Is there any evidence that a ‘hungry baby’ formula milk will help babies to sleep better?

I get asked this a lot! The answer is “no”. There is absolutely no evidence that milks marketed for hungry babies (aren’t all babies hungry?!) offer any advantage and it is recommended that first infant milks are used throughout the first year of life if babies are not being breastfed. The ‘science’ behind the so-called hungry baby milks is that they are based on the curd of cow’s milk and take babies longer to digest than first milks. I often see babies looking uncomfortable or refluxing these milks as they are designed to stay in the stomach longer and make digestion difficult.

When can I introduce cow’s milk into my baby’s weaning diet? My health visitor tells me not until after 12 months of age? Carole, Wilmslow

Breastmilk or infant formula should continue throughout the weaning period and in the UK it is recommended that you wait to introduce cow’s milk as a main drink until your baby is 12 months old. The main reason for this is that cow’s milk is a very poor source of iron, and it has been found that children under 12 months who consume cow’s milk in volumes greater than 500ml are likely to become iron-deficient. However, small amounts of cow’s milk and other dairy products can be added to weaning foods (eg milk in mashed potato) without any harm at all.

I am worried my baby will develop allergies. Should I avoid giving her wheat, dairy, eggs, fish and nuts until she is three? Linda, Manchester

In the past, it was recommended that foods with potential to cause an allergic reaction should be avoided until children were above a certain age. This advice has now proven unnecessary, and scientific evidence shows no benefit in delaying the introduction of foods in order to avoid allergies – either in infants considered at risk, or those not at risk of allergies.  Some studies have actually shown that delayed introduction of certain foods may increase the risk of allergies. Introducing a wide range of weaning foods can have nutritional benefits too – such as the omega-3 fats found in fish and nuts. You will still need to watch out for allergic reactions of course, and you could introduce the foods you are worried about one at a time, so to detect reactions. Lastly, one of the most effective ways to avoid allergies in high-risk infants is to breastfeed for at least 4-6 months.

Why have we been told to avoid giving our baby honey until he is over one? Phil, Cheshire

Many foods may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, but the consumption of honey has been repeatedly associated with infant botulism. Honey should not be introduced until after your baby is one.