Feeding Your Infant

Whether you breastfeed or give your baby formula, you and your baby should be happy and comfortable during feeding and with the type of feeding you chose. The warmth and security felt during feeding time can soothe a cranky, tired baby. Mealtime is more than just the time to feed your baby. It is an opportunity to get to know your baby and learn to read their cues.

At feeding time, you and your baby are learning about each other. Relax and hold your baby close, allowing baby room to move legs and arms. Babies can see things best when they are about 10 inches away, which is about the distance between your eyes and theirs when you hold them. Make sure her neck is straight and she can look into your face.

Most newborns breast-feed eight to 12 times a day, about every two to three hours. Within two to three months, your baby may be satisfied with six to eight feedings a day. Your baby will fall into a feeding schedule, taking in more milk in less time. Allow baby to breast feed on demand as long as he chooses, usually about 20 minutes. Babies will suck continuously and then rest for a few seconds before starting again. Breastfeeding should be a calm, smooth, uninterrupted process. It shouldn’t hurt. If it does, you may be holding the baby improperly. Call your local Lactation Consultant or WIC office for further help.

If you feed your baby formula, you’ll need to feed a little less often, about every 3-4 hours, because formula digests more slowly than breast milk does. Hold the bottle upright when feeding to reduce the risk of ear infections. Don’t prop your baby’s bottle during feeding, as this can cause baby to choke. Consult your pediatrician if you have any concerns or questions about feeding your baby.

Burp your baby to relieve swallowed air after each 1 to 2 ounces and when the baby stops nursing. Gently remove the infant from the breast or bottle. Place the infant on your shoulder and pat his back gently. Talk to your baby while they nurse or bottle-feed. Babies whose parents talk to them learn more words than other children. Hug and cuddle your baby to help them feel secure, because sharing love is important to your baby’s health.

Introduction of Solid Foods

Bottle fed babies typically can start solids around 4 months of age, while breastfed babies can start around 6 months of age. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it does not matter what solid foods are offered first. However, many doctors recommend cereals first, starting with rice cereal, because it is not likely to cause food allergies.

Offer your baby only one new food at a time, and feed it to them several days in a row. Let your baby adjust to a new food for about a week before offering another one. This also gives you time to look for food allergy signs, such as rash, hives, coughing, diarrhea or vomiting. Do not serve your baby a mixed-ingredient food until you have fed each individual food separately, and you know that they are not allergic to any of the ingredients.

Feed your baby a wide variety of colorful vegetables and fruits as soon as they can eat solid food. Recent research shows that children will be more likely to continue this good eating habit later in life when they can make their own food choices. Let the rainbow be your guide, because different colors of vegetables and fruits contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Healthy You, Healthy Baby

If you are breast-feeding, get plenty of rest, and sleep when baby sleeps! Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Eat the foods you like. Baby will let you know if the foods you eat do not agree with him. If your baby is fussy every time you eat a certain food, avoid that food for a few weeks. Talk to your pediatrician if problem persists. Eat when you are hungry, drink when you are thirsty.

Your baby can get sick from the bacteria picked up by your hands. To reduce the risk of illness, always wash your hands before preparing formula or food for your baby, as well as for anyone else, and always wash your hands after changing a diaper. Have all visitors wash their hands before touching your baby. Hand washing is one of the most important steps to avoid getting sick and spreading germs.

Sources: Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. 2004. Clinical Protocol Number #8: Human Milk Storage. See also: CDC: Proper Handling and Storage of Human Milk.