We all know about the vast benefits of breastfeeding. Evidence shows that mom’s milk lowers the risk of all types of infections, decreases allergies, and improves maternal-infant bonding, not to mention saves a lot of time and money. What new moms may not anticipate is just how much anxiety she may feel in those first days. Breastfeeding is a wonderful, natural, and amazing endeavor, but for new moms who are going through lack of sleep and hormonal changes, it can be a stressful undertaking as well.
Since all babies lose some weight in their first few days of life, and you’re producing only the lower-volume (but very nutritious) colostrum those first few days, you may feel like you are not giving the baby enough. But unless there is severe jaundice and/or dehydration, you will get through this first week and start producing 100% breast milk, and your baby will likely regain her birth weight.
Nipple soreness, engorgement, and latching issues are all fair game to discuss with your pediatrician. We are affiliated with some compassionate and amazingly skilled lactation consultants who can really make a difference.
When breastfeeding, it is best to feed on demand during the first few weeks. You may have a baby that falls asleep every time she starts feeding, or one that grazes for an hour straight. Just hang in there and avoid looking at the clock! Eventually you will find your baby feeding more efficiently, every 2.5 to 3 hours or so. But in the first month, always err on the side of offering your milk. Stay well hydrated, eat healthy, and talk to your doctor about any medicines that you are taking, as most do pass to the baby. Alcohol and even caffeine can affect the baby, so discuss these issues with your doctor.
Are Supplements Necessary?
Breast milk has a slightly lower level of iron than formula, but it is easier to absorb, so you shouldn’t worry about anemia and won’t need supplemental iron. The one thing that breast milk can lack is sufficient Vitamin D. Although not common, some breastfed babies have developed rickets, or weak-bowed bones, as a result. For this reason, we recommend starting Vitamin D drops at 1 month of age. You can get the right amount in a poly- or tri-visol supplement at any pharmacy. But if you want to give only Vitamin D, make sure it’s 400 IU of it. Sun exposure may also help, but we don’t recommend too much direct sunlight for a newborn.
Many moms ask about giving their baby water. There is just the right amount of water in breast milk and formula, so you never need straight water unless the baby gets constipated. Your baby needs every ounce of nutrition to grow, and water has no calories. There have been cases where babies have gotten sick from too much water because their kidneys were overwhelmed. Fruit juices can definitely wait until 6 (or even 9) months of age, as they can provide too much sugar, even when they’re 100% natural.
I feel it’s necessary to point out that formula won’t harm your baby. Sometimes a new mom will confide in me that she feels too guilty to admit that she gives her baby formula. Manufacturers cannot duplicate breast milk, but formula-fed babies grow up to be happy, healthy people too!
There is a possibility of nipple confusion if your baby gets too used to the flow of a bottle, as it takes fewer muscles to work and is faster. But once your baby has latched well and is gaining weight, it is not harmful to introduce bottles (of either pumped milk or formula) or pacifiers. Many dads/partners are thrilled at the opportunity to feed the baby, and a flexible baby certainly has its advantages.