Before your baby is born, there’s lots of planning and preparing that needs to be done. These things include, but aren’t limited to: preparing the nursery with all the essentials, deciding on a birth plan, replacing any harsh chemicals you use inside your home, and even figuring out how you’re going to get your little one home from the hospital (car seat shopping time!). But another significant decision that needs to be made is how you are going to feed your baby. There are three ways to go about this: breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or combining the two and pumping. After this phase, you’ll get into solid foods and that’s a whole different ball game! But seriously. Each method of feeding has its pros and cons and its do’s and don’t’s. But what it comes down to is this: each method’s goal is to provide the proper nutrients so that your infant may grow and begin mastering their milestones. 

We know there a lot of division on which type of feeding is best for baby (e.g., “breast is best”), but at Best Baby Inc. we support each approach. Our goal is to educate and support moms no matter which route they take. After all, what’s best for one family might not be the right idea for the next. Keep that in mind when browsing these topics and engaging in conversation online and in person. Being a mom is tough and we should support each other and grow together as we take on this wild adventure called parenthood.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding, also known as nursing, is when you feed your baby directly from your breast. This method is extremely popular (about 75% of moms breastfeed soon after birth) and has been nourishing babies for as long as time can tell. In recent years, researchers have strongly associated breastfeeding with all things positive – and the science is convincing enough. Breast milk is a one of a kind formula that’s hard to replicate. There are so many benefits for both mom and baby.

Benefits for Mom

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    Helps reduce the risk of postpartum depression as well as breast and ovarian cancer
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    Saves money (no formula to buy)
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    Helps with postpartum weight loss and bleeding.
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    Serves as a bonding experience between mom and baby,

Benefits for Baby

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    Breast milk is easier to digest than formula
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    Increased immunity
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    Decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
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    Lower rate of obesity

Something to consider is that breastfeeding isn’t necessarily the sole factor in some of these benefits. For example, intelligence / higher IQ is also extremely related to adult-infant interactions such a reading, which can be completed regardless of bottle feeding or breastfeeding. Obviously, if breastfeeding helped prevent obesity and diabetes, we would have much lower prevalence of those health concerns in our modern society; but that’s not the case. Keep an open mind when reading about all the benefits of breastfeeding, as some of the benefits could have a significant amount of factors playing a role

Researchers recommend solely breastfeeding your little one for at least the first six months of life, followed by at least another six months of breastfeeding possibly combined with nutritional formula and solid foods. How do you know when to stop? The AAP recommends that breastfeeding should be continued as long as mutually desired by mother and child. If you are having trouble breastfeeding, consult with your doctor or a lactation consultant about your problem and how to best tackle the issue.

While most moms start out breastfeeding, almost half quit nursing by the six month mark, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a surprising number. There are lots of factors contributing to this drop (e.g., work and family demands, health issues, etc.) but it also comes down to this: breastfeeding may be natural, but it’s also downright difficult. 

There’s lots of tips and tricks when it comes to breastfeeding, and everyone seems to have their own opinion, especially when it comes to night weaning. But to makes things easier, we’ve assembled a list of the top do’s and don’t’s that will help you along the way:

Do’s

  • Be patient. It takes time for your milk to come in and it also takes time for you to get used to the sensation of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a process that some babies take time to pick up while others latch on right away. Stressing yourself out will affect your milk production and make the whole experience less enjoyable for all those involved.
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    Discuss your expectations with your partner before your baby arrives. No matter how dedicated you are to nursing, no matter how prepared you feel, there will come a time when you want to give up. When this happens, it’s important that your partner is prepared to be supportive, loving, and ready to remind you how important it is to you to breastfeed your child.
  • Drink extra water and eat more calories. Making milk takes energy and water and you must make sure that you supply your body with both of those things. 
  • Nurse in a calm environment and this will help your milk let down. Before you know it, all it will take for you milk to let down is a crying infant or unhooking your bra. But until then, breastfeed in a quiet, calm place where both mom and baby can relax.  
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    Lose the snooze. Don’t let your baby fall asleep at your breast. Instead, tickle the bottom of her feet, touch her with a wet washcloth, or stroke her under the chin to keep her awake if she starts dozing off. 
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    Offer the first bottle at 4-6 weeks; any later than that and your risk for bottle refusal increases. Someone else should do it. In fact, you should probably get out of the house so you’re not even tempted to help out. This will make it easier on baby to accept a bottle when she can’t see or smell your presence. 

Don’t’s

  • Skip out on buying the right tools for the job. Don’t buy a whole new wardrobe, but you should buy some good nursing bras, a nursing pillow, nipple cream, and a high suction pump. 
  • Worry too much about supply. Compared to bottle feeding, breastfeeding makes it very difficult to determine how much milk your baby is getting. And when she’s always hungry, you might question if she’s getting enough. But as long as your little one is making at least five or six wet diapers per day, your supply is just fine. 
  • Bring your breast to baby. Instead, bring your baby to you. Your baby’s stomach should be touching yours so that she doesn’t have to turn her head at all. Also, point your nipple at her nose so she will lift her head up, open wide, and latch on deeply.
  • Wait to get help. Contact a lactation expert as soon as you are having any trouble. Speak up if your baby is not gaining enough weight, if your nipple is injured, if nursing hurts, or if you gut says something isn’t right. Visit ILCA.org to find a certified consultant in your area. 
  • Count minutes. You should leave your baby on your first breast until he comes off on his own accord and then offer your second breast. Babies will take one breast at some feedings and both breasts at other feedings.
  • Feel ashamed. Whether it be nursing in public or night weaning your baby, there’s always going to be someone who has an opinion on it. But what’s important is doing what’s right for you and your baby and not worrying about what other people have to say about it. 

