
  • Always at the right temperature

When you are out and about, you can breastfeed anywhere you and your baby want or need to.
Since feeding often looks like cuddling a baby most people don't even notice it. Wearing a top that lifts to let your baby feed will help you feed discreetly. Some Mums like to drape a scarf over their shoulder.

More information available on www.breastfeeding.ie/as-baby-grows

Good health begins with breastfeeding


  • Protects your health and your baby's health
  • Is important for your baby's healthy growth and development
  • Provides antibodies to protect your baby from illness and build your baby's immune system

Breastfeeding will also help you to be a healthy weight and protect your health by reducing your risk of:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Diabetes

Research shows that children who are not breastfed have a greater risk of developing:

  • Ear, nose and throat infections
  • Stomach, kidney and chest infections
  • Asthma and eczema
  • Obesity (very overweight)
  • Diabetes
  • Cot death

Formula feeding

If you decide to use formula milk, your midwife will give you information while you are in hospital on what you need and how to make up the formula. At home, your public health nurse and practice nurse will give you information and show you how to formula feed your baby.

What do I need to make up formula feeds?

You need:

  • A bottle brush and tongs to help you grip the equipment
  • Fresh water (bottled water may contain salt)
  • The formula milk of your choice
  • A chemical, steam or microwave kit for sterilising bottles
  • At least 6 bottles, lids, discs and teats

If you have a visual impairment, use wide-necked bottles. They are easier to fill.

How do I sterilise equipment?

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Wash the bottles, teats, discs, lids and tongs in warm soapy water
  3. Sterilise the bottles, teats, discs, lids and tongs, following the manufacturers instructions
  4. Wash your hands before removing the bottles from the steriliser with the tongs
  5. Do not rinse out the bottles after they are sterilised

Once put together correctly, sterile bottles with tight fitting caps or sealing discs are sterile for 24 hours as long as they remain unopened.

Clean and sterilise all feeding equipment before using it.

How do I make up a formula feed?

  1. Boil the water and let it cool for 30 minutesHow to prepare your baby's bottle
  2. Clean surfaces and wash your hands
  3. Read instructions carefully
  4. Pour the correct amount of cooled boiled water into the sterilised bottle
  5. Then, put the correct amount of formula powder into the bottle using the scoop provided
  6. Put the teat and the lid on the bottle. Make sure they are not loose
  7. Cool the feed quickly by holding the bottle under cold running water or place in a large bowl of water. Make sure the water does not reach the neck of the bottle
  8. Check the feed is not too hot by shaking the bottle and placing a drop of liquid on the inside of the wrist- it should feel lukewarm, not hot
  9. Use immediately
  10. Throw away any feed that your baby has not taken within two hours. If your baby is a slow feeder use a fresh feed after two hours

How do I measure the exact amounts of formula and water?

It is important to measure the formula and water carefully as too much or too little formula can cause health problems.

  • For each 30mls (each ounce) of water, you need one level scoop of formula powder
  • Use the scoop in the formula box and run a clean knife across the top to get the scoop level. For example, if you are making up a 90mls (3 ounce) feed, you will need to add 3 level scoops of formula to 90mls of cool boiled water 12

How do I prepare more feeds in advance?

  • It is safest to prepare a fresh feed each time you need one, and to give it to your baby straight away. This is because warm milk provides ideal conditions for bacteria to grow especially at room temperature
  • If you need to prepare feeds in advance to use later, follow steps 1 - 8 on page 13
  • Seal the bottles with discs and lids
  • Store in the back of the fridge (5 degrees or below). Throw away any feed in the fridge that you have not used within 24 hours
  • When a feed is needed, remove from fridge just before you need it
  • Warm it by placing it in a bowl of warm water, making sure that the level of the water is below the neck of the bottle. You can also use a bottle warmer. Do not warm it for more than 15 minutes
  • Check the feed is not too hot by shaking the bottle and placing a drop of liquid on the inside of the wrist- it should feel lukewarm, not hot
  • Use immediately
  • Throw away any feed that your baby has not taken within two hours. If your baby is a slow feeder use a fresh feed after two hours

To protect your baby from illness such as gastro-enteritis (vomiting and diarrhoea), you should make up each feed as you need it.

Can I use bottled water to make up bottle feeds?

Tap water is usually safe to use. However, there may be times when you need to use bottled water like if you are on holiday, have a boil notice on your water supply or have a water softener system.

