During infancy your baby’s nutritional needs are greater than any other time in his life. During the first year of life, he will triple his birth weight. Feeding your baby provides more than just good nutrition. It also gives you a chance to hold your infant close, cuddle her, and make eye contact. These are enjoyable and relaxing moments for you both, and they bring you closer together emotionally. Before your infant arrives, you should plan out how you are going to feed him. All major medical groups around the world agree that breastfeeding is best for mother and baby. This article, “The How To Of Baby Feeding,” will provide the basic information you need to learn more about feeding your baby and to feel comfortable with your feeding decision.
Human milk is the ideal food for human babies because of its nutritional composition. Babies who are breastfed have a reduced risk of getting an ear infection, severe diarrhea as well as developing an allergic reaction. Babies who are formula fed however, are more likely to need hospitalization for one of these problems. Breastfeeding plays a role in the prevention of diabetes and obesity in childhood and later years. Also, doctors have found evidence that breastfeeding prevents certain types of cancers later in life and helps mothers return to pre-pregnancy weight. Because of all these benefits, doctors urging new mothers to breastfeed.
A lot of women are unsure about breastfeeding for various reasons. Try to get as much information as you can from your prenatal care provider. Formula is a nutritious and acceptable alternative to human milk so if you decide not to breastfeed that is perfectly fine but you should thoughtfully weigh the benefits of breastfeeding before you commit to formula feeding. It is really important that you give this serious consideration before your baby arrives because if you start with formula and then later decide that you want to breastfeed, it will be very difficult if not impossible if you wait too long.
You will be the most successful with breastfeeding if you begin immediately after delivery. If you start to breastfeed and then decide its not right for you, you can switch to formula.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and many other experts encourage new mothers to breastfeed for as long as possible. Ideally one year or longer, with a preference of up to six months of exclusive breastfeeding. This is because breast milk provides babies with optimal nutrition and protections against infections.
So we know that human milk is the best possible food for any baby. Its major ingredients are lactose ( sugar ) , whey and casein ( easily digestible protein ) and digestible fatty acids which are all properly balanced to suit your infant and protect against conditions such as allergies, ear infections, diarrhea, wheezing, meningitis and bronchitis. Breast milk also has numerous minerals and vitamins as well as enzymes that aid in the digestion and absorptive process. Formulas only has basic nutrients and it lacks all the enzymes, antibodies and other valuable ingredients which breast milk provides.
There are so many practical reasons why you should breastfeed your baby. Human milk is low in cost. It is instantly available and requires no preparation to make, no bottles to clean afterwards. Also, an added advantage is that breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories a day which can speed up post-partum weight loss. Breastfeeding also helps your uterus tighten up and return to its normal size.
Nursing provides skin to skin contact, which is real soothing for baby and you. The same hormones that stimulate your milk production and milk release also promote feelings that enhance mothering. All nursing mothers find that breastfeeding makes them feel more confident about their own abilities to care and nurture their children.
When it is going well, breastfeeding has no known disadvantages ( Other than the mother feeling that there is an increase of demand on her time. ) Studies show that breastfeeding and formula feeding take the same amount of time but that in bottle feeding more time is spent shopping, preparing the formula and cleaning the bottles. Time spent with baby is an important part of infant development and nurturing and it is pleasurable to mothers. Other family members can help out by taking on the household tasks that the mother usually does, especially the first few weeks.
All other family members can share responsibility in taking care of the baby even if they do not directly feed milk to her. Remaining sensitive to the needs of fathers and siblings, you can allow the other members to assist in taking care of baby by burping, or changing the diaper before and after feeding, A father can hold, diaper, bathe, and walk with baby.
When it comes to the matters surrounding feeding, the best protection against miscommunication is making sure both mother and father understand and support whichever choice they made with regard to how they are going to feed and take care of the baby. Many families want their children to get the best possible nutrition right from the beginning, and that is mothers milk.
Once breastfeeding is established ( usually between three and six weeks of age ) a mother can return to work or be away from the baby for a period, and still continue to provide her baby with milk by pumping her breasts and collecting the breast milk for feeding in a bottle by the father or other caretakers.