In the end, know that newborns nurse A LOT. You should feed your baby 8-10 times a day and keep track of feedings so that you can confirm with your pediatrician that your baby is receiving enough nourishment. Breast milk is the perfect food for babies and your child will help your body learn how much milk it needs to make. And this can take time. If you are concerned or having trouble, contact a lactation consultant and/or your doctor to help you out.

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Bottle Feeding

Bottle feeding refers to a baby that if fed using a bottle rather than directly nursing from the breast. The bottle can contain either milk or formula (but not usually both simultaneously). If the bottle contains breast milk, this is accomplished using a breast pump or in rare cases milk from a donor mom. On the other side, there are a few reasons a bottle may contain formula:

  1. Formula can be used to supplement breast milk or solid foods in the early stages,
  2. Mom cannot produce milk,
  3. Baby refuses to breastfeed, 
  4. Other circumstances such as medication, job demands, demanding toddlers, infection, unfixable latching issues, severe postpartum depression, and more,
  5. Mom decides it’s best for her health or the baby’s health to not breastfeed for whichever reason.  

There’s an endless amount of reasons to use formula, and any decision to do so should be respected and there is no shame in this decision. Either way, the baby was fed and loved; and that’s really all that matters. Many campaigns touting the wonders of breastfeeding have been so remarkably successful that some women feel ashamed and guilty that they can’t or won’t breastfeed. This is unfortunate because these mothers are likely doing a wonderful job.

Something to think about: bottle-feeding peaked post World War II, a time during which childhood obesity was extremely rare and the baby boomers still managed to create a technologically advanced modern society. Plus, while about 75% of moms breastfeed, that figure falls to about 40% after 6 months. No woman should feel guilty about feeding her baby with healthy formula. We should all really just quit crying over spilled milk. 

Whether your bottle is filled with formula or milk, there’s a plenty of do’s and don’t’s to consider when bottle feeding your little one:

Do’s

  • Wash bottles and nipples/teats with hot soap and water and rinse well between uses. Some experts recommend using a bottle sterilizer, especially if your little one is immune compromised. You should also sterilize these things before the first use by boiling in water for at least five minutes. 
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    Emphasize cleanliness. Wash hands before handling any feeding tools. When using formula, wash, rinse, and dry the top of the formula can before opening and also clean any utensils such as a can opener, mixing container, and/or spoon. Record lot numbers in case any recalls happen. 
  • Use boiling water. Powdered baby formula is not sterile so it should be mixed with water that is at least  70°C/158°F to kill any possible bacteria or use prepared formula. You should also determine beforehand if your tap water is safe for babies or if an alternate source should be sought after. 
  • Watch your baby for signs that he needs a break. If the milk flows too quickly, you might need a different nipple; the baby should actively have to suck to get milk. 
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    Burp your baby halfway through and after feedings. Bottle fed babies may need this more than breast fed babies. If your little one seems fussy, trying help them relieve some gas that may be built up. 

Don’t’s

  • Mix formula and breast milk in the same bottle. There isn’t anything physiologically wrong with this; it’s just that you don’t want to waste breast milk if your baby doesn’t finish the bottle. Instead, start out with breast milk, then follow with formula as a supplement. 
  • Warm the bottle in the microwave. This can create hot spots in the milk that can burn your baby’s mouth. Bottle warmers can be super effective and save you time. 
  • Don’t force the nipple. Just like nursing, you want to elicit a rooting response and provide the nipple for latching. Once baby is done, don’t force him to drink more as this can lead to excessive weight gain. 
  • Use powdered formula if you baby is under 2 months old, born prematurely and not yet past two months after their expected due date, or has a compromised immune system. These little tikes should only be given concentrated liquid or ready to serve formula. 
  • Feed your baby when she’s lying on her back. Instead, she should be upright (or semi-upright) to help prevent bottle caries and increased risk of ear infection. 
  • Only hold your baby when feeding. You should hold your child more than just during feedings to prevent training your baby to eat in order to be held. 
  • Don’t hold the bottle flat. Aim for 45 degrees or higher to help prevent excessive air intake.

When in doubt, ask! Your pediatrician will be able to give solid advice on when to start stretching out your feedings, begin sleep coaching, increase volume of feedings, etc. And while nursing pillows are named like they’re for breastfeeding, they make a great addition to any bottle feeding session. They take the extra strain off your back and shoulders, all the while keeping baby comfortable and at an appropriate angle that helps prevent bottle caries. 

