Baby Feeding Overview
When you birth a baby, your life becomes full of decisions that you need to make.
Should you use disposable diapers or go the cloth route? Who will care for your baby when you go back to work? Will you go back to work at all? What items do you really need in your nursery?
And, of course, how will you feed your baby?
I used to think feeding a baby was no big deal. You need a bottle, milk, maybe a burp cloth or two, and you’re good to go, right?
Nope, not really!
Feeding your baby with the right method and tools is truly important. And, it could take some time to get it right. So, start thinking about how you can be successful in the feeding department.
I wish I had a more defined plan of action in place before my son was born!
There are three main ways to nourish your little bundle of joy. You could breastfeed, bottle feed, or pump your milk before they are able to take on solid food (and then, that’s a whole other story).
Each method is pretty different and has pros and cons, as well as do’s and don’ts. But, one thing’s for sure: each method provides your baby with the nourishment they need to grow, develop, and master their milestones.
Read on to learn about each method and how you can make the right choices for you and your baby from the moment they are born.
You can start breastfeeding the moment your little one is born.
Your baby needs to master latching (and you need to get used to the sensation) before you can both be comfortable in the process. A lactation consultant can help you with this. They’re in the hospital and easy to find in your area.
But, when your baby nurses from your body, they aren’t taking in your milk right away. What they are ingesting is something called colostrum. It’s a milk-like substance that gives your baby all the nourishment they need until your actual milk comes in.
You get transitional milk in next, which is high in fat, lactose, and vitamins. This milk lasts for a a a few weeks before you get mature milk in. Mature milk is mostly water, and a good assortment of vitamins that your baby needs to grow.
Breastfeeding has benefits for both you and your baby.
For baby, it helps cut down on infections and allergies, it lowers the risk of SIDS, and it decreases the risk of obesity.
For moms, it slashes the chances of developing some cancers, it helps with postpartum weight loss and bleeding, and it serves as a bonding experience.
Pus, it’s totally free, you can do it virtually anywhere, and can be done for as long as you see fit. Most doctors recommend moms nurse their babies for the first year of their life.
Your breastmilk is also a one of a kind formula. Your body works hard to give your baby all the things its body is lacking, so they can gain weight and have access to necessary nutrients and vitamins, which is pertinent to their health.
Breastfeeding Do's & Don'ts
Here are some easy-to-follow "do's and don'ts" when it comes to breastfeeding!
- Meet up with a lactation specialist. They can offer tips and tricks to helping you get acclimated with this process. Most insurances cover in and out of hospital appointments, and there’s a specialist in every area, as well as a support group for moms that nurse.
- Have patience. It can take some time to get used to the sensation of breastfeeding. Your baby may also refuse your nipple at first. Nursing is a process. Some babies pick it up right away, while others take some time. If you stress yourself out, this will affect your milk production and will not be an enjoyable act for anyone.
- Invest in breastfeeding accessories. Nipple cream, a nursing pillow, and breast pads are a must. They help make you more comfortable and combat the effects of nursing.
- Feed your baby 8-10 times in a 24 hour period. This ensures they are getting enough nourishment and staying hydrated. A good way to check this is to keep track of how many diapers you’re changing every day, wet and dry. This information is important to take to your doctor’s appointments since they will be monitoring your baby’s weight and checking to make sure they are getting enough milk with each feeding.
- Choose a quiet location. Nursing can require some calm and concentration at first. So, select a place to nurse that puts you at ease both mentally and physically.
- Eat a few extra hundred calories a day. This ensures your body has enough energy to produce a great amount of milk.
- Eat well! Green, leafy vegetables are perfect to eat while nursing, as are lean proteins, fruit, and legumes.
- Get enough sleep during the day. It’s normal to feel tired when you have an infant, but you have to try to take naps to keep up your energy and milk supply so your baby can grow and develop in a healthy way.
- Bring your breast to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you. Support your baby’s spine and cradle him comfortably at the base of his head and guide him toward your body.
- Shove your breast in your baby’s mouth. Your baby will receive as much of your breast as it can comfortably.
- Get discouraged. If it hurts when you’re nursing, try to relatch. Keep in mind it can take some time to build up a pain tolerance and get the positioning right.
- Teach your baby to nipple feed. In order for nursing to be pain free, easier, and a bonding experience, teach your baby to nurse from your breast by making sure your nipple gets placed between your baby’s hard and soft palette.
