2 to 6 months and beyond

Information for each stage of feeding your baby
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Congratulations on breastfeeding for the first few months, your child will be healthier for the rest of their lives because of your breast milk! You might now be thinking about going back to work and introducing food - this section is all about making breastfeeding fit with day-to-day life and your growing baby's needs.

Top tips for breastfeeding older babies

As naps become less frequent and your baby becomes more aware of the world around them, breastfeeding can get a bit trickier. Here you'll find some top tips for feeding your older and more easily distracted baby.

older baby breastfeeding

FeedGood tips for breastfeeding older babies

  1. At around 4-7 months old your baby's first tooth should make an appearance. This doesn't mean the end of breastfeeding, first teeth are at the front and should be covered by the tongue during feeding.
  2. By this stage, your baby may also have learnt to bite and may be beginning to enjoy the reaction it gets! If you can, try not to react too much - calmly remove your baby from the breast and say firmly "No biting". Biting won't be fun once they learn that biting means no smiles or attention from you.
  3. It's common for older babies to be more distracted as they start to become more aware of the world. To help them focus and calm, try breastfeeding while walking or rocking, or find a quiet place. If your baby pulls away without letting go, keep a finger ready to break the suction and avoid any damage to your nipple.
  4. Try to ignore other peoples' opinions - all that matters is breastfeeding your baby for as long as you can to give them the best start in life.

Why should I breastfeed past 6 months?

Breastfeeding for this long is a huge achievement, and if you and your baby are still enjoying the experience there's no reason for you to stop. 

breastfeeding happy older baby

Breastfeeding older babies and toddlers

Some people think that once your baby reaches this stage, it's less important to breastfeed. Even once you've introduced solids to your baby's diet they will still need milk - and breast milk is still the best source of nutrition you can offer your baby. The longer you continue breastfeeding, the better for you and your little one. Your risk of diseases like breast and ovarian cancer are reduced, and your baby continues to get better protection from common illnesses. Plus, it really helps you lose any extra weight!

How can I prepare for going back to work?

Some women give up on breastfeeding once they return to work - but this doesn't have to happen. 

Your employer has a legal duty to support you as a working, breastfeeding mum

There are laws in place to protect breastfeeding working mums and many employers have special policies to make breastfeeding and expressing in the workplace as easy and as comfortable as possible. Hear this mum's story as she prepares to return to work as a breastfeeding mum.

Read these next few pages to find out everything you need to know about making breastfeeding fit with your working life.​

Expressing breast milk at work

Expressing milk at work might take some getting used to, but it's easy once you get the hang of it.

Breastfeeding and working life

Don't let going back to work put you off breastfeeding if you want to continue. The first thing is to write to your employer to let them know that you want to carry on breastfeeding. They'll need some time to prepare because there are certain things they have to provide for you as a breastfeeding working mum. Find out what you should have access to on our 'Your right to breastfeed ' page.

Preparing to go back to work

Most women who return to work do so when their baby is six months old or older, i.e. once their child has started on solids. You'll probably be breastfeeding less by then, which will make expressing your milk a bit easier. Still, you'll need to express some of your milk 

  • so that someone else can give it to your baby while you're at work
  • while you're at work to stop your breasts getting overfull and maintain your supply - and to make sure you have milk for your baby for the next day.
  • to begin to stockpile (express and freeze). Ideally do this a few weeks before you return to work so you have a back up supply in case you can't express at work for some reason. 

Watch the video below to see how a mum fits expressing her breast milk and breastfeeding in with her busy working day.

Preparing your baby or toddler

baby drinking from a cup

You'll also need to think about getting your baby used to taking expressed milk before you start work again. Older breastfed babies may be reluctant to accept a bottle if they've never had one before, but might happily drink from a cup. In most cases, it's a good idea to start giving a small amount of breast milk from a bottle from every day after a couple of weeks. Give your baby about 20-30ml after an evening feed. Take a look at our 'Expressing breast milk and bottle feeding' guide for more information.

Is my baby getting enough to eat?

Many mums worry about their babies being hungry, but most of the time they have nothing to worry about.

older breastfed baby

Is breast milk enough?

Some mums try to introduce formula feeding or solids early on, sometimes hoping that it will encourage their baby to sleep for longer periods. However, breast milk is all babies need for the first 6 months of their lives, and research shows that babies fed this way are healthier.
 
