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5 Things to Know About Feeding Your Newborn

June 08, 2016

Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, but you don’t need to panic about what to feed your new baby. Your pediatrician, dietitian and nurse can provide the advice you need to help alleviate the worries you might have about feeding your newborn.

We asked Dr. Mark Corkins, a pediatrician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, to answer five common questions parents have:

What is the best source of nutrition to feed my baby? 

Dr. Corkins: Breast milk is best. If you can’t breastfeed, your pediatrician, dietitian and nurse can help you pick the best alternative for your baby, typically an iron-fortified infant formula. Babies should not drink cows milk until the age of one, and parents should know that homemade infant formula recipes are unlikely to meet all of their infant’s nutritional needs. Infant formulas are one of the most tightly regulated foods by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration. The decision about which formula to use should be guided by input from someone knowledgeable of your baby’s specific needs, like your pediatrician.

How much does my baby need to eat/drink?

Dr. Corkins: This varies a bit from infant to infant. However, they need enough to stay hydrated. This is easily measured by the number of wet diapers. The other important part is getting enough nutrients to grow. This takes some time to assess but should be clear over time. Usually this is met if the baby is satisfied after the feedings. However, it’s advised that you reach out to your pediatrician for specific recommendations.

Does my baby need vitamins?

Dr. Corkins: While infants on breast milk and formulas need very little in the way of supplementation, there does appear to be a shortfall in vitamin D intake in breastfed infants. Work with your pediatrician and baby’s dietitian to determine what is best for your baby.

How often should my baby feed?

Dr. Corkins: This changes with time. A newborn is small and proportionally the stomach is small as well. The volume a newborn can take is smaller, so the feedings should be closer together. With time and growth, the feedings can get bigger and further apart. Talk to your pediatrician about what’s right for your child.

How can parents know when their baby is full (when breastfeeding/drinking formula)?

Dr. Corkins: Infants are poor communicators as most folks have noticed. It takes some time and experience to sense cues when your baby is full. Most infants start feeding eagerly at the beginning of a feeding. Then as they begin to get full, they slow down. Some infants will just quit feeding when they are done and it is easy to know they are full. Others will slow to just an occasional suck enjoying the closeness and sense of fullness. This is a subtle cue they are done. This is all based on the understanding that the baby should take roughly the amount of breast milk or formula in a day that we expect for their age. It is important to work with your pediatrician, dietitian and/or nurse to track feeding patterns to ensure your baby is feeding enough for growth.

Even though babies don’t come with an instruction manual, you can go to HealthyChildren.org to seek science-based resources that will help you raise a happy and healthy child. And check out our Airplane Choo Choo guide to feeding your baby in the first two years.

Consult a health care professional for individual recommendations for your baby’s unique needs.

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