Whether you are a new parent or a more experienced parent, you may have questions or concerns about feeding your newborn.

Breastfeeding is considered the best option for the health and development of infants, and many experts recommend breastfeeding newborns until they are at least six months old.

However, breastfeeding is not always possible for everyone. Feeding your newborn infant formula can be a healthy choice. Information about bottle-feeding is provided elsewhere. Additional video is available for more information about bottle-feeding.

About Breastfeeding

Your breasts will start to make colostrum, a sticky, milk-like liquid, very soon after you give birth. Colostrum supports your baby's ability to fight off infections by passing your antibodies from your immune system to the baby.

Milk starts to come in within a few days. Your body will make as much milk as your newborn needs, even if you have twins. You should feed your newborn every two to three hours. The contents of your breast milk will change during the feeding. At each feeding, the breast milk at the beginning will be more watery. This foremilk gives your baby needed liquid, and keeps prevent dehydration. Later in the feeding, the creamier hindmilk provides most of the protein, fat, and additional antibodies that your baby needs.

Like many new mothers, it may take several weeks of breastfeeding before you and your baby feel like a team. Proper positioning can make breastfeeding easier for both of you.

First, make yourself comfortable. There should be no strain on your neck or back muscles. You may want to use pillows under your baby for extra support. Next, cup your hand like the letter C. Hold your breast with your thumb on top of your breast and your fingers underneath.

To get your baby's attention, gently brush your nipple against your baby's lower lip. When your baby's mouth opens wide, as if yawning, immediately bring your baby to your breast. Both lips should turn out so the mouth covers most of the small ring of color around the nipple, called the areola. Be sure your baby's tongue is under your nipple. This is known as the latched-on position. When your baby is properly latched on, your nipples are less likely to get sore.

When latching on to your breast, make sure your baby can swallow easily. Try turning your head to one side and swallowing to feel how different positions can hurt or help breastfeeding. Now swallow again with your head facing forward. Do you notice that when your chin and Adam's apple are aligned, swallowing is effortless? Keep this in mind as you position your baby for feedings.

You should nurse for ten to fifteen minutes before changing breasts. It is important to let your baby feed long enough each time to get the right amount of nutrition. When you are ready to change breasts, gently place your finger between the gums in the corner of your baby's mouth, far enough in to open the jaw. This will break the seal between your baby's mouth and your nipple. Then reposition your baby at your other breast, and repeat these feeding steps.

Burp your baby during and after each feeding. This may enable your newborn to eat more. A good time to for burping is when you change breasts. To do this, hold your baby's belly against your shoulder and gently pat his or her back for a few minutes.

The Rhythm of Feeding

All babies lose a bit of weight immediately after birth, but they should bounce back to their birth weight two to three weeks after delivery if they are eating enough. While some babies seem to be born hungry, others are not. However, most babies eat roughly every three hours, including two or three nighttime feedings.

After the first four or five days, your baby should have at least six wet diapers and two to five bowel movements every twenty-four hours.

If Your Baby Won't Eat

Some newborns may be too sleepy to eat, but keep trying. Your baby needs to eat to avoid dehydration. Gently wake a sleeping baby for feeding about every three hours. For an active newborn, limit distractions such as TV or visitors at feeding times. Fussy or crying babies may need to be calmed before they can be fed. Do your best, but if your baby refuses two feedings in a row, call your healthcare provider.

What to Do

Only feed your newborn breast milk or formula. Do not give your newborn water, juice, or other fluids. Introducing these liquids too soon can cause diarrhea, which can be dangerous by altering electrolytes.

You should avoid drinking alcohol, particularly in large amounts. If you do drink alcohol occasionally, avoid breastfeeding for two hours afterward.

Talk to your healthcare provider about any medications you are using including:

  • prescription and over-the-counter drugs

  • vitamins, and dietary or herbal supplements or

  • before starting any new ones.

You can still breastfeed if you smoke tobacco. However, for your baby's health, as well as your own, you should try to quit smoking as soon as possible. If you are unable to quit, it is very important that you avoid smoking near your baby, because tobacco smoke increases your baby's risk of developing asthma and wheezing. You should tell others to avoid smoking near your baby or not to smoke inside your home.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

Call your healthcare provider right away:

  • if your baby refuses two feedings in a row

  • if your baby has white patches on the lips, mouth, tongue, or throat

  • if your baby is listless, refuses to nurse, or is sleeping too much

  • if your baby is losing weight after the first week or

  • if your baby has a temperature over 99 degrees Fahrenheit when taken under the arm

Call your lactation consultant if you have twins, a premature baby, a baby with special needs, or if you have sore nipples or trouble breastfeeding. You should also contact your healthcare provider:

  • if you have symptoms of mastitis, such as a red spot or streaks on your breast, flu-like symptoms, or a fever

  • if you have a rash or cracks on your nipples, or if they burn or itch

  • if you have a hard lump in your breast or

  • if you feel very sad or don't want to be with your baby

What We Have Learned

Many experts recommend breastfeeding newborns until they are at least six months old. True or False The answer is True

Proper positioning is important during breastfeeding. True or False The answer is True

You should contact your healthcare provider if your newborn refuses two feedings in a row. True or False The answer is True