When using bottled water to make up bottle feed:

  • Use still water only. Never use fizzy/sparkling water
  • Use bottled water that has a sodium content of less than 20mg/L. This information will be on the label. Please note - sodium is also called salt, sodium chloride, Na and NaCL and 20mg can also be written as 20000ug - please read labels carefully
  • Always boil bottled water before making up feeds

When can I stop sterilising bottles?

You must sterilise all bottles until your baby is at least 1 year old. An unsterilised bottle can make your baby sick.

Laughing baby

How much formula milk should my baby take?

This is only a guide. If you are bottle-feeding, let your baby decide how much he or she wants unless your baby is sick. Do not try to make your baby finish a bottle if he or she does not want to. Never re-use leftover milk once your baby finishes feeding. Throw it away.

Your baby's age Number of feeds Amt of formula feed
per child weight
Birth to 3 months 6-8 (feeding every
3-4 hours)
150ml per KG
(2 1/2 fluid ozs per lb)
4-6 months 4-6 (feeding every
4-6 hours)
150ml per KG
(2 1/2 fluid ozs per lb)
7-9 months 4 (baby also having
120ml oer Kg
(2 Fluid ozs per lb)
10-12 months 3 (baby also having
120ml per Kg
(2 Fluid ozs per ib)

What other drinks can I give or not give my baby?

  • Breastfed babies get all the nourishment they need from your milk. They do not need any other drinks as these would reduce the amount of breastmilk they receive
  • If your baby is formula fed, you can give cooled boiled water particularly if your baby is constipated


  • Diluted pure unsweetened fruit juices are NOT suitable
  • Cow's milk is NOT suitable for babies under 1 year old, as it is a poor source of iron
  • Do NOT add sugar, rusks or baby rice to your baby's bottle
  • Do NOT give your baby tea, as it reduces your baby's iron uptake
  • Do NOT add any medicines to your baby's bottle
  • From about 6 months, plan to gradually introduce a cup or beaker for drinks
  • Aim to replace all bottles (if using) with a cup or beaker by the time your baby is about one year old

For more information about sterilising and preparing each feed read the HSE/SafeFood information leaflet 'How to prepare your baby's bottle feed', available in the publications section of www.healthpromotion.ie

Vitamin D

Vitamin D and your babyVitamin D is needed by the body to take important nutrients from food, especially calcium to grow healthy, strong bones. Vitamin D3 helps prevent rickets. Rickets causes soft, weak bones that break easily and can lead to major bone deformities. Rickets is most common in children between 3 and 18 months of age.

Vitamin D3 comes from sunlight through the skin, and from some foods; including fortified dairy products, cereals and oily fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines). Vitamin D deficiency is common in Ireland because we have less sunlight from October to March.


  • All infants from 0 -12 months should be given Vitamin D3 because it is not safe for babies and children to be in direct sunlight and so their skin cannot get Vitamin D3 from the sun. Also, babies of this age are growing very fast and their diet does not include enough vitamin D3.
  • Vitamin D is recommended for all babies (breastfed, formula fed or spoon fed) from 0 -12 months
  • The product used should only contain Vitamin D3, and not a combination of other vitamins
  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred for of vitamin D for infants.
  • The recommended dose of Vitamin D3 is 5 micrograms every day (also written as 5μg or 200IU)
  • Give your baby the correct dose of Vitamin D3. Very high amounts of Vitamin D3 are harmful, so do not give more than one dose per day. If you forget to give your baby their daily Vitamin D, then start again the next day
  • The dose can be given directly into the baby's mouth, or applied to the bottle teat or breast before feeding. Never add the drops or liquid to your baby's bottle or food
  • If your baby is ill or premature, you should follow your doctor's instructions
  • As with all medicines, food supplements or other dangerous products, keep the Vitamin D out of the sight and reach of all children

For more information on Vitamin D see www.hse.ie/vitamind

The list of suitable Vitamin D supplements is on www.hse.ie/vitamind or ask your pharmacist, public health nurse, midwife or doctor.

Weaning to solids

What is weaning?

Weaning is the introduction of solid food into an infant's diet during the first year of life. During this process the infant will progress from breast milk or formula milk only to a fully mixed diet with foods of different textures and tastes. The goal of the weaning process is that by one year old an infant will be eating modified family foods meaning food with no added gravy, sauces or salt.

