Originally published: Oct 16th/2018; Updated: June 11th/2019
Feeding a newborn can be scary!
Bringing home a newborn baby can spark a roller coaster of emotions. This is especially true for first time parents… even when everything is going fine.
Yep, your life has changed! Like, a lot. Amazing and scary isn’t it?
We get a lot of parents asking questions about feeding their newborn. We love this stage, and it’s a great opportunity for us to support new parents!
Some parents are super prepared (books, prenatal class, etc.), and others are taking it in stride. There’s no right or wrong. No judgement.
The bottom line is that your own unique baby has very specific needs. Even the most prepared parents will struggle when deprived of sleep, are nervous, and lack experience.
Breastmilk or formula?
It’s your decision whether you breastfeed, formula feed, or do both. Above all, we hope that you feel supported in your choice.
Whatever you choose, meeting your baby’s nutritional and emotional needs is most important.
If you want to breastfeed or formula feed, but it isn’t going as well as you would like, it may be time to seek help from an expert. We want every family to feel supported in reaching their health and wellness goals.
Fed is best. But the first days (hours!) back home with your newborn can be overwhelming.
Feeding your newborn until they reach their birth weight
For newborn babies, losing 5-10% of their birth weight is normal in the first few days of life.
Why do they lose this weight? It’s due to the loss of excess fluid. After all, they used to live in the womb, surrounded by amniotic fluid!
While you and your baby adjust to your new feeding schedule, keep an eye on the clock. Aim to feed every ~2 hours until baby reaches his/her birth weight, at around 2 weeks of age.
Everyone needs to learn the ropes and get comfortable with feeding. The more opportunity the better.
In the very first days after birth, it might be necessary to wake up your baby regularly for feedings.
How often do you need to feed your newborn?
Babies eat often. Always.
You can expect your baby to nurse 8-12 times over a 24 hour period. This translates to every 2-3 hours!
The other important detail is that feedings may last up to 45 minutes each time. This can leave you very little room between feeding sessions.
When it’s all new you will roll with the crazy schedule. But after long days and nights it can wear you down. But, it gets better!
You might feel like that is the only thing you are doing…and you’re probably right! Maude used to say she felt like a cow getting milked all day.
Another dose of reality: breastfed babies may need more frequent feedings. This is because baby digests breast milk faster than formula milk.
Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, get comfortable! Organize yourself a nursing station.
Here are the essentials:
- Books or an E-reader
- Cell phone
- Lip balm
- Water bottle
- Burping cloths,
Everything you need to survive a whole day without moving!
You might feel that you are feeding baby a lot, and for long period of times. So get comfortable!
What does it mean to feed your newborn “on demand”?
Once your baby has gained back their weight, you can move towards feeding on demand. What does that even mean? To simply forget the clock, and feed when baby show signs of hunger.
Signs baby is hungry
- Moving head from side-to-side
- Reaching for the breast
- Sucking on his/her fist
- Smacking his lips
Feeding on demand implies that you stay alert to your baby’s signs of hunger and honour them regardless of the time of day (or night!).
How milk is enough? How to know if you are feeding your newborn adequately?
So far we’ve emphasized feeding on demand and adopting a responsive feeding approach.
But, you can also keep an eye on baby’s diaper. Keep track of the number of wet diapers and number of stools baby passes over 24 hours.
Not sure what a “wet” diaper is? Take a diaper you bought and drop 1-2 tablespoons of water on it. There you go!
Disposable diapers have little pellets that absorb liquid and turn into jelly. Some brands also have convenient colour-changing strips when wet.
A quick word of caution on the magical colour-changing strips. They depend on the volume of pee, and the volume produced by a newborn may not be enough to change colours.
Cloth diapers might be easier to notice when wet, but when in doubt, try to wet an insert and get a feel!
Urine colour indicates your baby’s hydration. Darker = dehydrated, lighter = well fed/hydrated.
Bowel movements will get more regular once baby passes the first poop. We’re talking about the sticky, dark meconium. You can expect 2-3 bowel movements every day when baby becomes regular.
Since baby only eats milk, expect a very runny, yellow and seedy stool. As baby drinks more milk and their digestive tract matures, stools may become less frequent and more formed.
