Both breast milk and infant formula can provide the nourishment and emotional bonding that babies need. However, breastfeeding can provide some added benefits, including:
- Vital nutrients in the right balance to support your baby's fast growth
- Natural protection against certain allergies and common illnesses
- Easily digestible nutrition
- A clean, safe, inexpensive and convenient way to feed
In addition, breastfeeding helps new mothers gradually lose some of the weight they gained during pregnancy.
If you decide to breastfeed your baby, here are a few steps to follow:
- Start breastfeeding as soon as possible after your baby is born. Plan to nurse as often as your baby needs, which initially may be as much as every two to four hours.
- Alternate the side that you begin feeding with and offer both breasts at each feeding. This will not only help reduce nipple soreness and stimulate your milk supply, but it also will ensure that both breasts are emptied at each feeding.
- Burp your baby when you change breasts and at the end of the feeding. This will help remove the discomfort that results from air being swallowed during nursing.
- Check with your doctor or registered dietitian to see if your baby will need iron, fluoride or vitamin D supplements during the first year of life.
- If you are breastfeeding your baby, you should continue to take prenatal vitamins and should not start dieting right away as this can hinder your milk supply. Let your doctor know you're breastfeeding and check with your doctor concerning any prescription drugs or non-prescription drugs you plan to take.
If you decide to formula feed your baby, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Use an iron-fortified infant formula.
- Most bottle-fed babies do not need vitamin and mineral supplements.
- Burp your baby after and/or during each feeding if he or she seems uncomfortable. This will help remove the discomfort that results from swallowing air during feeding.
- Pay attention to cues from your baby about when and how often your little one should be fed. Most newborns feed every two to four hours.
Other Important Feeding Tips
- Breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula should be the main food your baby eats during his or her first year of life.
- Microwaving baby food or formula may be dangerous. The food may heat unevenly and can burn your baby's mouth.
- Let your baby decide how much to eat. Babies will indicate fullness by closing their lips, turning away or falling asleep. Do not force your baby to finish a bottle. Throw away the leftovers. Your baby is getting enough to eat is when he or she has six or more wet diapers every 24 hours and gains weight steadily.
- In general, breast milk or formula provides babies with enough fluid. Newborns need little or no additional water except when they have vomiting, diarrhea, fever or are in hot weather. Offer water to babies when they start eating solids.
- Do not give Kool-Aid, juice, sweetened drinks, sodas or sugar water in bottles. This can lead to serious tooth decay for your baby. Only put plain water, formula or breast milk in the bottle. Juice can be given in a cup.
- Do not let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in his or her mouth. This also can lead to tooth decay. Only water should be placed in bedtime bottles. Wipe your baby's teeth with a damp cloth after the last feeding.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.