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Feeding your newborn baby

7-minute read

Key facts

  • 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

Babies who are premature or sick may be able to get human donor milk.

Top tips for deciding how to feed your baby

  1. Speak with your doctor or midwife about what's right for you.
  2. Understand that breastfeeding is a skill that every mother and baby can learn.
  3. Be patient with yourself and your baby as you both learn what's involved in feeding.
  4. Only you know what’s right for you and your baby.
  5. Remember, what’s important is that your baby gets the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

For your baby

Breastmilk helps:

Any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial, even if you choose to give breastmilk and formula.

For you

Breastfeeding helps:

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 your partner or your baby’s other parent to feed your baby from a bottle. This is a good way for them to connect with each other.

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:

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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023

Back To Top

Read more

Feeding your baby with formula

Learn about infant formula feeding for your baby and how formula is different to breastmilk. Find out how to choose between types of formula..

Breastfeeding your baby

Breastfeeding provides all the nutrition your baby needs during their first 6 months of life. Find out all you need to know about breastfeeding..

Need more information?

Paced bottle-feeding | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Pacing feeds makes bottle-feeding more like breastfeeding. Find out how.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Bottle feeding your baby

You can use a bottle to feed your baby expressed breast milk or formula if you are unable or choose not to breastfeed.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Cup-feeding in emergencies | Australian Breastfeeding Association

When bottle feeding isn’t safe, know how to feed your baby formula or breastmilk by cup.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Feeding your baby

Whether you have already had your baby or are currently pregnant planning on what is to come, learn about breastfeeding, bottle feeding and introducing solids.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Breastfeeding: how partners can help | Raising Children Network

If you have a partner who’s breastfeeding, you have a key role. You can help breastfeeding go well by being enthusiastic, supportive and knowledgeable.

Read more on website

Breastmilk & breastfeeding: benefits | Raising Children Network

Breastmilk – designed by nature for human babies. Breastmilk and breastfeeding have many health and practical benefits for mothers and babies. Read more.

Read more on website

Mixed feeding | Australian Breastfeeding Association

If you decide to introduce formula, you can keep breastfeeding too. Find out how to balance the feeds.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Mixed feeding: breastfeeding & formula | Raising Children Network

Mixed feeding is breastfeeding your baby and giving them infant formula. You might do it for various reasons, including low milk supply or return to work.

Read more on website

Cleaning expressing equipment | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Cleaning your pump parts and expressing containers can be simpler than you think.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

If you have a family history of allergic conditions, it makes sense to try and reduce the risk of your children developing allergic diseases. There are some simple steps you can take:  Don’t smoke during pregnancy; Breast feed your baby for at least six months, if possible; Delay the introduction of infant formula or solid foods until the child is 4-6 months of age; Introduce foods one at a time in small portions, waiting 2-3 days before introducing another new food.&

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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