Everything that comes in must come out. Watch the diaper to make sure baby is getting enough milk.
Should I worry? My newborn spits up after feeding
Babies may spit up a little bit, or burp after feeding. It’s normal. Often times, they may swallow air as they feed.
As the milk settles in the stomach, the air will come out. This may explain why your baby burps or regurgitates (with or without curdled milk!)
What is not normal is vomiting after a feed or if you notice your baby seems very uncomfortable.
If you feel something is unusual or getting worse, seek help from your doctor.
Vomiting or reflux can be a sign of an allergy, digestive problems, or other health conditions.
Tips to minimize spit up
- Try new feeding positions, like holding baby upright so that the milk stays in the stomach!
- Keep baby sitting up, or at least not fully laying down for 30 minutes after the feed. A baby carrier can become handy!
- Although you have little control, slow down the feeding. Trying to feed in a calm atmosphere helps. If using a bottle, try different nipples with various size holes that can slow down the feed.
Burping is normal after a feed. Vomiting is not. Have your doctor assess the cause of vomiting.
Does my newborn need an iron supplement?
No. Assuming that mama ate well during pregnancy, baby has stored enough iron to last for the first 6 months of life.
Generally, there is no need to give a supplement of iron. The exceptions are if there were birth complications or your doctor indicates otherwise.
At around 6 months of age, your baby will transition to solid foods. This is when the “iron-rich food first” will be important.
Baby has a nice iron reserve that will last for the first 6 months of life – no need for a supplement.
Does my newborn need water?
Your baby doesn’t need any water (or other fluid) until they eat solid food. Stick to the milk (breast or formula).
If the weather is warm, feed baby more often to ensure good hydration.
If baby is sick or going through a growth spurt, feed on demand. This may mean almost non-stop for what feels like the whole day!
Baby doesn’t need water. Stick to milk!
The only other thing your newborn needs: vitamin D supplement
Health Canada recommends that all breastfed infants receive a supplement of vitamin D.
We also suggest that formula fed babies receive one too. Formula contains vitamin D, but baby may not drink enough to meet their requirements.
So, all babies should received a daily supplement of vitamin D.
Starting at birth, give a daily dose of 400 IU/day of vitamin D to your baby.
You can find liquid vitamin D drops for babies, where one drop represent the daily dose to administer. If you are vegetarian or vegan, more and more options (LINK: vit D) are available on the market.
Note: Maude studied vitamin D extensively during her PhD, so if you have questions please ask!
Besides milk, baby needs a daily supplement of vitamin D.
Your breastfed baby’s nutrition depends on your own nutrition
What goes in your breast milk depends on your own dietary choices.
It’s important to not forget yourself, even if you are in awe of your baby!
Having ready-to-eat, frozen, or quick-to-assemble meals can be life saving.
Keep sustaining snacks and a water bottle in your nursing corner.
Alcohol, some herbal teas, and medications can be dangerous for baby. Some of the compounds within these items pass through your breast milk, exposing baby to whatever you may have consumed.
Moms also need to be well fed in early postpartum!
My newborn baby has colic – can it be my breast milk?
Maybe (and that is also true for formula).
Colic can be the result of a food allergy. This means changing your own diet if you wish to pursue breastfeeding. If you formula feed, you may need to change in formula to avoid the allergen in cause.
Some evidence points towards the following food triggers: dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, cruciferous vegetables, cow’s milk, onion, and chocolate
Eliminate foods one at a time to determine its association with your baby’s symptoms.
If you don’t see an improvement, there is no reason to cut that food from your diet. A registered dietitian can guide you so you don’t exclude more food than required.
Probiotics may help babies with colic. Some evidence supports the strain L. reuteri DSM 17938 to help symptoms of colic in infants.
A change in the mom’s diet or a change in formula might be helping infants with colic
These are the most commonly asked about topics and questions from our clients. If you are struggling with your unique circumstances and need help, contact us so we can help you figure out the right help for you!
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Swerts M, Westhof E, Bogaerts A, Lemiengre J. Supporting breast-feeding women from the perspective of the midwife: a systematic review of the literature. Midwifery. 2016 Jun 1;37:32-40. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0266613816000541