Feeding your Baby
No matter which way your baby entered the world, one of the first things they are programmed to want is food. Your baby’s nutrient supply gets cut off when they are born. From that time on, they need to get all their nutrition from what you feed them.
The how and what of feeding your baby are individual choices which may be influenced by several factors. This is concerning both what you feed them, and how you feed them.
What should I feed my baby?
What you feed your baby comes down to a choice between breast milk and formula. You may also supply a combination of the two, called mixed feeding. These are the only two kinds of milk (or alternatives) that are suitable and safe for infants under six months of age. Cows milk is excellent for baby cows, not so much for baby people. This fact is valid for the milk of any other animal. Solid foods are unnecessary, as is water so long as baby is getting their required volume of either breastmilk or formula every day (11). Other liquids such as juice, soft drink and milk additives (such as milo) are not necessary and are unhealthy for your baby.
How should I feed my baby?
How you feed your baby will depend on many factors, including:
- Culture – in some cultures, breastfeeding is expected; in others, bottles are more acceptable.
- Environment – women may feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding their baby in a public place. They also may not have unrestricted access to the baby due to returning to work.
- Baby’s ability to suck – A preterm baby may not have the strength to suck. These babies can be fed through a tube, by spoon, by syringe or by cup until they are strong enough to take the breast or the bottle.
- Access to clean, fresh water – The ability to clean bottles is affected by access to suitable water to wash them in.
Whatever your circumstances, the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond. In cases where breastfeeding is not a viable option, a suitable breastmilk substitute (such as infant formula) must be used (11).
Dr Janelle McAlpine (PhD), Clinical Midwife
Photo by Tong_stocker, used under license from Shutterstock.com