Speak to your health visitor if you think your baby is hungry, but most babies don't need solids until they reach 6 months old. Even then, they'll still need the goodness of breast milk, so do keep breastfeeding if you can or give expressing a go. You can find out more about introducing solid food in the following articles.

Nutrition facts: healthy babies and toddlers

Breast milk provides everything your baby needs for the first 6 months, but as they grow older they'll still need breast milk to keep them as healthy as possible

healthy babies and toddlers

After 6 months

This is the recommended time to start introducing solid foods. It helps your baby learn about textures, flavours and starts getting them used to eating together with the rest of the family. Before your baby reaches 6 months, your baby's immune and digestive systems are still developing. Once they reach the 6 month stage, your baby's system will be developed enough to cope with solid foods and they will now need more nutrients than they can get from milk, like iron. However, weaning too early can increase your child's risk of allergies and being overweight in childhood.

baby eating finger food

Try and gradually increase the variety and amount of solid foods so that by the time your baby is 12 months, food rather than milk makes up most of their diet. It's still good to breastfeed as well because the longer you continue breastfeeding the more benefits there are for you and your baby

Our next few page have more information on weaning and breastfeeding longer term. You can also find out more detailed information about introducing solids in First Step Nutrition's guide "Eating well: the first year."

When to start solids

Every baby is different but there are some tell-tale signs that they're ready to be weaned. 

How to spot your baby is ready for solid food

  • They can sit up
  • They can reach out and grab things
  • They put things into their mouth and chew.

How to introduce solids

There's lots of advice out there on how wean your baby, but the most important thing is to feed your baby healthy, soft food with no added salt or sugar.

Baby-led weaning

After 6 months, some mums prefer to offer their baby food they can pick up and eat by themselves, rather than spoon-feed them purees. Some babies seem to enjoy food better this way - and it's a clear sign that they're definitely ready to start solids. This next video hears two mums' stories of introducing solid folid to their little ones.

Weaning early

It's not recommended to give your baby solid foods before six months - your baby's tummy isn't developed enough to digest solid food and doing so could trigger an allergy. If you decide after talking to your health visitor or GP to start solids before six months, make sure to look at the NHS Scotland guide 'Fun first foods' to find out what is safe to feed babies under 6 months.

Weaning and breastfeeding

Introducing solids doesn’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding. It's actually recommended that you breastfeed in combination with solids for the first two years of your child's life and beyond, or for as long as you and your baby want to continue. Still, when to start weaning is a personal decision.

weaning and breastfeeding

Taking the lead from your baby or toddler

The best approach for weaning is to look for signs from your child. A preference for drinking cows milk, water or juice from a cup and no longer being willing to sit still are common reasons that mums begin weaning their little ones from the breast.

If you want your child to keep getting the nutrients from your breast milk after they've shown signs they no longer want to breastfeed, you can continue giving them expressed breast milk in a cup or bottle or add it to some of their food. That way your child will continue to get all the goodness from your breast milk.

Read on to find out more about your baby's diet and expressing your breastmilk.

Mixed feeding: breast milk and formula

It's common for mums to worry that their breast milk isn't filling up their baby's tummy. Because the recommended age to start solids is 6 months, some mums give their babies follow on formula, hoping it will fill them up and maybe even make them sleep longer. However, formula doesn't usually make babies sleep better, and suddenly introducing formula to your baby's diet can give them an upset tummy.

mixed and combination feeding

Formula milks

As long as you've been feeding whenever your baby shows signs that they're hungry, and your baby has shown healthy weight gain, there's no need feed them anything other than breast milk until the six months stage. Introducing formula after a few months will affect your milk supply, reduce the beneficial effects of your own milk, and may give your baby a sore tummy.

Avoid anything other than "First" formula milks

Pre-thickened, follow on and toddler milks should be avoided as there's no evidence they work and, again, they may upset your breastfed baby's tummy. 'Follow on' and 'Night-time' milks aren't necessary at any stage and should never be given to a baby younger than 6 months. If you are feeding with formula milk, stick to a first milk until your baby is a year old, then move on to full fat cows' milk. By that point, your baby will be getting iron from solid food and Vitamin D from the Healthy Start drops, which your health visitor will have recommended.