Early infant feeding lays the foundation for your child’s health. Food plays a role in the development of diseases like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Good early infant feeding practices help the parent-baby bond as well. Whether you decide to breastfeed your baby or to feed with formula (replacement feeding), starting right is very important.
When to Feed your Baby
If you plan to breastfeed your baby, your baby should be put to breast within the first 30 minutes of delivery. It may take up to about 5 days for the breasts to get really full of milk. On the day of delivery, babies are not usually very hungry, anyway, so you don’t need to worry. Just a trickle of colostrum keeps them full for a long time. Colostrum is the thick, deep yellowish liquid that comes out of your breasts soon after delivery before the milk comes in.
How often should you feed your baby?
After the breastmilk comes in, babies feed 8-12 times a day during the first month. That often feels like feeding round the clock. At about 1-3 months of life, babies become better at letting you know when they are hungry and seem to settle into a predictable feeding pattern by 2-4 months. As your baby grows, he will feed for longer at a feed and actually take in more, so he will not feed as frequently as the initial days. By 6 months of age, breastfed babies feed only about 6 times a day.
Formula-fed babies will need about 140-200mls/kg of feed per day for the first 3 months of life. A newborn will require a feed every 2-3 hours. From 2 months to 6 months, they will need a feed every 3-5 hours. From 6 months old, they will need a feed every 4-5 hours.
Breastfed babies feed more frequently than formula-fed babies. This is because breastmilk is easier to digest and so leaves the baby’s tummy faster. That is actually good for you and your baby. It helps to increase your milk supply and helps your baby’s tummy to grow in the early days. We understand how tiring that can be for you, though.
Feeding on demand or feeding on a schedule?
It is better to feed on demand than on a schedule. When your baby is hungry, he will let you know by turning his face and mouth towards your breast, putting his fingers on or in his mouth, becoming more alert and making sucking sounds. When it is your baby who decides that he wants to eat, he is more likely to get what he needs, neither too much nor too little. Once a rhythm is established, your body may also let you know when it’s time for a feed, by letting you experience a let-down. That is the feeling of milk rushing into your breast and sometimes overflowing. If your baby is not gaining adequate weight, however, your doctor may recommend for him to be fed on a schedule.
Do not offer any juices to babies less than 6 months old. Honey should also not be given to babies less than a year old because it puts them at risk of developing a rare condition called infant botulism.
Feeding your baby right is important for the development of healthy eating habits throughout life. It also helps you to bond with him. Breastfed babies feed more often than formula-fed babies, while on-demand feeding is preferable to feeding on a schedule. Dinner is served.