Babies who are breastfed are generally healthier and achieve optimal growth and development compared to those who are fed formula milk.
If the vast majority of babies were exclusively fed breast milk in their first six months of life: meaning only breast milk and no other liquids or solids, not even water: it is estimated that the lives of at least 1.2 million children would be saved every year. If children continue to be breastfed up to two years and beyond, the health and development of millions of children would be greatly improved.
Infants who are not breastfed are at an increased risk of illness that can compromise their growth and raise the risk of death or disability. Breastfed babies receive protection from illnesses through the mother’s milk
- Stick with breast milk or formula
In most cases, breast milk is the ideal food for babies. If breast-feeding isn’t possible, use infant formula. Healthy newborns don’t need water, juice or other fluids.
2. Feed your newborn on demand
Most newborns need eight to 12 feedings a day: about one feeding every two to three hours.
3. Expect variations in your newborn’s eating patterns
Your newborn won’t necessarily eat the same amount every day. During growth spurts; often at two to three weeks after birth and again at six weeks after birth: your newborn might take more at each feeding or want to be fed more often. Respond to early signs of hunger, rather than keeping a strict eye on the clock.
4. Consider each feeding a time to bond with your newborn
Hold your newborn close during each feeding. Look him or her in the eye. Speak with a gentle voice. Use each feeding as an opportunity to build your newborn’s sense of security, trust and comfort.
5. Know when to ask for help
If you’re having trouble breast-feeding, ask a lactation consultant or your baby’s doctor for help; especially if every feeding is painful or your baby isn’t gaining weight. If you haven’t worked with a lactation consultant, ask your baby’s doctor for a referral or check with the obstetrics department at a local hospital.
6. Trust your instincts: and your newborn’s
You might worry that your newborn isn’t eating enough, but babies usually know just how much they need. Don’t focus on how much, how often or how regularly your newborn eats. Instead, look for:
- Steady weight gain
- Contentment between feedings
- By the fifth day after birth, at least six wet diapers and three or more bowel movements a day
Contact the doctor if your newborn isn’t gaining weight, wets fewer than six diapers a day or shows little interest in feedings.