- There are several ways to feed your baby, depending on what best suits you both.
- The World Health Organization recommends that you give your baby breastmilk for their first 6 months.
- If you don’t plan to breastfeed, you can give your baby expressed breast milk or infant formula.
How can I feed my baby?
There are several ways to feed your baby, depending on what suits you both.
Babies need milk that has certain qualities to help them grow and thrive. They can’t digest any other form of food until they’re around 6 months old.
The World Health Organization recommends that you feed your baby only breastmilk for their first 6 months. This is called exclusive breastfeeding. After that, you can introduce solid foods while you continue breastfeeding.
If you don’t plan to breastfeed, you can give your baby:
Depending on your situation you may consider mixed feeding. Mixed feeding can involve:
- breastfeeding and formula
- breastfeeding, expressed breast milk and formula
- breastfeeding and donor breast milk
- expressed breast milk, formula, and/or donor milk
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
For your baby
- improve your baby’s immunity due to antibodies in your breast milk
- supports healthy weight gain
- reduces the risk of sudden unexplained death in infancy (SUDI)
Any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial, even if you choose to give breastmilk and formula.
- your uterus contract and return to its pre-pregnancy size
- prevent a range of health issues such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, hypertension (high blood pressure) and type 2 diabetes
For your family
Breastfeeding helps reduce the cost of feeding your baby. When you exclusively breastfeed, your baby needs no other food or drink until about 6 months of age.
What if I can't decide if I want to breastfeed or not?
You’ll probably have lots of questions about breastfeeding. Some of these won’t be answered until your baby is born.
You can find out more about breastfeeding by:
- asking for advice from people whose opinion you respect
- researching and fact checking using quality, evidence-based sources
Try to keep an open mind. Lots of people who try breastfeeding find that they enjoy it.
Expressed breast milk
Expressing is a way to get milk out of your breasts by hand or by using a pump.
Expressing allows you to continue feeding your baby when you’re apart, such as when you go back to work.
Babies who are premature or unwell at birth can struggle to learn how to suck effectively. Some women are advised to express their colostrum before giving birth, so it can be frozen and offered to the baby after birth.
What if I don’t want to breastfeed?
Some women simply feel that breastfeeding is not something they want to do.
You may or may not want to breastfeed. Reasons for not breastfeeding may be because you:
- take certain medicines
- are unwell or have a medical condition such as breast cancer
- have had breastfeeding difficulties in the past
- don’t have support from your partner, family or friends
- don’t have a supportive workplace
Formula — what do I need to know?
Formula is a breast milk substitute. Formula can be bought as:
- powder — that you mix with cooled boiled water
- liquid — ready to drink
All formula that you buy in a shop in Australia will meet your baby’s nutritional needs.
It’s important to read the product information and prepare the formula exactly as the manufacturer says.
Babies who receive formula grow and thrive if the formula is prepared correctly and they drink enough of it.
Most Australian maternity hospitals take part in in the World Health Organization’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). The BFHI supports and promotes breastfeeding. If you plan to feed your baby formula from birth, you may need to take your own bottles, formula and teats to the hospital.
Resources and support
For help and advice on feeding your baby, you can talk with:
- your midwife, child health nurse or doctor.
- a lactation consultant
- the Australian Breastfeeding Association on 1800 686 268 (1800 mum 2 mum).
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: August 2023