Infant and Neonatal Nutrition
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General Info

Breastfeeding is superior to bottle feeding and should always be encouraged
It can be difficult to learn, and is best taught by an experienced health care professional, in a supporting environment
It is best to breast feed as soon as possible – ie within minutes of birth. However:

  • It is never too late to start as long as lactation is still occurring
  • A few difficult feeds in the first week should not put the mother off. Babies have a good reserve of nutrients if needs be
  • Topping up feeds with formula milk is not a good idea as it undermines breastfeeding, and may negate the benefits

The mother should try to breastfeed within 2-3 days of birth; otherwise it is very difficult to start producing milk.
Breast fed babies will typically weight slightly less than their bottle fed counterparts on the growth charts. However, as always, the importance of growth charts is to monitor if/when the plotted values cross the percentile lines, and not necessarily which percentile they are following.
Family pressures strongly influence breastfeeding:

  • 10% of mother will bottle feed if the father disapproves
  • 70% if he approves

Who breast feeds?

Rates vary across the country. The highest rates are in the most affluent areas. For the Manchester region the values are:
  • 45% in the first week
  • 21% by the 4th week
  • 7% by 3 months
  • 1% by 6 months
  • This is increasing over past data


Correct breast feeding position involves:

Baby’s chin touching the breast, but nose not touching
Slow, rhythmic jaw movements, and suckling noises / movements

  • The first few sucks may be short and not drawn any milk, but this is normal

The baby may take a big mouthful of breast and nipple – this is normal!

Expressing breast milk

  • Many mothers choose to express milk so that they are not tied down to feeding the baby alone (e.g. can give milk to father), and tied down to feeding at specific times. Other times when expressing is helpful is:
  • Relieving painful breast engorgement inbetween feeds
  • Air nutrition – if the baby is a poor suckler
  • Should be taught by a midwife, and usually involves watching a mother who is already skilled
  • Pumps are available from any chemist, but expressing can also be performed manually
  • Manual technique – stroke the breast gently towards the nipple, and use circular motions. There are about 15 ampullae below the areolar. Learning the find these, and applying gentle pressure also aids flow.
  • Make sure you wash your hands first!
  • Using warm towels, or expressing whilst in the bath can aid flow

Keeping the milk

  • Refrigerator – should be used within 48 hours
  • Freezer – should be used within 3 months. Thaw by leaving in a jug of warm water. Do not refreeze.
  • Refrigeration is better than freezing. Some test have sown that anti-oxidant levels or reduced by freezing, but it is not known if this causes any adverse effects

Feeding on demand – is usually encouraged, as it reduces the risk of breast complications, and keeps baby happy. Feeding by routine is discouraged, but may help establish a diurnal pattern.

  • If you feed on demand, then you can reassure mothers that baby is getting enough – as long as growth charts are normal.
Breast feeding
         Should be especially strongly encouraged in prematurity. Usually given with added vitamins D and K. Rarely Rickets may occur – even in term babies.


Health benefits for baby

Reduces the risk of development of allergies during the breastfedding period but may or may not alter the long term risk. Evidence is controversial.
Breast milk contains mothers immune agents, including macrophages, lymphocytes, and IgA
To get the benefit from this you should:
Not begin weaning until 6 months old
Avoid cows milk until 1yr old
Avoid egg until 2yrs old
Avoid nuts and fish until 3yrs old

  • Contains LCP’s – involved with nervous development. Some studies suggest these increase IQ
  • Reduced risk of obesity, insulin resistnace and diabetes
  • Acid in breast milk promotes ‘friendly’ bacteria growth in the bowel
  • Reduces infant mortality, pneumonia and diarrhoea
  • The typical ‘baby smell’ is more apparent in breast fed babies!

Provides bonding between mother and baby
Health benefits for the mother

  • Lose weight more quickly
  • Reduces risk of ovarian and breast cancers – at least in pre-menopausal years
  • Promotes uterine contractions – thus can reduce the risk of PPH if breast-feeding occurs within minutes of birth
  • Promotes oxytocin release – redeuces anxiety in mother



  • HIV +ve mother
  • Amiodarone
  • Antithyroid drugs
  • Opiates
  • Antimetabolites



Breast engorgement – painful, enlarged breast. Easily avoidable e.g. wth hourly expression, feeding
Breast abscess – do not let the baby drink the milk if it looks pus like! – just use the other breast. Treat with flucloxacillin – 250mg / 6h PO. Safe for baby
Sore nipples

  • Ensure correct attachment when feeding
  • Use some sort of moist gel – e.g. Jelonet
  • Do not encourage resting the affected nipple

Bottle Feeding

There aren’t many contraindications to breast feeding, but there are plenty of pressures not to.
  • Advertising for formula milk is now banned
  • It costs about £45/month to feed a baby on formula

Advantages of bottle feeding

  • Allows others to take an active role in feeding
  • Some mothers like the reassurance of knowing the exact volume of feeds
Choosing a teat
          A ‘cross cut’ teat allows the baby to determine the rate and volume of the feed. Studies suggests this encourages happier babies, who spend more of the day awake, and cry less.