Breastfeeding might not be recommended in rare medical circumstances. For instance, a mother who is extremely ill might not have the energy to breastfeed without interfering with her own recovery. She might be taking certain medications that will pass into her milk and be dangerous for her baby. If you are taking medication for any reason, let your pediatrician know before you start breast feeding. He can advise you whether any of these drugs can pass through breast milk and be harmful to your baby. Some medicines can be switched to safer ones while you are nursing.
Some mothers might experience some mild discomfort in the early days of breast feeding. However, A LOT of discomfort is NOT normal. If you are experiencing a lot of pain, or difficultly getting baby to latch on and feed well, then you should get some support with nursing by reaching out to either a pediatrician, nurse or lactation specialist.
One thing that might annoy you, while you are breastfeeding, is that the breast in which you are not using, will leak while you are nursing. Every drop of breastmilk is gold they say so you have two options for this; You can either get some nipple pads to put in your bra while you nurse OR you can collect and save your breastmilk in a “Milk Collector” and give it baby later. Check out these milk collector / milk storage nipple covers:
When my son was born via c-section, my milk had not come in right away, but I began pumping and made sure to put my son to my breast so he would get used to latching on. Even though I kept persisting, my son would become frantic, couldn’t focus and would only drink from a bottle of my expressed breast milk. My pediatrician advised me to keep pumping and keep trying. But it got to a point where whenever I pulled out my breast, my son would start freaking out and shaking his head back & forth like I was about to put a hot pepper in his mouth. So what did I do? I gave up trying to naturally breastfeed him and instead I exclusively pumped my breasts for 6 months straight. I was not going to let a little mishap set me back and prevent me from giving my son the absolute best.
Occasionally there are some mothers, like me, who have breastfeeding problems which lead to untimely weaning from the breast ( before the mother had intended. ) Most women feel sad and disappointed when breastfeeding doesn’t work out like they planned. Despite the best attempts and even with all the support you can get, sometimes it just doesn’t work. Fortunately for those occasional times, you can either do what I did and exclusively pump ( but mind you, it is A LOT of work ) or you can give your baby formula which is an acceptable source of nutrition.
While we recognize the benefits of breastfeeding, moms & dads may feel that bottle feeding gives mom more freedom, and time for duties other than baby care. Dad, grandparents, other caretakers and older siblings can feed a baby breast milk or formula in a bottle. This can give some mothers more flexibility.
There are other reasons why some parents prefer and feel more comfortable with bottle feeding. They know how much food their baby is getting, and there’s no need to worry about mom’s diet or medications that might affect their milk supply.
Even so, the manufacturers who make baby formula have not yet found a way to reproduce the components that make human milk so unique. You might see a lot of labels claiming to be “Just like breast milk” but the truth is that even though formula does provide the basic nutrients an infant needs, it lacks the antibodies and many other components that only a mothers milk has.
Formula-feeding is also very expensive and might be inconvenient for some families. Nowadays, a regular sized can of formula is around $20 and lasts around 3 to 4 days at the most. Also, you need to consider that you’ll have to prepare it every time, and that includes also making it in the night ( remember you have to warm it up too! ) You will need extra bottles, nipples, bottle cleaners and a bottle steamer / sanitize to sterilize your bottles AFTER you wash them.
If you have decided to bottle-feed your infant, you will have to start by selecting a formula. Your pediatrician will help you pick out the appropriate formula for your babies needs. There are several varieties and brands of formula from which to choose.
The how to of baby feeding also means being mindful of your baby getting all of their nutrients. Human milk has a natural balance of vitamins, especially C, E and the B vitamins, so if you and your baby are both healthy, and you are well nourished, your baby might not require any supplements of these vitamins.
Breastfed babies need supplemental vitamin D. This vitamin is naturally created by our skin when its exposed to sunlight. However, the Academy of Pediatrics feels so strongly that all babies and children should be kept out of the direct sun as much as possible and wear sunscreen while in the sun to avoid long-term risk of sun exposure, which can cause skin cancer. Sunscreen prevents the skin from manufacturing vitamin D. For that reason, you should talk to your pediatrician about the need for supplemental vitamin D drops. In addition, once your baby is one years old and drinking vitamin D milk, then the extra vitamin D isn’t needed anymore. Your baby might also need extra vitamins if he was born prematurely or has certain medical problems.
