Once you bring your little bundle of joy home from the hospital, you may find yourself in a whirlwind of questions, doubts and worries on how to provide your baby with proper nutrition. Feeding an infant takes up a big portion of your day, so it is important to get to know the guidelines and available information in order to make the first days at home as stress-free as possible.
What to feed?
Breastfeeding is recommended by experts around the world as extremely beneficial for both mother and baby. Not only will your baby receive all the necessary nutrients and be protected from infections for longer, nursing also has positive effects for the mother and offers a great opportunity to bond with your newborn. Whether you are breastfeeding or using formula, your newborn does not require water, juice or any other fluids (especially not cow’s milk, which shouldn’t be introduced before your child turns one).Your body will adjust to the needs of your baby, for example, during hot summer days your milk will become watery to quench thirst.
How often to feed?
Instead of sticking to regimental feeding schedules, feed your baby whenever you notice the first signs of hunger, such as increased activity, rooting or mouthing. Crying is a late sign of being hungry, so try to recognize earlier signs and offer your baby breast or formula milk. As a guideline The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy, full-term newborns should breastfeed eight to twelve times in each 24-hour period. This equates to feedings two to three hours apart.
As babies grow and their stomachs become larger, they naturally begin to go longer between feedings and develop more regular feeding patterns. Growth spurts may disrupt the more regular feeding patterns, but they are usually short lived.
How much to feed?
A healthy newborn who is drinking well gains around 200g of body weight per week and has 6 or more wet diapers a day. Some babies will have more frequent bowel movements, and it is possible for a healthy baby to have fewer bowel movements. If a baby younger than six weeks has fewer than two bowel movements a day, that can still be a variation of normal provided that the baby has an adequate number of wet diapers, is known to be gaining weight at an adequate rate, and the stools produced are substantial in volume.
In order for your baby to nurse efficiently and get enough milk, good latching on is crucial. Ask a lactation consultant to check whether your newborn is latching on properly. Once your baby stops sucking, turns away from the nipple or the bottle, or closes their mouth, this is often a sign that they’ve had enough. Wait a minute or two, then try again – if your little one seems disinterested in feeding, they’re probably full and you should try burping them. Once the feeding is finished, your baby should seem relaxed and your breasts should feel lighter and softer.
You shouldn’t expect your baby to eat the same amount of breast milk or formula day after day. Your little one will be going through growth spurts: periods when they will be eating more often and nursing for longer than usual.
Many mothers worry about whether their child is eating enough. Instead of causing yourself unnecessary stress, observe your newborn and learn to trust your instincts. A healthy baby that is steadily gaining weight, has normal bowel movements and a sufficient number of wet diapers per day, is a well-nourished baby. However, if you have any concerns or questions, do not hesitate to consult your physician.
Does a newborn need any supplements?
Yes, if you are breastfeeding your baby needs vitamin K during the first three months. Normally the bowel flora supplies vitamin K. Since the bowel flora of your baby is not yet developed your baby needs to be supplemented with vitamin K. In formula, vitamin K is already added. Contact your midwife, gynecologist or physician about supplements especially for your baby. Some experts recommend vitamin D supplements in order to increase absorption of the minerals necessary for proper bone development.
Enjoy the process
Breastfeeding does take a substantial amount of time on a daily basis, especially in the first months. Use this time to bond with your baby, give them some attention and embrace the time you’re spending together. Before you know it, your little baby will be all grown up and these moments will seem very precious.