Hundreds of babies 'at risk from breast is best' campaign

If you've had to give your baby formula in its first few weeks chances are you aren't alone. Hundreds of babies may be suffering from dehydration each week because mothers are too scared to bottle-feed them doctors have warned.

According to reports in the UK press at the weekend, the "Breast is best" message has left some women reluctant to use formula milk even as a back-up when their babies are not feeding properly.

"They put so much pressure on you to feed from the breast that even though feeding from a bottle is perfectly okay you are made to feel you've failed", one father told Pocket-lint.

Paediatrician Dr Ganesan Supramaniam said many hospitals treat a baby a week for dehydration.

"It is a major problem and it is increasing", he told the Sunday Telegraph. "Breastfeeding is best but it is dangerous to say, 'Don't use formula at any stage'."

The problem usually sets in within the first few days of the baby's life, with new mothers not realising that their child isn't feeding properly.

Unfed or underfed, the baby will eventually cry itself to sleep. When it wakes up for its next feed, it will have less energy and so will not cry for so long.

After three or four failed feeds, the baby will be so tired and dehydrated it will sleep through its feeding time - and the mother will mistake its hunger for contentment.

The NCT advises women who are having difficulty breastfeeding to seek help from their midwife, from the charity or from another mother.

The Department of Health recommends that mothers should feed their babies breast milk alone for least 6 months to ensure they get the best start in life.

Despite this, the UK has one of the lowest rates in Europe, with just two-thirds of new mothers attempting it, compared with 98% in Sweden.