Whether you're a new mom or a seasoned parenting pro,
often comes with its fair share of questions. Here are answers to
some common inquiries that mothers - new and veteran - may
Is it OK to give my baby breast milk and formula?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says babies should
be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Beyond
that, the AAP encourages breastfeeding until at least 12
months, and longer if both the mother and baby are willing.
Although experts believe breast milk is the best nutritional
choice for infants, breastfeeding (or exclusive breastfeeding) may
not be possible for all women. For many, the decision to
breastfeed and/or formula feed is based on their comfort level,
lifestyle, and specific medical considerations that they might
Most babies do not need to have formula as well as breast milk
(this is called supplementing). But for women who are having a hard
time with breastfeeding or pumping or need to go back to work,
supplementing breast milk with formula may be the only option. Of
course, the more breast milk you can give your little one, the
Babies who require supplementation may do well with a nursing
system in which formula or pumped milk goes through a small tube
that attaches to the mother's nipple.
Some experts feel that if you give bottles too early - before
your baby is used to breastfeeding - your little one might have
"nipple confusion" and may decide that the bottle is a
quicker, better option than the breast. While some babies
experience this confusion, others have no problem transitioning
between a bottle and the breast.
Most lactation professionals recommend that parents wait at
least a month before offering artificial nipples of any kind
It's important to remember that your baby's health and
happiness is, in large part, determined by what works for you as a
family. So if you need to supplement or even go to 100% formula,
your baby will be fine and healthy, especially if it creates less
stress for you.
If I want to give my baby formula, how do I start?
Depending on how much formula you'd like to give your baby
(whether it's one bottle a day, one bottle a week, or several
bottles throughout the day), you can begin to replace the desired
amount of breastfeeding or pumping sessions with bottle feeds.
Of course, as you eliminate breastfeeding sessions, your milk
supply will decrease and your body will begin to adapt to produce
enough milk to accommodate your new feeding schedule. To reduce
uncomfortable engorgement from skipping regular feedings, you may
want to gradually decrease feedings over time.
Starting your breastfed baby on formula can cause some change in
the frequency, color, and consistency of the stools (or poop). Be
sure to talk your doctor, though, if your baby is having trouble
pooping. If your baby refuses formula alone, you can try mixing
some of your pumped breast milk with formula to help the baby get
used to the new taste.
Is it OK for me to give my baby the first bottle?
If possible, you should have someone else give your little one
the bottle at first. Why? Because babies can smell their mothers
and they're used to receiving breast milk from mom, not a
bottle. So try to have someone else - such as a caregiver or
partner - give a breastfed baby the first bottle.
Also consider either being out of the house or out of sight when
your baby takes that first bottle, since your little one will
wonder why you're not the doing the feeding as usual. Depending
on how your baby takes to the bottle, this arrangement may be
necessary until he or she gets used to formula feeding. If your
little one has a hard time adjusting to this new form of feeding,
just be patient and keep trying.
When should I introduce solid foods and juice?
Although many women in the past started giving their babies
early on, the AAP now recommends waiting until your baby is 4 to 6
months old before introducing any solid foods at all. Why? Because
feeding solids earlier than this can increase the chances of your
baby developing food allergies.
Water and juice should not be given during a baby's first 6
months unless recommended by a doctor. Breast milk usually provides
everything babies need nutritionally until they start eating solid
Watch for signs of solid-food readiness, such as your baby's
tongue-thrusting reflex subsiding and your baby having good head
control and beginning to reach for other people's food. Start
with baby cereal (rice cereal is usually the best one to introduce
first) on a spoon before advancing to fruits and vegetables. But do
add cereal to your baby's bottle unless your doctor instructs
you to do so. Adding cereal to bottles can make babies overweight
and can be difficult for young babies to swallow.
Also, fruit juices should
be given to babies younger than 6 months. Even when your baby is
older, keep fruit juices to a minimum (no more than 4 to 6 ounces
per day) and only offer it from a cup, not a bottle. Too much juice
can fill a baby up (leaving little room for more nutritious foods),
promote obesity, cause diarrhea, and can put a baby at an increased
risk for cavities when teeth start coming in. When you do give your
baby juice, make sure it's pasteurized and try diluting it with
And remember to
put your baby to bed with a bottle or capped cup of juice, formula,
or breast milk because the sugar in them can cause dental
Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: May 2008
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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