As new parents, you have the sole responsibility of fulfilling your baby’s needs. When it comes to nutritional requirements, one of the earliest decisions you are going to have to make is how and what to feed your baby. This article will give you the information you need to make decisions that keep your baby well fed, healthy, and happy.
1. Make your choice – formula or breast milk
Though it is true that doctors recommend breast milk for babies under six months, there are always cases where formula is a better and more viable option for the mother and the baby. Talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding both and you will be able to reach the right decision.
Remember that babies are born with extra reserves of energy that can tide them through the first few hours of birth. So if you are struggling with breastfeeding in that period regarding the positioning and latching, know that it is okay. It will take some time for you and the baby to get used to it. If you choose breastfeeding, it is preferable to start breastfeeding at the hospital or under the guidance of a professional, like a doula.
Babies get all the nutrition and strength they require from the breast milk for the first six months. After that, you can start slowly adding solids into their daily diet.
2. Know the benefits of breastfeeding
Apart from being natural and cost effective on your pocket, breastfeeding has a lot of good things to offer to you and your newborn.
In the first few weeks after delivery, the color of your milk will be pale yellow. This milk is packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. This milk builds up immunity in your baby over time and strengthens their digestive track as well – so that their body is able to digest and break down the breast milk in the first place. The immunity developed here in this period is what helps keep off viruses, bacteria, illnesses and various diseases away from your baby.
3. Be aware of the different positions in which you can breastfeed
There is no definitively right position in which you are allowed to feed your baby. What worked for someone else, might not work for you, the baby, or both. From the first time itself, remember that you have to bring the baby to your breast, and not the other way round. Breastfeeding is most likely to hurt your nipples in the beginning. But if there is an occurrence of bleeding and chapping, there may be a reason for concern – your baby may not be able to latch onto your properly. Ask your doctor about the same.
4. Look out for signs of hunger or other cues your newborn may be showing
Be it sudden irritability, incessant crying, or lack of alertness and activeness during play, every newborn has their own way of communicating their hunger, and that it is time to feed them again. Babies under six weeks will feed on breast milk at least eight times in a day. That usually adds up to you having to feed them every two to three hours. Make sure you are hydrated and are eating in the meantime too, in order to avoid exhaustion and tiredness. You can tell whether the baby has been getting enough milk in by checking their diapers – how many times they have wet them or have pooped in a day.
After six weeks, the amount of milk your baby is going to feed on every time is going to decrease.
While the baby is feeding, they are going to stop sucking in between. Depending on how long it has been etc., it can either mean that they are full, or that you need to shift them onto your second breast. In those pauses, it is a good idea to burp them and give them some time before resuming.
5. Your baby’s feeding habits are going to change
As mentioned earlier, if and when your baby starts to show changes in feeding patterns, it is not a cause for concern. With growing age, their nutritional needs change. Which means the source form which they obtain the nutrition also changes.
If your baby used to feed around eight times when five weeks old, they might need to feed considerably less after a couple of weeks as you would have started them on solids by that time. Listening and being attentive to your baby’s behavior and cues are more helpful in telling you whether they are hungry or not as compared to feeding them by the clock.
6. Encourage bonding and contact
Each time you sit down to feed your baby, consider it an opportunity to bond with the new one. Try to be as soothing and comforting you can be. Maximize the skin contact between you two, as that helps in reassuring the baby of your presence even more.
7. When in doubt, reach out
Whether it is the type of positioning or how much time until the next feeding, do not keep the doubts and questions to yourself. Ask and talk to family and friends who have gone through this process and you will find solace and some valuable insight too. You can join groups on Facebook or look for videos on YouTube to help you through this process. There are plenty of communities and bloggers who will go a long way in making you feel less alone during this time. Better yet, go to your doctor or pediatrician in case of urgent matters or queries.
Taking care of newborns is a very huge task. It involves a lot of knowledge, efforts, and most of all, patience. Make peace with the fact that you are not going to be able to do every single right on the first try itself. Give room to make mistakes. Learn from them and try again. This sort of consistency is key to making sure your baby is healthy and content.