- Consume alcohol or smoke while you’re nursing. Certain foods can also irritate your baby, so be sure to eat well and often to keep your milk production up.
- Let others shame you. If you need to breastfeed in public, go for it. There’s nothing more natural or healthy for your child.
Often times, moms that nurse will also pump their breast milk. They may do this for a variety of reasons.
Some women wish to return back to work. Some women need to be away from their home for an extended period of time. Regardless of the situation, they still want to have milk for their baby. So, they stockpile up a supply.
Other women want their spouse and family members to be able to feed the baby for bonding opportunities, or to give the mom a break.
Breastmilk can be expressed in a few ways.
Moms can use a manual pump. This is done by muscle power and force, and can be used on one breast at a time.
Milk can also be expressed through electric pumps. These pumps run on battery power or can be plugged in. They can get milk from one or both breasts.
And, some pumps allow you to go hands-free when pumping.
Once the milk is expressed, milk can be stored in special bags that can be written on and stand up in your fridge. The bags can even be placed in the freezer.
There are lots of pumping accessories that a mom can utilize so she can pump even while at work, and transport her supply safely home.
There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to pumping breast milk.
- Store a supply of milk in the back of the fridge. It’s coldest near the back and milk can be kept in a storage bag or tightly sealed jar for up to a week.
- Store milk in the freezer in case of an emergency. Milk can be frozen for six to eight months before it needs to be used.
- Transport your breast milk with ice packs and in an insulated bag if you are expressing the milk at work or away from your house.
- Discard milk if it may contain anything harmful for your baby. For example, if you consume alcohol, you should be sure that you pump your milk and discard it several times before it’s safe for your baby to nurse from you again. Your stocked up supply can suffice for feeding time.
- Use a breast pump that has customizable settings. Everyone has a preferred level of suction and power, so find that one that works best for you.
- Care what people think. If you need to go back to work, there is nothing wrong with nursing your baby from a bottle with your breast milk.
- Get frustrated. Your baby will be used to taking your nipple, not a bottle’s nipple. It may take some time for them to get used to their new situation. You may even have to experiment with different bottle brands and nipple flows until you get it right. Be patient.
- Pump stressed. Stress can influence the amount of milk that you express. Always pump in a calming, quiet place, and visualize your baby nursing from you to get the most milk in the bottle.
- Use a previously owned pump. The FDA does not recommend or approve this. Even though pumps can be sanitized and cleaned, the passage of germs and infections is still a possibility.
- Be afraid to ask for a pumping room. If you are at work, your employer by law has to provide a quiet, discreet place for you to collect your milk and excuse you from your daily duties to do so.
- Leave the home without a manual pump. Since a manual pump doesn't run on batteries, it’s always wise to have one in your diaper bag or car. This way, if your electric pump malfunctions, you have something on hand to relieve you if you’re engorged.
Bottle feeding occurs when you utilize pre-made formula. Many moms choose to bottle feed because they either don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding, or because their milk didn’t come in and they are physically unable to do so.
While breastmilk is best, there are some excellent formulas on the market that give your baby all the vitamins and nutrients they need. There are a number of formulas you can select for your baby, and your pediatrician can help you make this choice. Some babies are able to drink cow’s milk, while others need to drink soy, lactose-free or amino acid formulas.
There are also a number of bottles to choose from if you’re not nursing your child from your breast. Some bottles are created to mimic the look and feel of a natural breast, while others have a design that cuts down on gas, spit up, and colic symptoms.
The formula gets mixed with water and you need to feed your baby every two hours or so, initially. Bottles can be warmed or served room temperature. They can be pre-mixed and stored in the fridge, or some moms opt for ready to serve formulas, which are poured directly into a bottle and are great for on the go use or for late night feedings.
Some bottles come with no parts, and others have many. Regardless, bottles must be sterilized before using them, and cleaned regularly. They also have different stages of nipples, that help control the flow of milk as your baby grows.
Much like breastfeeding, babies drink formula until they turn a year in age and are ready to take on whole fat cow’s milk.
There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to bottle feeding your baby.
- Check the expiration dates on formulas. Because they come in a powder form, some may sit on shelves for quite some time. Always check to make sure you’re feeding your baby from something fresh and that does not have a damaged packaged or seal.
