The parenting space is pretty “noisy”, lots of different opinions out there on feeding but also other things like soothers, swaddles, sleep etcetera and as a result we have polarized these topics! As parents/soon to be parents, we understand the recommendations on these things and then we do what is the best option for our family. Feeding your baby is no exception, we know that the World Health Organization as well as the Canadian Paediatric Society and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend offering breast milk for the first 6 months. With that being said, we have to recognize that every family and their circumstances are unique. Everyone’s feeding journey will look different and that’s okay, a fed baby is the most important thing.
New parents say to me all the time that they feel there is a lot of pressure around breastfeeding, they know the importance of it but sometimes breastfeeding is just not possible. There can be several reasons breastfeeding may be challenging but also for some mom’s breastfeeding is just not an option for medical reasons.
I am an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant that works in Labour and Delivery and when I ask new parents about feeding, I word it “how to do plan on feeding your baby?” versus “are you breastfeeding?”. Just the way we word it can really make a big difference. As nurses, we need to be committed to supporting parents to find the best feeding solution for their family. How you choose to feed your child does not define you as a parent.
Different ways to feed your baby
There are many different ways we can feed a baby! We can exclusively breastfeed, exclusively pump, exclusively formula feed, breastfeed with the occasional bottle or do a combination of feeding.
We do a lot of the same things when it comes to bottle or breastfeeding. We encourage lots of skin-to-skin time so when the little ones start displaying early signs of hunger, we can offer a feed. We encourage responsive feeding, so recognizing what their requirements are and trying to meet them but giving control to infants over how much milk they consume. With bottle feed babies we do this by using the paced bottle-feeding technique. Research tells us that encouraging responsive feeding techniques may decrease picky eating, decrease adult obesity rates and help children create lifelong healthy relationships with food. Responsive feeding helps them learn to understand hunger cues, essentially teaching them to control how much they eat and when!
Volume and frequency of feeds for a formula fed baby and a breastfed baby look similar! We know newborn’s tummy’s start off small so we offer them a small amount in the bottle initially and increase the amount over time as their belly grows! Since they start off taking just a small amount of milk we offer frequent feeds, every 2-3 hours because they will digest the milk and be hungry again soon. Once their tummy can hold more volume than we will start to see longer stretches as they feel full and satisfied for longer in-between feeds. This is the same for breastfeed babies, their tummies start out small and mom’s breasts start with producing colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk the breasts produce and it is low in volume. This matches the babies needs. Breastmilk is easily digestible so normal newborn behaviour is for them to be hungry again soon, so we recommend those same every 2–3-hour feeds. The milk supply comes in around days 3-5 postpartum and at that time the little one’s tummy has grown significantly. They are looking for more milk to feel full and satisfied and we have more to offer. Soon they can go longer stretches in-between feeds as they take in larger volumes and therefore stay fuller longer.
Breastmilk and formula have different caloric and nutrient make ups, and are digested differently. If you are bottle feeding breastmilk or formula feeding, the amount of recommended intake will be slightly different.
The goal for formula companies is to get formulas as close to mimicking breast milk as they can, so it really is the next best thing! Formula is regulated in North America for safety and nutrition therefore all store-bought formulas have been approved by Health Canada the Food and Drug Administration.
The world of infant feeding can be overwhelming, please reach out to the Mama Coach in your area for support!