A regular, balanced diet will provide all the vitamins necessary for nursing mothers and their babies. However, pediatricians recommend that mothers continue taking their prenatal vitamin supplement to ensure the right nutritional balance. If you are on a a vegetarian diet, you should take an extra B-complex supplement, since certain B vitamins are available only from meat, fish or poultry products. If your baby is on infant formula, generally he will receive adequate vitamins because formula is fortified with added vitamins.
Most babies are born with sufficient iron reserves that will protect them against anemia. If your baby is breastfed, there is enough, well-absorbed iron to give him an adequate supply so that additional supplementation is not necessary. When he is between four and six months old, you should be starting your breastfed infant on baby foods that have supplemental iron such as baby cereal, meats, and green vegetables. This will guarantee sufficient iron for proper growth and brain development.
If you are bottle feeding your baby, it is recommended that you use iron-fortified formula from birth through the entire first year of life. Premature babies have fewer stores of iron, so they often need additional iron beyond what they get from breast milk or formula.
Babies shouldn’t receive fluoride supplements in the first six months whether they are breastfed or formula fed. If your family prefers bottle water to tap water, you should purchase water marketed for babies with specific amounts of fluoride added, it is sometimes called “Nursery Water” and is available in the baby food aisle at the grocery store.
Your Pediatrician can advise you on whether your baby needs fluoride drops or not. Formula fed babies receive some fluoride from their formula if the drinking water is fluoridated but remember that appropriate fluoride supplementation is based on the unique needs of each child. A fluoride supplements should NOT be considered by you and your doctor until all of a child’s teeth are present in the mouth.
Young babies naturally get cranky and fuss when they swallow air during feedings. Although it happens in both breastfed and bottle-fed babies, it seems to happen more often with the bottle. When it happens, its more helpful to stop the feeding rather than letting your baby fuss and nurse at the same time. This continued fussing will cause him to swallow even more air, which will only increase the discomfort and it will make him spit up.
A much better strategy is to burp her frequently, even if he doesn’t show any discomfort. The pause and change of position alone will slow his gulping and reduce the amount of air he takes in. If he’s bottle-feeding, burp him after every 2 to 3 ounces. If he’s nursing, burp him when he switches breasts. Some breastfed babies don’t swallow very much air, therefore they don’t need to burp frequently.
Most babies hiccup now and then. Usually it bothers the parents more than the baby, but if hiccups happen during a feeding, change his position, try to get him to burp or help him relax. Wait until the hiccups are gone to start feeding again. If they don’t disappear on their own in five minutes, try to resume feeding for a few moments. Doing this usually stops it. If your baby gets hiccups all the time, try to feed him when he’s calm and before he gets extremely hungry. This will reduce the likelihood of hiccups happening during the feeding.
Spitting up is another common thing that happens during infancy. Sometimes spitting up means that your baby has eaten more than his stomach can hold; sometimes he spits up while burping or drooling. Although spitting up is gross and messy, it is usually no cause of concern. It almost never involves discomfort, coughing, choking or danger to your child, even if it happens while he is sleeping.
Some babies spit up more than others, but this phase is usually over by the time they are sitting up. Its important to know the difference between spit up and throw up. Unlike spitting up, which most babies don’t even seem to notice, vomiting is uncomfortable and forceful and usually causes great distress to your baby. Generally vomiting happens after a meal and has a much greater volume than spit up.
While its impossible to prevent all spitting up, the following steps will help you decrease the frequency of these episodes
Breast milk or formula should be your baby’s sole nutritional source for the first four to six months, and the major source of nutrition throughout the first twelve months. During this time your pediatrician and you will need to pay attention to his pattern of feedings and make sure that he’s getting enough for growth. Regular checkups and monitoring of growth is the best way to ensure this.
Some important things to keep in mind about feeding your baby
Your baby may go through growth spurts that will make him hungrier than usual. Even if you don’t notice any outward growth, his body is changing in important ways and need extra calories during these times. Be prepared to feed him more often if he’s breastfed, more frequently breastfeeding will stimulate more milk production by the mother’s body. If your baby is bottle-fed try giving him slightly more at each feeding.
Learning the how to of baby feeding is the most important, and at times, confusing challenges you will face as a parent. The recommendations in this article apply to babies in general, but please remember that your baby is unique and may have special needs. If you have questions that this article did not answer then please ask your pediatrician to help you find the answers that apply specially to your little one.