- Choose the right formula for your baby. It’s common for parents to switch formulas several times, with the help of their pediatrician, before finding the right one to satisfy your baby’s unique needs.
- Sterilize your bottles and nipples weekly. Wash them with soap and water daily to make sure you’re not introducing your baby to bacteria or germs.Burp your baby during and after each feeding.
- Mix and measure carefully. Your pediatrician will help you determine how much your little one should be eating and how often, based on their weight and ability to thrive when home from the hospital.
- Store formula toward the back of the fridge where it is the coldest!
- Heat your bottles up in the microwave. The milk may not be evenly warmed and could end up burning your baby’s mouth. Run it under warm water instead.
- Make your baby finish the bottle if they slow down or start to refuse it. Your baby will eat until they are full. If you are afraid of wasting the formula, you can keep the bottle in the fridge for up to 24 hours, or you can make smaller bottles.
- Ever freeze formula bottles. The milk will spoil and there will be no nutritional value to your child.
- Travel without keeping pre-made bottles cool. You need to make sure you have ice packs in an insulated case as you travel or go out and about with your baby.
Babies will start solid foods at different points. Some signs of readiness include interest when others are eating, the ability to grasp and pick up food pieces, ability to mash and keep food in the mouth so they can swallow, and the ability to sit upright and hold their head up on their own without support.
Once your baby shows signs of readiness, you can begin to introduce them to some ideal, soft first foods, like bananas, rice cereal, avocado, sweet potato, and apple sauce.
Some moms prefer to make their own baby food, while others prefer to purchase it. There are many organic choices on shelves that save time and that are filled with all the nutrients your baby needs.
Your baby should continue to receive breast milk or formula when starting solid foods, just the amount that they drink (as well as the frequency) decreases. Water and juice can also be introduced closer to a year of age.
In order to get your baby to accept new flavors, it’s wise to introduce purees that contain both fruits and vegetables, as well as larger chunks of food once they become stage 2 or 3 eaters.
Baby food pouches in stores are very helpful to first time parents because the label gives an overview of what the pouches or jars include, but also the age and stage of the baby that should be consuming it.
There are some do’s and don’ts to consider when starting solid foods with your baby:
- Introduce vegetables first. Fruits are a favorite of babies because they are sweet. If you can get your baby to accept and enjoy veggies, you’ll have a much easier time with their eating habits as they grow.
- Give your baby chunks of food that are easy to digest and handle. If they are only getting smooth purees, they may have difficulty with textures as they get older.
- Introduce utensils right away. Although you’ll be spoon feeding your baby initially, they need to get used to holding and manipulating a spoon and fork.
- Offer a sippy cup. This will help your baby transition from the bottle with ease. Many cups have easy to grasp handles that can be removed as your baby progresses.
- Go the organic route. If you’re not making your own baby food, shop for pouches or jars that are stamped with a USDA organic seal of approval.
- Offer your baby tastes of meat. You can do this by placing a small amount of chicken, turkey, or beef in a mesh teether. Your child will get exposed and used to the taste of meat without actually ingesting it.
- Brush up on how to help your child if they are choking or if you suspect they are having an allergic reaction to what they are eating.
- Force your baby to eat anything they don’t like. You want them to develop a positive relationship with food. Introduce a food and let your baby decide if they will try it or not.
- Get stressed. Babies need to be exposed some solids lots of times before some will actually try the food and like it. Remember that you don’t love everything you eat. As long as you can get your baby to try what you’re offering, you’re good to go. Liking it may come later down the road.
- Keep anything labeled organic open in the fridge for more than 24 hours. Organic food perishes quicker and can make your baby sick if eaten past its expiration time.
- Offer high allergen foods. It’s wise to stay away from honey, berries, eggs, corn, and peanut products until your baby is closer to a year old or unless your pediatrician has given your permission.
- Give your baby something new to eat without monitoring their reaction for at least a few days. This will help you determine if your child is allergic to anything.
- Leave your child in their highchair unattended when eating. They may choke or have an adverse reaction to what they are eating.
Being a parent is a hard job. There is a lot to learn and decide when it comes to feeding your baby.
While many parents learn as they go, it’s always wise to try to prepare for anything and everything baby related.
Whether you choose to nurse, pump, or formula feed, be aware of the basics and pay close attention to the do’s and don’ts.
Before you know it, your baby will be onto solids and eating all on their own!