Breastfeeding is an incomparable method of feeding which offers benefits to both mum and baby – one particular benefit of breastfeeding is the healthy growth of baby, and the associated lifelong benefits.

Breastfeeding is a naturally responsive way of feeding an infant as there is no set measure of milk at each feed, and it is very much baby led. The bond formed whilst breastfeeding also helps mum and baby to interpret each other’s cues and signals and creates a bidirectional relationship that ultimately forms the basis of responsive feeding.

Responsive feeding refers to a mutual relationship between baby and caregiver, baby provides clear signals to their caregiver, and the caregiver then must accurately interpret these signals and respond in a prompt and developmentally appropriate way. The baby will begin to expect a predictable response from the caregiver. Responsive feeding is relevant for both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding.

This section includes practical resources and a review of all the literature on responsive feeding.

  1. Guide to the baby friendly initiative standards. Unicef. Available here.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that pregnant women and new mothers be informed on the benefits and superiority of breastfeeding – in particular the fact that it provides the best nutrition and protection from illness for babies. Mothers should be given guidance on the preparation for, and maintenance of, lactation, with special emphasis on the importance of a well-balanced diet both during pregnancy and after delivery. Unnecessary introduction of partial bottle-feeding or other foods and drinks should be discouraged since it will have a negative effect on breastfeeding. Similarly, mothers should be warned of the difficulty of reversing a decision not to breastfeed. Before advising a mother to use an infant formula, she should be advised of the social and financial implications of her decision: for example, if a baby is exclusively bottle-fed, more than one can (400 g) per week will be needed, so the family circumstances and costs should be kept in mind. Mothers should be reminded that breast milk is not only the best, but also the most economical food for babies. If a decision to use an infant formula is taken, it is important to give instructions on correct preparation methods, emphasising that unboiled water, unsterilised bottles or incorrect dilution can all lead to illness.