One of the very first decisions you face as a new parent is how to feed your baby. NewYork- Presbyterian can provide guidelines for and help you get through any initial road bumps of feeding.
Feeding Your Baby
NewYork-Presbyterian recognizes and fully supports your choice of newborn feeding— breastfeeding, formula, or a combination of both. We are a breastfeeding-friendly hospital that acknowledges and complies with the New York State Department of Health’s Breastfeeding Mothers’ Bill of Rights.
A newborn’s nutritional needs are more significant than at any other time in their life, and it’s never too early to begin good eating habits. If you start good dietary practices now, you’ll set your child on the right path to developing healthy eating patterns.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and then continuing breastfeeding while introducing solid foods until your baby is a year old. Breast milk provides the nutrition your child needs for proper growth and development. However, not all women can exclusively breastfeed, and infant formula through bottle feeding can also provide excellent nutrition for your baby.
Though breastfeeding is natural, it isn’t always easy—the process often becomes easier with practice. It may take three to four days for first-time moms to begin producing breast milk. Milk may come in earlier for mothers who had babies before. You’ll know the milk is coming because your breast will feel full.
Your breasts may feel engorged—large and swollen—three to five days after delivery. At this time, you should feed frequently and apply cold packs after feeding or pumping. If your infant cannot latch on because of swelling, apply warm, wet heat to breasts and express milk before attempting to feed.
You should attempt to breastfeed your baby eight to 12 times in 24 hours. You may have questions regarding how much breast milk a newborn needs at each feeding. Initially, your newborn will only drink about a half-ounce of breast milk at each feeding. They’ll be up to one or two ounces after about two days and two to three ounces after a couple of weeks. Your baby shouldn’t go more than four hours without feeding for at least the first two weeks of their life — even throughout the night.
Some new parents may worry that they aren’t breastfeeding correctly. Certain myths around breastfeeding may discourage mothers from doing it. The good news is most moms can nurse successfully with the proper support from the hospital’s nurses and lactation experts.
Breast milk storage
Collect and store milk from each pumping session in separate containers or bags. Pumped milk can remain safely at room temperature (70 ºF) for six hours after pumping. Milk can be refrigerated for up to six days. Frozen breast milk is good for six months. Never microwave breast milk. If it is thawed, do not refreeze.
If you plan to formula feed your baby, there are some important feeding tips to keep in mind.
- Your pediatrician will tell you what type of formula to use
- Formula should be at room temperature when you feed your baby. Be sure it is warm, not hot.
- The refrigerated formula can be stored for up to 48 hours
- Use powdered formula within one month of opening the container. Do not store the container in the refrigerator.
For more information, please consult with your doctor’s office.
How Often to Feed Your Baby
You should feed your baby whenever they seem hungry. As a general rule of thumb, newborn breastfed infants should breastfeed eight to 12 times a day. At first, they may take at least 20 minutes on each breast. Over time, each feed should go down to 10-15 minutes.
Formula-fed newborns should be fed six to 10 times a day, including overnight or roughly every three to four hours. They will usually take two to three ounces for the first few weeks and be up to four ounces by the end of the first month.
How to Know When Your Baby is Hungry or Full
It can be hard to tell if your newborn has had enough to eat or needs more. A hungry baby will usually cry. But ideally, you want to catch hunger signs earlier. Other more subtle clues for feeding your newborn include:
- They lick their lips
- They stick their tongue out
- They root their head around to search for a nipple
- They fuss
- They suck intensely
- They put their hands to their lips
It’s important to remember that fussing and sucking aren’t always a sign that they’re hungry. Your baby may just want to cuddle, or need a diaper change.
Most babies will stop eating when they are full. Bottle-fed babies are more likely to overeat since it’s easier to drink from a bottle than from a breast. Signs of fullness include:
- They start and stop feeding often
- They spit out or ignore the bottle or breast
- They frequently unlatch while nursing
- They close their mouth or turn their head away
- They fidget or get distracted easily
- They slow down or fall asleep
Baby Food and Solid Food
You may wonder when you can start to feed your baby solid food. Most babies are ready to sample solid foods when they are about four to six months of age. There’s no set time to start, however. Your baby will let you know that they are ready with the following signs:
- They can hold their head up well
- They have started to sit. Although high chairs provide support, you want your baby to be able to stay upright on their own.
- They have doubled their birth weight
- They seem interested in what you are eating
If your baby seems ready, do a taste test. Offer them a spoonful of rice cereal. If they push it out of their mouth, they may not yet be able to move it to the back of their mouth to swallow. Try to dilute it with breast milk or formula. If they are still not able to swallow it, wait a week or two and try again.
Get Newborn Feeding Support from NewYork-Presbyterian
Because we encourage our new mothers to breastfeed their babies exclusively, we offer breastfeeding classes to help you get started. All of our nurses are thoroughly trained in breastfeeding basics, including techniques and positioning. Our International Board-Certified lactation consultants are also registered nurses and can help breastfeeding mothers experiencing difficulty.
Lactation consultants are available weekdays and most weekends to support and work to educate new mothers on best breastfeeding practices to help them have a successful breastfeeding experience.