Our pediatricians at Cedar Park Pediatric & Family Medicine are always looking for new information to better care for our patients and their families. My friend and colleague, Dr. Lindsey Moore is a prime example, as she is currently training to become a certified lactation consultant and I thought she would serve as an excellent author for this next post in our newborn series.
As a new or expecting parent, there are many important decisions to make for your newborn, and determining the best way to feed your baby is among them. There is a lot of information out there about breastfeeding versus supplemental formula feeding, and, ultimately, the baby and your lifestyle may determine which option is better for you and your family.
When possible, breastfeeding is the best option as it provides a myriad of health benefits for the baby and the mother, and is often much more financially feasible. The initial milk produced after birth is called colostrum and contains more protein, though is lower in volume than later milk.
Milk “comes in” for most women about 2-5 days after birth, and for first time moms, it is often not until day 4 or 5. Thankfully, babies’ bodies are designed to not need a large volume of feeds in the first few days, so don’t worry if your milk supply seems very low initially. To help establish good milk production, it is important to attempt feeding within 1 hour of birth, breastfeed about every 3 hours in the hospital, and have lots of skin-to-skin contact with the baby, as all of these things help increase the milk supply. Even if baby isn’t getting much, attempting feeding is important to help ramp up your supply!
When baby latches and sucks, this stimulates release of a hormone called oxytocin from the pituitary gland in the brain which in turn stimulates milk production. A good (and comfortable!) latch will involve most of the areola rather than just the nipple in baby’s mouth. In addition, there are a variety of ways to hold your baby during breastfeeding, and different holds may work for different mother and baby dyads.
Examples of different holds include the football hold, cross-cradle, cradle, and side-lying positions.
Photo source: mayoclinic.org
Many new moms wonder how long and how often is adequate to breastfeed to make sure their baby is getting enough. The length of a feeding will vary as some babies are far more efficient feeders than others, and at different points in the day, babies will be hungrier or less hungry, just like adults.
On average, try for 10-15 minutes per side initially, feeding your newborn about every 3 hours.
Early on, you may have to set the feeding schedule, but once your baby is gaining weight steadily, your doctor will let you know that it is okay to space the feedings out and let the baby lead.
Babies latch and feed much better when they are hungry, but not extremely upset and hungry, so it is important to pay attention to feeding cues, such as rooting, opening their mouths, turning their heads to you, and sucking on their lips or hands.
You’ll know your baby is getting enough when he acts satisfied after feeding, has a good number of wet and dirty diapers each day, and is gaining weight. It is important to keep in mind that it is normal for babies to have an initial weight loss of up to 10%, and most get back to birth weight by 2 weeks of age.
Supplementing and Bottle feeding:
Some moms do not make enough milk or for a variety of reasons are unable or not desiring to breastfeed and require supplementation. We, as pediatricians, are here to help guide parents through this process, as what is needed can be a little different for everyone. For most families, we encourage breastfeeding first, followed by offering a supplement afterward. Formula provides good nutrition for babies. It isn’t the same as breast milk, but is made to try to approximate the nutritional content.
- In the first few days, babies will take 1 – 2 ounces per feeding, every 3 – 4 hours.
- Babies will slowly and naturally increase the amount they take, averaging 2 – 3 ounces to 3 – 4 ounces by 2 months of age.
- Most older babies max out at 6 – 8 ounces per feeding.
There are a wide variety of different formulas – for most infants, standard formula is acceptable, although there are some special circumstances, such as a milk allergy, where your pediatrician will recommend a special formula.
Feeding your baby is not only important for their nutrition, but is also a great time to bond with your new little one! As your pediatrician, we are here to answer any questions or concerns that you may have and to help make the experience as enjoyable as possible!