Feeding Your Baby

One of the first things you will do for you baby is feed him or her. Babies need to eat every few hours—they’re growing so fast and need lots of energy.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is recommended for both you and your baby, for better health, bonding, and it’s free! Your body makes the perfect food for your baby and has everything needed for him or her to grow and develop. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastmilk as a baby’s only food for the first six months of life. But don’t worry, if you decide that using formula is the best choice for you, your baby will still grow to be healthy.

If you plan to breastfeed, let your doctor know, and try to nurse (feed) your baby as soon as possible after they are born—babies have a strong instinct to nurse right after they are born. Your baby will let you know when he or she is hungry, and you will begin to notice the signs that they are ready to eat. Signs could include wiggling or squirming, trying to make eye contact with you, or turning their head to look for your breast. To produce enough milk, after your baby is born you should try to breastfeed every 2-3 hours throughout the day and night.

Breastfeeding can be challenging, especially for first time moms. You may wish to take a class or work with a lactation consultant—a person who can coach you on both breastfeeding and pumping. Some hospitals have these programs in place already so be sure to ask if yours does. There’s nothing wrong with you if breastfeeding does not come easily—it’s a new skill that you’ve never needed before, and had no opportunity to practice, so it makes sense that it might take awhile to get the hang of it.

Formula

If you decide breastfeeding is not for you, or your doctor advises you not to breastfeed, you can feed your baby commercially prepared formula. This is carefully made to meet a baby’s nutritional needs—you cannot substitute cow’s milk, or any other substance. When they are first born, your baby may need to be fed every 3 hours (eight bottles a day).

To use formula:

  • Follow the directions on using the formula and mixing with the right amount of water.
  • Do not add anything extra to the formula, like sugar or baby cereal.
  • Take care to keep all bottles and nipples clean—wash with soap, and then boil in a covered pan for 10 minutes, allowing them to cool in the covered pan.
  • You can make as much as you need for a 24 hour period, and keep it in the refrigerator. If your baby doesn’t finish a bottle, do not save it for later. Throw the leftovers away.
  • Warm the bottle slowly in hot, but not boiling, water. Do not use the microwave to warm the bottle. Test the temperature by squirting a few drops on the inside of your wrist to make sure it is not too hot.

No matter how you choose to feed your baby, during feeding times hold your baby close, look into each other’s eyes, and touch your skin to your baby’s skin. This will help you bond with your baby.