Remember, whatever your reason is for bottle feeding (whether that bottle contains milk or formula), you should never feel guilty or ashamed. Being a mom is tough and you should always do whatever is right for both you and baby, not just baby. Reach out whenever you need help and try to create a support system within your family to help keep you motivated and healthy. 

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Solid Foods

Compared to breastfeeding and bottle feeding, solids food is in its own realm. This is the time in your baby’s life when he/she will be exposed to many different new tastes and textures, and will experience many new things (like different poop!). Many parents find themselves confused during this time period about when to start the process, what to start with, and how much variety to incorporate because they’ve received so many differing opinions. On the other hand, some parents have an exact plan and know what they’re doing. Either way, there’s lots of helpful hints, tips and tricks, and do’s and don’t’s that you should consider when moving into this phase of your child’s life. 

Remember, pediatricians recommend that you should solely breastfeed (or formula feed) your baby for at least the first six months. After that, you can start introducing solid foods to supplement milk/formula. However, food shouldn’t overtake milk until at least 12 months – milk should be the main source of nutrients until baby is at least 12 months old. Every child reaches the different milestones at different rates, so how do you know when your little one is ready? There are four factors to consider:

  1. Can they move food from spoon to throat? If you spoon feed your baby food and they spit it out and it dribbles down their chin, they probably aren’t ready yet. The ability to move food to the back of the mouth for swallowing is a skill that comes with time. It will take some practice, but not until your baby is ready for the task at hand.  
  2. Is she big enough? Generally speaking, when infants weigh more than 13 pounds and are double their birth weight, they are more likely to be ready for solid foods. 
  3. Does he seem interested? If your baby watches you eat, reaches for your food, and seems eager to be fed, it might be time to start trying solid foods. 
  4. Can she hold her head up? With good head control, your infant should be able to sit in a high chair, infant seat, or feeding seat. 

Readiness for solid foods varies greatly and you shouldn’t force it, but the average is between 4-6 months. If your baby cries or turns away when you offer food, return to exclusively nursing / bottle feeding for a couple more weeks before trying again. Plus, don’t be surprised when the first few feedings end with more food everywhere else other than your infant’s tummy.

There are three phases of solid food:

  • Stage 1: foods in this stage are single ingredient, non-processed foods that are extremely watered down with milk/formula. Stereotypically, people first think of “baby cereal,” although there is no evidence to suggest that foods should be introduced in any particular order. 
  • Stage 2: these foods are slightly thicker / less watered down than stage 1 but are still non-processed, no sugar foods that are easy for baby to digest. The main feature of this stage compared to stage 1 is an expanded menu of lots of different flavors, tastes, and textures. 
  • Stage 3: the first two stages are more purees while stage 3 is considered to be “soft chunks.” Foods can also be offered in combination instead of single ingredient recipes. 

While this milestone can be an exciting one, it also can be quite the difficult challenge. Here are some do’s and don’ts to guide you along the way:

Do’s

  • Start good habits early. Practice taking food from a spoon, stopping when full, and resting between bites. Your should encourage family meals as much as possible as this has been shown to have positive effects on the development of children. 
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    Be prepared for interesting poops. It’s normal for your child’s poop to become more solid, vary in color, and have a stronger odor (which I never thought was possible!)
  • Introduce foods gradually. Wait 3-4 days between new food introductions before adding anything else new. This gives you time to look for any type of negative reaction (e.g., rash, diarrhea, or vomiting) and you will know exactly what caused it. 
  • Mix it up. Each stage of food has new items that are added to the menu. Within a few months of starting solids, your little one’s diet should consist of a variety of foods such as milk/formula, meats, cereal, vegetables, eggs, fruits, and fish.
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    Always keep an eye on your baby when they’re eating. Especially when your little one starts eating finger foods, it’s important that an adult watches baby to ensure safety during these new tasks. 

Don’t’s

  • Stick with baby cereal. Traditionally, single-grain cereals are usually introduced first. That being said, there is no evidence to suggest that introducing foods in any type of order has an advantage. Explore the menu in each stage and expand your baby’s horizons. 
  • Offer them juice. You shouldn’t give your baby juice until they’re older than 12 months; and even then, it should be only 100% fruit juice and less than 4 ounces per day. Juice just reduces your baby’s appetite for more nutritious foods and drinks such as fruits and milk. 
  • Wait to introduce typical allergy causing foods. There isn’t any evidence to suggest that waiting to introduce stereotypical allergen foods (such as soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts, or fish) beyond 4-6 months prevents a food allergy from forming. If a parent has a severe allergy or if you think your baby is having a reaction, contact your pediatrician.
  • Don’t give them any food that requires chewing or can be a choking hazard. This includes hot dogs (even baby food hot dogs), chunks of meat or cheese, whole grapes, raw vegetables, etc. Everything should be soft, cut into small pieces, and easy to swallow. 

Starting solid foods can be a frustrating milestone but it can also be so much fun to watch the faces your baby will make when trying new tastes and textures. This is one of the greatest steps towards toddler-hood and before you know it, your baby will be a food connoisseur. But in the meantime, start good habits early, include a wide variety of foods each day, and buy a high chair that’s super easy to clean!

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