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Ask the expert: Feeding can be an anxious topic for parents - but when should you worry?

 

By Lisa Salmon

Q. I've just had my second baby and he doesn't feed nearly as much as his older brother did when he was a baby. Will he get more nutrition if I switch from breastfeeding to formula?

A. Dr Clare Llewellyn, co-author with Dr Hayley Syrad of Baby Food Matters: What Science Says About How To Give Your Child Healthy Eating Habits For Life (Yellow Kite, £16.99), says: "Milk feeding can be a source of enormous anxiety - especially if your baby has little interest in feeding. But we know from research with about 4,800 infant twins in the UK that babies differ hugely in their appetites for milk, right from the beginning of life.

"This is largely down to their genes; some babies are born with a hearty appetite, want to feed regularly and are more demanding about being fed. Others are much less interested; seem to take forever over a feed and are easily distracted. You simply have two kids with different appetites. This is perfectly normal and doesn't necessarily indicate any problems.

"If you're breastfeeding, you can't tell how much milk your baby's actually taking, and the number of feeds per day can vary a lot between babies. His growth is the best indication of whether he's getting enough nutrition, not necessarily the number or length of breastfeeds. If his growth's fine, there's no need to worry.

"Your son won't get more nutrition if you switch him to formula milk. Breast milk provides your baby with the best possible nutrition during his first few months of life. Not only will it boost his immune system and support his brain development, but research also suggests it'll help him develop good appetite regulation too.

"The important thing is to understand what type of feeder your baby is and respond appropriately; feed him promptly every time he signals he's hungry and stop when he indicates he's had enough. This is called responsive feeding and will help your son learn what hunger and fullness feel like.

"If your baby has a poor appetite, pay close attention to his hunger cues and respond by offering a feed.

"Don't force him to take more milk than he wants, as this could make him feel stressed. As long as he's gaining weight at a healthy rate, there's no need to worry or switch to formula milk."

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