When it comes to feeding your baby, everybody seems to have an opinion, from your mother-in-law to your partner to perfect strangers who peek and coo at your baby. Mixed in with the valuable information are lots of myths and misconceptions. Here are what experts in infant nutrition consider the most important facts for new parents to keep in mind.
There’s a strong link between getting the proper nutrients and healthy development. Breast milk combined with a healthy diet for the mom offers the ideal nutrition, custom-designed to meet the needs of your baby, with the right fatty acids and easily digestible proteins and carbs, plus the vitamins and minerals that support brain development and overall growth. Infant formulas are patterned after breast milk. You can rest assured that your baby is getting the best start you can give her by breast-feeding or choosing a formula that has balanced nutrition and nutrients recommended by experts for brain development, such as both DHA and ARA (types of fatty acids used by the brain and nerve tissues), as well as choline.
Newborns need lots of fat to fuel their rapid growth and brain development. Both breast milk and formula offer fat and other nutrients, such as DHA and ARA. At the start of each feeding, the breast milk, called foremilk, is low in fat. As the feeding progresses, the breast milk gets fattier, and the very rich hindmilk is released toward the end of a feeding. The foremilk allows a baby who is simply thirsty to hydrate, while a baby who’s truly hungry will suckle long enough to obtain the richer, fattier hindmilk.
Yes, it’s exhausting for you, but newborns need to feed. A newborn’s stomach is small and can only take in so much at one feeding. Plus, the first weeks are a period of incredible growth, requiring a lot of energy. As a result, breast-fed newborns nurse every two to three hours, and formula feeders need to eat every three to four hours.
You can use clues to make sure your baby is getting enough breast milk or formula. During the first month, about six or more wet diapers and three to four bowel movements a day are good signs that your baby is getting enough nourishment.
Your baby’s doctor may recommend some supplements. Because newborns don’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight, breast- and sometimes formula-fed babies may be given a vitamin D supplement in liquid form.
Stick to breast milk, formula, or a combination of both. Your newborn does not need water, juice, cow’s milk, or other fluids. Your baby not only does not need any solid foods (like cereal or other milk thickeners) but giving them can be dangerous. Your baby’s mouth, tongue, and digestive system haven’t developed to the point where solids can be safely ingested.
Take care of yourself along with your baby. If you are breast-feeding, you are still eating for two, and the smaller of you won’t be shy about stealing the bigger one’s nutrients. Eat healthfully, and get plenty of fluids, iron, calcium, and DHA. If you’re nourishing your baby with formula, it’s still important that you have a healthful diet so you can stay at your best—with plenty of energy to nurture your baby in her amazing development.