Types of formula

From birth to 1yr

  • These milks are altered cows milk, which have had their solute concentration reduced, and protein, fat and vitamin content altered. They usually contain added LCPs for neuronal development, and Omega 3 & 6. As with breast milk, protein is  usually in the form of whey. In some varieties (below) it is in the form of casein:
  • 60% whey, 40% casein– the standard milks, most similar to breast milk.
  • 80% casein, 20% whey – more similar to cow’s milk. Usually branded as being for hungrier babies. They extra casein delays gastric emptying, and thus increases the time between feeds.
  • Changing brands is unlikely to solve feeding problems, as they are very similar

Follow-on formula

  • Typically have a high casein content, and should only be used from 6 months onwards. Typical use is from 6-24 months

Soya milks

  • Should be strongly discouraged
  • Still sold in supermarkets
  • High levels of oestrogen like products. Can cause hormonal problems in boys, as well as thyroid problems, and reduced immunity.

Hydrolysed formula

  • Used in babies with allergy to cow’s milk (1%).
  • The protein in the cow’s milk is hydrolysed into short peptides.
  • Cow’s milk can be re-introduced after 1 year – but risk – try in hospital
  • Can reduce the risk of atopy

Feeding the formula

  • Wash hands
  • Use sterilised bottles
  • Used boiled water to make up the powder – gastroenteritis is a big cause of morbidity in the UK, and mortality in developing countires
  • Measure powder accurately!

How much to give

After the first few days, a rough guide is:

  • 150ml / kg / 24hrsusually given in the course of 4-6 feeds
  • Younger children will usually require more feeds (e.g. 7-8 feeds at <1 month, 4-6 between 2 and 6 months, and 4 at 6 months)
  • If small for dates – increase to 200ml / Kg
  • If large for dates – reduce to 100ml / Kg
  • Warming the milk has no proven beneficial effect
  • Try to ensure that air is not sucked in with the milk
  • The bottle should eject a constant stream. Check that the teat is not blocked before each feed. Teat can be enlarged with a hot needle.


Why wean?

Iron stores low by 6 months
Encourages oral motor skills
Nutritional requirements can no longer be met by milk alone
Late weaning can cause:

  • Increased risk of future feeding difficulties / problems accepting new foods
  • Implementation of new food textures are important to prevent future fussy eating.
  • Risk of iron deficiency anaemia
  • Risk of rickets
  • Poor weight gain / growth
Current advice is to begin weaning at no sooner than 6 months old

Stages of weaning

Stage One – 6 – 8M
  • Solid foods of negligible nutritional value
  • Smooth, bland cereals, with no-wheat content E.g. pureed cooked vegitables and fruit
  • Should be offered to baby on a spoon
  • Cows milk products, such as custard and yoghurts are ok in small quantities
  • PLUS 500-600ml of breast / formula milk

Stage two – 8 – 10M

  • Increase the variety and volume of other foods
  • Can introduce mashed foods and other soft sontituencies
  • Raw fruit and soft vegitables
  • Encourage eating with fingers
  • Iron rich foods – inc meat
  • Use feeding cup instead of bottle
  • Cows milk can be given in small amounts
  • PLUS 500-600 ml of breast / bottle milk

Stage Three – 12M +

  • Cows milk may be given as the main drink
  • Child should have 3 meals per day
  • Can have chapped / mashed family foods
  • Encourage self feeding
  • Still use 500-600ml of breast / formula milk as required, but cows milk can begin to take over this role

Normal expected weight gain

Age (months)
Weight Gain (per week)
0 – 3
4 – 6
7 – 9
9 – 12
50 – 75g


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Dr Tom Leach

Dr Tom Leach MBChB DCH EMCert(ACEM) FRACGP currently works as a GP and an Emergency Department CMO in Australia. He is also a Clinical Associate Lecturer at the Australian National University, and is studying for a Masters of Sports Medicine at the University of Queensland. After graduating from his medical degree at the University of Manchester in 2011, Tom completed his Foundation Training at Bolton Royal Hospital, before moving to Australia in 2013. He started almostadoctor whilst a third year medical student in 2009. Read full bio

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