Practical advice for new parents

Feeding Newborns

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There is no other time in life when one's nutritional needs are as substantial as they are in infancy. In the first year of life, with proper feeding, a newborn will grow nearly 10 inches/25 centimetres and triple his or her weight. Proper feeding of a newborn is not only vital for physical health; it is also paramount to emotional well being. The closeness shared between a parent and a newborn during feeding will help establish a relationship that will last a lifetime.

Deciding how to feed a newborn is one of the first important decisions that new parents will make. Bottle-feeding and breastfeeding both have pros and cons that are worth considering before deciding on what is best for a baby. There is no one right way to feed a newborn, but there are guidelines to ensure proper nutrition through this important time of life.

Almost every childcare expert agrees that breast milk is the most optimal food for newborns. The nutrients in breast milk are easily digested and properly balanced to provide all the requirements that an infant will need for the first four to six months of life. As well, breast milk has natural enzymes and antibodies that protect an infant from conditions such as ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, meningitis, and allergies. There are also several practical benefits to breastfeeding a newborn. There is little cost involved, it requires a minimum of preparation and is instantly available at any time. Breast pumps are also available to mothers who want to express their milk into bottles for future use. This can be very helpful for partners who want to share in the feeding experience or when a mother will be apart from her baby for more than a couple of hours.

While breastfeeding has many advantages, it can be challenging, time consuming, and tiring to a new mother. Complications including blocked ducts, mastitis (breast infection), and loss of milk supply are not uncommon. Women who decide to breastfeed may want to consider consulting with a lactation consultant or enrolling in a breastfeeding class prior to giving birth.

Many mothers choose to bottle feed their babies for a wide variety of valid reasons. In some cases, there are certain medical conditions that prevent breastfeeding, and for some women, it is a matter of personal preference.

The benefits to bottle feeding include being able to regulate the amount of formula being fed to a baby and being able to share feeding responsibilities. As well, a mother does not have to worry about her diet or medications as she would if she were breastfeeding. The formula that is fed to babies can be quite costly, and this should definitely be taken into account prior to deciding to bottle-feed. As well, the nutrients in formula are not as well balanced as they are in breast milk.

Whether a mother decides to breastfeed or bottle-feed, the goal should be to feed her baby whenever he or she is hungry. With both formula and breast milk, newborns require, on average, 8 to 12 feedings every 24 hours round the clock. By the time a baby is 3 months old, the number of feedings will decrease to around 6 per day. Breast milk or formula is the only food that a newborn or infant requires, and there is no need to supplement with water or juice. Solid foods should not be given until a baby is at least 4 months old.

Newborn babies grow and develop rapidly whether or not they receive breast milk, formula, or a combination of both. As long as a baby is healthy, growing, and content more often than fussy, parents should feel confident that they are meeting the nutritional needs of their baby.

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[For more than 900 baby health related tips make sure you pick up a FREE copy of The Mommy MD Guides Audiobook (while the offer lasts). Details here.]