Feeding Your Newborn—bottle or breast

Mom breastfeeding newbornMany babies have little or no appetite for the first few days. Your baby may suckle for a few minutes, then fall asleep, only to wake up crying as soon as you try to put him down. His appetite will pick up soon, but it may take several weeks for him to get into an eating pattern. The only food newborns need is milk which they get from sucking your breast or a bottle. Babies are born knowing how to suck and how to swallow.

You should be able to hear him swallow every 1 to 3 sucks. Your baby is probably getting enough milk if he sleeps soundly between feedings, wets 6 to 10 diapers each day, and stops crying when you feed him. Give your baby only breastmilk or formula until your doctor tells you otherwise; your baby does not need water or juice or until then.

If your baby refuses to take a bottle or breast for more than one feeding, call your pediatrician.


If you are nursing, your baby’s initial lack of appetite may be helpful while your milk production is beginning. Even if your baby doesn’t seem hungry, provide him with colostrum and stimulate your breasts to make milk by offering him a breast every few hours.

Breast milk contains everything your baby needs to grow. Breast milk is always at the right temperature and is easy for babies to digest. Breast milk also contains germ fighting proteins, called antibodies, which protect newborns from infection.

Your baby will suck the strongest at the beginning of each feeding. Alternate the “first breast” with each feeding, then switch breasts after you burp him. Breast-fed babies should nurse every 2 to 3 hours during the day and at least every 4 hours during the night. Feedings usually last about 20 to 30 minutes with 10 to 15 minutes for each breast. Babies get most of their milk during the first few minutes. Feeding time helps satisfy your baby’s need for suckling and human contact. Talk to your baby while you nurse; he loves to hear your voice.

Breast milk that has never been refrigerated or frozen is good at room temperature for 5 hours; it’s good in the refrigerator for 5 days. Breastfed babies may need vitamin D drops or iron supplements, talk to your pediatrician before giving your baby these supplements.

To make sure you have a good milk supply, nurse your baby often, drink plenty of fluids every day, and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your doctor may have you continue taking your pre-natal vitamins and eat extra calories for as long as you are nursing. It is very important for you to get plenty of rest. Your breasts are producing enough milk if your baby wets 6 to 10 diapers and has 1 to 2 bowel movements (BMs) each day, and is gaining weight.

Any medicines you take pass through your milk to your baby. Before taking over-the-counter medicine, ask your pharmacist how it will affect your baby. If your doctor prescribes medicine for you, let him know you are breastfeeding. Drugs, such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, are also passed through your milk to your baby and should be avoided.


Breastfeeding is recommended for babies, but there are many store-bought formulas you can choose from and your pediatrician can help you choose the best formula for your baby. A bottle-fed newborn is getting enough milk to grow if he takes 2 to 4 ounces per feeding every 3 to 4 hours. Usually, a bottle-fed baby will not be hungry again for about 3 to 4 hours. If he cries sooner than 3 to 4 hours and his crying keeps up for more than 20 minutes, offer him another bottle.

Types of Formula

Baby formula is available in the following forms:
Ready-to-feed: This type of formula does not need water added. It comes in multiple or single-serving cans, or in ready-to-use baby bottles. It’s convenient, but it’s also the most expensive type available.
Concentrated liquid: This type of formula is packaged and needs water added. To use it, follow the instructions provided on the label.
Powdered formula: Powdered formula also needs water added. Always follow the instructions for formula preparation and storage provided on the label. This is the least expensive type of formula. It can be easily stored and carried with you.

Prepare your baby’s formula per instructions that comes with the formula. Do not weaken the formula by adding extra water. Always test the temperature of the milk before giving it to your baby. To test the temperature, let a few drops of milk fall from the nipple on to the inside of your wrist. This will also show you how fast the milk is coming from the nipple. Because microwaves do not heat evenly, it is not recommended that you warm your newborn’s milk in a microwave oven.

Hold your baby when you feed him—for nutrition, security, and bonding. Sit in a comfortable chair with your baby cradled in one arm. To keep your arm from getting tired, use a pillow to prop up the arm holding your baby. Hold your baby almost upright, with his head well above the level of his stomach. To keep him from swallowing air, hold the bottle so the nipple is filled with milk. Hold your baby and talk to him while you feed him to strengthen the bond between the two of you. Never leave your baby alone with a propped bottle as he may choke.

If your baby doesn’t finish his bottle, pour out the leftover formula. Saliva can enter the bottle through the nipple and cause the formula to break down. Also, warm milk is an ideal place for germs to grow.

Throw away room temperature formula after 2 hours. Formula made from liquid concentrate can be stored in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Formula made from powder can be stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Do not clean your baby’s bottle nipple by putting it in your mouth—your mouth may contain germs that can cause problems for your baby.

How Often Should You Burp Your Baby?

Burping your baby can help reduce spitting up by releasing gas trapped in your baby’s stomach.

• Always keep a towel or cloth diaper handy when burping your baby; a little spit up is normal.
• Burp your baby halfway through the feeding and again after your baby is finished feeding. For a newborn this means after every 1/2 ounce.
• To burp him, sit your baby on your lap with one hand on his chest and supporting his chin and head. Gently rub-pat your baby’s back with the other hand.
• Or, put your baby over your shoulder letting him “sit” on your forearm held against your chest. Gently pat him on the back.

Keep the nipple full of milk while you feed your baby to keep him from swallowing air. Breast fed babies do not swallow as much air and do not need to be burped as often.

When You Want to Know More
Want to Know More?

Your newborn’s posture begins to develop as soon as she begins to nurse or take a bottle. The complex task of learning to breathe, swallow and suck—all at the same time—strengthens her neck to support the weight of her head. This is no small feat as a newborn’s head is 1/4th of it’s body length as compared to an adult which is 1/8th. Postural development continues downward from the neck for about a year when babies begin walking.

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Caring For Your Newborn Booklet

Caring For Your Newborn

Table of Contents
Caring Begins at Birth
Your Newborn’s Hospital Check-up
Ten Fingers and Ten Toes
Special Care for Your Newborn
When Your Newborn Cries
Changing Your Newborn’s Diaper
Feeding Your Newborn – breast or bottle feeding
Feeding Your Newborn – spit ups, weight gain, BMs
Bathing Your Newborn
Dressing Your Newborn
Shhh!! We’re Sleeping
Keeping Your Baby Safe
Your Newborn’s Admirers
Taking Your Newborn Out
If Your Newborn Gets a Cold
If You Have Questions
Well-baby Check-ups
When to Call Your Pediatrician
Take Care of Yourself, Too
Teddy Beat Drying