The introduction of solid food to baby's diet should take place at about 6 months of age. The recommendations for age of weaning are the same for both breastfed and formula fed babies. The exact timing to begin this process should be driven by the unique needs of the baby. Baby should not be introduced to solid food before 4 months (17 weeks) and the start of weaning should not be delayed past 6 months (26 weeks) of age.

What are the signs that an infant is ready to start eating solids?

  • Does not seem satisfied after a milk feed
  • Starts to demand feeds more frequently over a time period of more than one week
  • Shows an interest in food, or may be reaching out for food
  • Watches others with interest when they are eating
  • Chews and dribbles more frequently
  • Is able to sit up with support and can control their head movements


Weaning your baby off the breast

It is recommended to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and to continue to breastfeed after solid foods are introduced, up to 2 years or beyond.

When can I start weaning to solid foods?

Breast milk gives your baby all the nourishment he or she needs in the first 6 months of their life. By 6 months of age stores of nutrients that your baby has build up since birth begin to reduce and your baby needs other foods to meet his needs for nutrients and energy.

If your baby has special needs or was premature then weaning may be delayed. If you have any questions about when your baby may be ready to move on to solid foods, ask your public health nurse, practice nurse or dietitian for advice.

What first weaning foods can I give my baby?

  • Gluten-free cereals such as baby rice
  • Fruit such as banana, stewed apple or pear
  • Vegetables such as cooked carrot, turnip or potato
  • Traditional foods from other cultures such as yam or pumpkin

Purée, sieve or mash weaning foods until they are a soft and runny consistency.

What liquid can I use to soften my baby's food?

  • Breast milk
  • Gravy
  • Formula milk
  • Stock cubes
  • Cooled, boiled water
  • Jars or packets of sauce

Are there any tips to help me wean my baby to solids?

  • Do not give your baby weaning foods until he or she is at least 4 months oldFeeding your baby booklet
  • Always wash your hands before you prepare food or feed your baby
  • Choose a time when your baby is relaxed and fully alert
  • Be prepared for a mess. Dribbling bibs and floor mats are useful
  • Thoroughly clean your baby's spoon and bowl before you use them
  • Start weaning on to solid foods once a day. Gradually add weaning foods to other meal times
  • Start with 1 teaspoon of food per meal. Gradually increase the amount
  • Introduce new foods one at a time and allow your baby to get used to the taste
  • Offer the solid food first and then follow with breast or formula milk
  • Never leave your baby alone while he or she is eating, in case of choking
  • Do not reheat food
  • Do not add honey, sugar or rusks to the formula feed
  • Do not add salt or sugar to your baby's food
  • Convenience foods, jars or packets of baby food are useful for emergencies or when you are going out. They are unsuitable for everyday use because they are costly and may have added salt and sugar

For more information and advice about weaning, ask your public health nurse, practice nurse or doctor. Read the leaflet 'Starting to spoonfeed your baby' available in the publications section of www.healthpromotion.ie or see Best Practice In Infant Feeding www.fsai.ie (01) 817 1300.

Caring for your baby's teeth

Start taking care of your baby's mouth from birth.

  • Breastfeeding is good for your baby's teeth and reduces their risk of having tooth decay
  • Before teeth appear, clean your child's gums twice a day with a clean soft wash cloth or gauze
  • As soon as the first tooth appears, introduce gentle toothbrushing twice a day using water and a small, soft toothbrush
  • If your baby uses a bottle, do not use it as a comforter, and do not let them sleep or nap with a bottle in their mouth
  • Never put sweet drinks including fruit juice into the bottle
  • Do not add sugar to your baby's foods
  • If your baby uses a soother (dummy) never dip it in sugar, syrup, honey or anything sweet
  • If your baby needs a soother between feeds, give a clean soother that has been recommended by your dentist or doctor

Teething and gums

Your baby may start teething from about 13 weeks, although no teeth may appear until your baby is 6 months or more.

What are the signs that my baby is teething?

Your baby may:

  • Have red, flushed cheeks
  • Dribble, which may lie in the skin folds on your baby's neck causing soreness
  • Chew on their fists or on their toys more than usual
  • Have sore and tender gums and
  • Have a nappy rash

How can I help my baby cope with teething?

To help soothe your baby's gums, give your baby something hard to chew such as a clean cool teething ring. Massage your baby's sore gums with a sugar-free teething gel that is suitable for your baby's age.

Ask your dentist, doctor, practice nurse or public health nurse for more advice about caring for your child's teeth or contact the Dental Health Foundation of Ireland on 01 4780466 www.dentalhealth.ie