Feeding a newborn, it’s been said, is a collaborative effort between an adult and a baby, neither of whom have much education or experience in the matter. While infants are born with a strong instinct to suck, that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to drink. And the parents’ instinct to nurture and care for a newborn doesn’t mean they will automatically know the best way to feed their babies.
Even if you already have children you may find feeding a new baby a challenge, depending on how different her personality is from her older siblings. Some babies will take to breast-feeding happily and turn their little noses up at the hint of a bottle. Others will struggle with nursing and find greater success and satisfaction with a bottle. And many babies will prefer a combination of nursing and bottle-feeding.
All three methods have their advantages and challenges. Breast-feeding offers nutritional and developmental benefits to a baby, and cost savings for parents. Bottle-feeding can be easy for both mother and baby, and gives other family members the chance to help out with feeding and experience bonding with the baby.
Regardless of how you feed your baby, feeding time is an important time for bonding and nourishing. Here are a few tips to make feeding easier, whether you nurse or bottle-feed:
* Choose a quiet place for feeding your baby. This may not always be possible, but it will make mealtime much more enjoyable. As the baby grows, this will also help her focus on feeding versus being distracted by what’s happening around her.
* Snuggle. Feeding is the perfect time to bond, so enjoy those special moments between parent and baby. Infants love skin-to-skin contact. Nursing mothers get this naturally. Parents using a bottle can snuggle baby close to their face and wear short sleeves to maximize skin contact.
* Let baby decide when she is full. She knows when she’s had enough to eat. Nursing moms are often concerned about their baby getting enough to eat. In general, if baby is back up to birth weight within two weeks, she’s getting what she needs.
* Burp baby – a lot. Babies often swallow too much air and need help to get it out. If baby is fussy or not interested in feeding, sometimes she just needs to be burped. Once the gas is relieved, she’ll be comfortable and ready to continue eating.
* If using formula, make sure to measure. Follow the directions on the label; the correct ratio is important to maintaining nutritional balance. Put the recommended amount of water in a clean bottle and then add the formula. This will help make measuring more accurate too. If you put the formula in the bottle first, you will end up adding less water than recommended.
* Learn what the experts recommend for storage times on both breast milk and formula. Times can vary depending on storage methods.
* Let dad help. Dad and baby will bond over feedings and mom will get a few much-needed minutes of rest.
* Reach out to the experts, such as doctors and lactation consultants, if you need assistance. They are there to help.
Feeding is one of the greatest joys of parenthood. It’s a special time to nourish and bond with your baby. Whatever feeding solution you choose, enjoy the quiet moments together and be confident that you are helping your baby grow into a healthy, wonderful little person.