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What do I need to know about feeding my newborn baby?


Below you will find several F.A.Q. regarding nutrition for newborns.  For more information, review our discussion of Your Child's Diet or visit our Helpful Links section on Diet and Activity.


Q: What are the advantages of breastfeeding?

A: We are happy to support our patients' mothers whether they decide to breast feed or use formula.  Still, breast milk has been associated with numerous health benefits for both the baby and the mother.  The American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement on February 2, 2005, highlighting research that provided “strong evidence that human milk feeding decreases the incidence and/or severity of a wide range of infectious diseases including bacterial meningitis, bacteremia, diarrhea, respiratory tract infection, necrotizing enterocolitis, otitis media, urinary tract infection, and late-onset sepsis in preterm infants” for both developed and developing countries of the world.   In addition, “postneonatal infant mortality rates in the United States are reduced by 21% in breastfed infants.” Other benefits include the following: breast milk is less expensive, breast feeding mothers have lower rates of breast cancer later on in life, and the cuddling and bonding between mother and baby can be beneficial for both.


Q: How can I tell if I'm making enough milk?

A: Expect to see the baby stooling and urinating frequently.  Most women can also feel the breast engorged before a feed and empty after.  If you are not sure if your baby is feeding well the best thing is to weigh the baby accurately.  If babies feed well they gain weight (after the first few days of life when they lose weight) at a rate of about an ounce a day.  You can call for an appointment to have the baby examined and weighed at any time.


Q: What should I do if my baby is sleeping more and eating less?

A: This downhill cycle of poor feeding, increased sleeping and poor milk production can often be avoided or reversed with vigorous, frequent attempts at feeding (such as waking for feeds, feeding every 3-4 hours until feeding is well established, etc.)  Often babies like this have to be examined and weighed to determine if they are becoming dehydrated.


Q: When should I introduce cereal and other foods?

A: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding (no complementary foods such as juice, water, or baby or other solid foods) for the first 6 months of life.  The Academy does recognize individual differences in feeding needs and behaviors. It is acceptable that some children will begin such foods as early as 4 months or as late as 8 months.


Q: When should I begin to give fruit juice and water?
It is our opinion that children usually do not need any fruit juice or water when they are babies. Of course, on a hot summer day or if you just want to give something extra a little water given here or there is perfectly okay.  Small babies usually do fine with breastmilk and no other liquids at all.


Q: Which formula do you recommend for bottle fed babies?

A: The choice whether to breast feed or bottle feed is yours. Although we encourage breast feeding, we respect a woman's right to choose which method to feed her own child. In cases of choice or circumstance (such as adoption, women not comfortable with or able to breast feed, various life circumstances, etc.) we recommend cow's milk based formula supplemented with iron for the average healthy full-term newborn. Examples of such formulas are SimilacŪ Advanced and EnfamilŪ Lipil.  We do not recommend "Low Iron" formulas.


Q: When should I change from formula to milk?

A: In general at about one year old.  Some parents switch all at one from formula to whole cow's milk and others do this more gradually.  Most parents switch all at once, although a gradual transition to cow's milk probably makes it somewhat less likely that problems will occur.


Q: Will cereal in the bottle before bed help my baby sleep through the night?  Does feeding before bed help a baby sleep through the night?

A: No to both questions.  It is usually a bad idea to put cereal in the bottle before bed.  This may lead to children waking up at night with gas and stools.  It may also lead to a baby learning to become dependant on having a "full belly" to fall asleep.  Also, cereal provides "empty calories" for babies under 4 to 6 months old, with little nutritional value except in older babies.  Feeding before bed usually does not help a child sleep though the night (at least in most babies over two or three months old.)  Feeding to sleep can lead to poor dentition, so called “bottle caries.”  Occasionally, feeding before bed helps a baby under two or three months old sleep through the night, but it often leads to problems as listed above.  For older babies it rarely helps them sleep through the night, and often leads to dependence on feeding before bed that can lead to tooth decay, obesity, and sleep problems that begin at nine to twelve months of life.  In short, when kids get in the habit of feeding to sleep, it's very hard to break them of that habit.  Also, feeding with a bottle in bed can lead to recurrent ear infections.


Q: Which formula is best: ready-to-feed, concentrate or powder?

A: They all provide the same nutrition.  The choice should depend upon cost, convenience, and the quality of the local water supply.


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