Breastfeeding and bottle feeding your baby

Top tips for avoiding germs and infection when feeding your little one

Whether you choose to breastfeed or opt for formula milk, good hygiene should always be paramount. No matter how impatient your little one is for a feed, good hygiene is key to protecting them from illness. Read on for our tips and advice on healthy breast and bottle feeding.

 Is breast best?

Breastfeeding – or lactation – provides the most natural food for your baby. It contains nutrients and antibodies your baby needs to help them grow, and fight disease and infection in the early stages of their life while their immune system is developing. Practicing good hygiene before each feed, will make sure only the goodness of breast milk is being passed on to your baby and no nasty germs.

What can I eat when breastfeeding?

You’re still eating for two when breastfeeding. If you eat too little food, you won’t produce enough milk, which results in a hungry baby. As a general rule, you don’t need to eat anything special during breast feeding, just make sure that what you eat provides a healthy balanced diet. This includes:

  • Foods containing starch (e.g. bread and rice). Choose wholegrain varieties
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Eat some protein, such as lean meat, eggs or pulses. Have at least two portions of fish a week, including oily varieties, such as salmon
  • Include some low-fat dairy food, such as a yoghurt or a glass of milk
  • Ensure your diet contains enough calcium and iron. If you can, eat primarily unsaturated fats and foods that contain vitamin B9 (folic acid).

What should I avoid?

To give your baby a healthy start in life, beware of the following substances:

  • Alcohol passes through milk within an hour. If you do fancy the odd glass of wine, its best to wait till after a feed
  • Nicotine passes straight through breast milk to your baby. It would be best to stop smoking during breast feeding but if this is not a possibility, leave at least an hour after smoking before your next feed
  • Antibiotics, chemical laxatives and products containing iodine. If you’re unsure, check with your Health Care Professional

How do I improve hygiene during breastfeeding

Good hygiene during feeding is important to prevent soreness and infection to your nipples. It’s also important for your baby to help protect them against sickness and diarrhoea. These tips can help:

  • Always wash your hands before breastfeeding
  • Keep your nipples clean in the usual way when you shower or bath
  • If using nipple shields, change them as soon as they become damp or soiled
  • Let air get to your nipples as often as possible
  • If expressing milk, ensure you clean and sterilise the breast pump and bottles before and after use

Tips for bottle feeding and baby bottle hygiene

Whether you’re expressing milk or making up formula milk, there are a few important things to remember to help protect your baby against sickness and diarrhoea:

  • Always wash your hands before bottle feeding or preparing feed
  • Baby bottles and teats can harbour harmful bacteria. Ensure they’re washed with hot soapy water and a bottlebrush before sterilising 
  • Boil fresh tap water and allow to cool for no more than 30 minutes before adding formula
  • Expressed breast milk and prepared formula milk can be stored in sterilised bottles in the fridge for up to 24 hours, after which it must be discarded
  • Your baby will want feeding day and night to begin with, so be prepared for breastfeeding and bottle feeding around the clock.