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Main Line Pediatrics

Feeding Your Infant

Breastfeeding I Bottle Feeding I Solid Foods


There is no one way to feed your baby any more than there is one type of baby. The suggestions included here are just that: suggestions, things to try in a relaxed, easy-going way as you and your baby learn to interact with each other.

To begin nursing, find a quiet place and comfortable chair. Hold your baby in your arms and bring your baby's cheek into contact with your nipple. Your baby will then open his mouth and try to find your nipple. This is a natural reflex called "rooting." When he finds the nipple, pull him in closer to you, making sure to keep both his nostrils unobstructed by your breast. There is a newborn reflex called the Palmer Mental Reflex. If you press on the palm of your baby's hand he will open his mouth. This reflex may help you to get the baby started on the breast.

After about 10-15 minutes, or whenever you are ready to stop feeding or change sides, put your finger in your baby's mouth to break the suction, and then press your breast away from his mouth. After a short rest, burp or change of diaper, switch the baby to your other breast for another 10-15 minutes.

During vigorous nursing with an older baby, your breast will be "emptied" in 3-5 minutes. However, with a newborn, your infant may not nurse this vigorously and it may take 10-15 minutes to empty the breast.

Diapering and changing your baby helps to wake your baby between sides and allows you to put your baby down quietly after the second side, without stirring him to change his diaper.

With all newborn babies, it is best to use both breasts at each feeding, at least for the first several weeks while your milk supply gets established. Alternate starting sides and positions to put different stresses on different parts of the breast and hopefully avoid undue irritation of the breast or cracking of the nipples.

In the beginning, your baby will want to feed every two or three hours with one longer period of sleep, hopefully in the middle of the night.

Your milk comes in 2-6 days after your baby has been born. Before that, your baby gets a watery fluid called colostrum, which is rich in antibodies and is important for your baby.

When your milk comes in, your breasts may feel engorged. Within a week or so this feeling goes away, but this does not mean your milk supply has dried up. Your milk supply depends on how often your baby feeds. The more your baby completely empties your breast, the more milk you will make at later feedings. The less your baby nurses, the less milk you will make. Remember to drink lots of fluids. Try to drink 16 ounces of water each time you nurse your baby.

The most important advice we can give you is to relax and not worry about the feeding. Rather, you should enjoy these rare moments of being alone with your baby. During the next few weeks and months your baby will spend most of her waking time with you. This closeness, the warmth and rhythm of your walking and breathing, is very much like her life before birth. It is both comforting to him and important for her future development.

If you have problems with breastfeeding and would like to talk with a breast-feeding counselor or lactation consultant, please ask one of us for names and telephone numbers.

Breastfeeding - how to supplement with bottles
For most babies, it is not necessary to give supplements of formula in the first month of life. Breast-feeding is totally sufficient for all of your baby's needs. As long as your baby is urinating well (6-8 wet diapers per day) and having regular bowel movements, he is getting plenty of food. Also, as a matter of course, we will be closely watching your baby's weight gain over the next several months.

If you choose to supplement your baby's feedings with a bottle, say once a day, either to give someone else a chance to feed your baby or to get him used to taking milk from a bottle, it is best to wait until your baby is 2-3 weeks old before starting. Giving a breastfed baby a bottle from the very beginning might result in "nipple confusion." If this happens, your baby may begin to prefer the bottle since it requires less effort on his part.

We do not recommend giving plain water bottles to newborns. Breast milk and formula are 90% water. Feeding the infant additional water can result in "water intoxication."