Taking Care of Baby

Feeding baby

Mother holding hungry babyFor the first six months of your baby’s life, the only nutrition he needs is breast milk or formula.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the best form of infant feeding. Formula is not identical to breast milk, but formulas do provide an appropriate level of nutrition. Both approaches are safe and healthy for your baby, and each has its advantages. 

  • Newborns need to be fed every two to three hours, but a strict feeding schedule isn’t necessary. 
  • Breastfed babies need to eat more often because breast milk digests more quickly. 
  • Don’t be alarmed if you notice your baby has lost weight in the first week; most infants lose several ounces of weight during their first week, but they should be back up to their birth weight by the end of the second week. 
  • If your baby sleeps for periods longer than four hours in the first two weeks, wake him for a feeding. If your baby will not stay awake long enough to eat at least eight times per day, call your pediatrician.

Breast or bottle? 

Before your baby arrives, you’ll want to consider whether you’re going to breastfeed or use formula. Regardless of which you choose, rocking, cuddling, stroking and gazing into your baby’s eyes while you feed him will enhance the experience for both of you. 

Formula feeding is not identical to breastfeeding, although formulas do provide appropriate nutrition. Nevertheless, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the healthiest form of infant feeding, and there’s evidence it’s good for you, too. 

Signs your baby is hungry

  • Moving his head from side to side while opening his mouth
  • Sticking out his tongue
  • Placing his hands and fists to his mouth
  • Puckering his lips as if to suck
  • Nuzzling against your breasts
  • Showing the rooting reflex (moving his mouth in the direction of something that’s touching his cheek)

Is baby getting enough?

You’ll know your baby is getting enough to eat if by the time your baby is a week old, he has:

  • At least six or more wet diapers each day (urine should be pale yellow).
  • Three or more bowel movements each day (stool will be soft, yellow and seedy-looking).
  • Steady weight gain – most babies are back to their birth weight in about a week and gain 4 to 8 ounces per week for the next few months.
  • Periods of happiness or calm for an hour or two after most feedings.

If you think your baby is not getting enough to eat, call your doctor right away.


Breastfeeding: Good for baby

  • Breast milk contains at least 100 ingredients not found in formula or cow’s milk. 
  • Breast milk is easier to digest.
  • Breast milk has antibodies that help babies fight infection and disease.
  • Breast milk coming directly from mother’s breast is sterile.
  • Breastfed babies may have a lower risk of childhood obesity. 

Breastfeeding: Good for you

  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.
  • Breastfeeding promotes emotional bonding with your baby.
  • Breastfeeding promotes postpartum weight loss.
  • Breastfeeding costs less than formula.

Woman breastfeeding babyTalk to your doctor about the advantages and challenges of both breastfeeding and formula feeding long before you go to the hospital to deliver. Both approaches are safe and healthy for your baby, and each has its advantages. 

Tips for getting breastfeeding off to a good start:

  • Learn about breastfeeding during pregnancy, via classes, videos, books or the Internet. 
  • Breastfeed as soon as possible after delivery.
  • Ask for help to get correct positioning and latch on. Many hospitals and birthing facilities have lactation specialists on staff who can help you.
  • Nurse often, at least every three hours or eight to 12 times each 24 hours.
  • Listen for swallowing sounds during the feeding to make sure everything is going down well.
  • Let your baby be the judge of when he’s had enough. He should seem satisfied and look relaxed.
  • Baby should wet and soil at least six diapers every day.
  • The number of wet and soiled diapers should increase each day during the first week of life.
  • If you are breastfeeding, your baby needs to be seen by his pediatrician within 48 to 72 hours after you leave the hospital. During this visit, your baby will be weighed and examined, and your breastfeeding technique can be evaluated. It’s also an opportunity for you to ask questions.

If you need help or advice about breastfeeding, call your local WIC clinic, the Arkansas Department of Health at 1-800-445-6175 or La Leche League at 1-877-452-5324. You also can go to their website at www.llli.org.

What happens if you get sick while you’re nursing?

Most experts agree that the best thing for you and your baby is to continue nursing. Your body will produce antibodies to the bug causing your illness, and you will pass those along to your baby through your breast milk. If your baby does get sick, he will probably only get a very mild case of the illness.

Very few diseases or illnesses require breastfeeding to stop. If you’re sick, talk to your doctor. 

Some over-the-counter medications are considered safe for nursing mothers, and others are not. Always ask your doctor before taking any medication while you’re nursing.

Storing and preparing expressed breast milk

Breast milk is very versatile. It is perfect straight from your breast, or it can be expressed and stored for later use. Follow these safe storage and preparation tips to keep your expressed milk healthy for your baby:

  • Wash your hands before expressing or handling your milk.
  • Use only clean containers to store milk. 
  • Freeze milk if you do not plan to use it within 24 hours. Frozen milk is good for at least one month in a freezer.
  • Carefully label the milk with the date and time that you expressed it. Use the oldest milk first. 
  • Freeze 2 to 4 ounces of milk per container, to avoid wasting milk after you thaw it.
  • Do not refreeze your milk.
  • Do not add fresh milk to already frozen milk in a storage container.
  • Thaw milk in the refrigerator.
  • Use milk thawed in the refrigerator within 24 hours.
  • Do not save unfinished milk from a partially used bottle to use at another feeding.
  • Never use a microwave to heat bottles. Uneven heating can scald your baby and excessive heat can destroy important proteins and vitamins in the milk. 

Feeding formula

All formulas manufactured in the United States must meet strict nutritional standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so don’t be fooled into thinking that expensive, brand-name formula is any better for your baby than a generic brand. But make sure to check the expiration date on all cans and bottles of formula, and don’t use formula from leaky, dented or otherwise damaged containers. 

Sometimes you may need to change the formula you feed your baby. Reasons for switching baby formula include food allergies, a baby’s need for more iron, extreme fussiness or diarrhea. These symptoms can also be signs of something unrelated to the baby’s formula. In that case, a change may not help or could make the baby’s symptoms worse. That’s why you should always talk to your baby’s doctor before changing infant formulas. And call your doctor if your baby has any of these symptoms:

  • Dry, red and scaly skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme fatigue or weakness
  • Forceful vomiting

For more information on feeding your baby, visit www.askbaby.com, kidshealth.org or marchofdimes.com.

Bottle basics

Woman bottle feeding babyBaby bottles certainly have their place, even if you are breastfeeding. Moms who breastfeed often express their milk by pumping and then storing it in the freezer or refrigerator for times when they can’t nurse.

  • Always hold your baby when feeding.
  • Keep plenty of formula and ready-to-use bottles on hand.
  • Sterilize bottles and nipples before first use and after every use.
  • Throw away bottle contents that sit at room temperature for more than one hour to reduce the risk of infections due to salmonella or other bacteria.
  • Never use the microwave to warm your baby’s bottle. Dangerous “hot spots” can burn your baby.


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