What feeding a newborn really looks like
Expectant parents often daydream of the little fingers and little toes that will be joining their family in the coming weeks or months. Daydreaming, for most expectant parents, will also include things like diaper bags, baby carriers, and feeding. We plan, we study, and we prepare for what those first days and months of a having a newborn will be like; and when your baby is born you begin to navigate the waters of feeding. With the movement and flow of modern life, feeding a newborn looks different for every parent; and when it comes to feeding your baby, the ‘right way’ is the way that works best for both baby and parent.
Exclusively Breastfeeding: This feeding method may seen like the most common way to feed and nourish a newborn, but surprisingly, it isn’t. Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as feeding a newborn only human milk either from the breast, expressed milk, or a wet nurse for the first 6 months of life. With many excellent breast pumps on the market, and a strong global community of women donating and selling breast milk, it is entirely possible for newborns to be exclusively breastfed without ever nursing at the breast. If a mother desires to feed her baby on the breast, having the help of an experience lactation consultant, doctor, or doula can make the difference in success and joy in breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is an art, and sometimes we are natural artists with our baby, and other times we need support in developing those skills. Ask for help when you need it, early on is best.
Part Time and Full Time Pumpers: Part of breastfeeding, for many families, is expressed or pumped milk. Using a breast pump full time or casually to express extra milk allows babies to receive the benefits of breast milk even when parents need to be away from their baby for an extended period of time, or for families where lactation is not an option. Pumping is different than breastfeeding, and it takes finesse and often times a good amount of trial and error to find the right pump, the right settings, and the right schedule for expressing milk. For parents who pump exclusively, getting on a schedule early on will help your body respond better to the pump.
Many parents find great success with looking at a picture or holding a blanket that their baby has slept in. The smell or the sight of your baby can increase your milk flow, allowing for easier and faster pumping.
Formula: When it comes to formula, there are many options available to parents including organic and even goats milk formula. This nutrient packed food is an excellent option for babies, and allows parents to care for and nourish their newborn. With the ever growing changes and new developments in formula, the micro nutrients your baby will receive are astounding, and can provide full nutrition for your growing child. Choosing the right formula, much like many baby products, can take a few tries; some babies have sensitive stomachs and need more specialized formula. Be sure to watch for signs that your baby is not handling a brand of formula well; signs may include: gas, diarrhea, or a rash. Make sure to speak with your pediatrician when you have questions about allergic reactions.
As you can see, there are several ways to feed your baby, and the most common way to feed a baby is…a mixture of all of the above. Most parents will combine breast milk with formula at some point in the first year of life.
For parents who are worried that they will not bond fully with their newborn if they do not breastfeed, there are many ways to encourage bonding and love that have nothing to do with the breast. Other ways to bond with your baby can include:
1- Snuggle while bottle feeding
2- Bathing together
3- Reading together
4- Skin to skin
5- Wearing your baby
Partners often want to take on the joy, and relieve some of the burden of constant feeding in the early weeks after a baby is born. Encourage your partner, or other family members to feed a bottle, snuggle skin to skin, or take the baby for a walk. Feeding a baby is more about bonding, growth, and nourishment then it is about what type of milk they are drinking.
We are a community of parents supporting parents, designed to build each other up, rather than tear each other apart. As your go through your pregnancy and the early stages of parenthood, well-meaning advice will find its way to you. As neighbors, strangers, and even family try to support or sway you in your feeding choices; remember that the the ‘right way’ to feed your baby, is the way that works best for your family.
Marinda Lloyd is the Co-Owner of The Doula House L.L.C
The Doula House provides support for families from pregnancy through the first year.