Be it breast milk, formula, or a combination of the two, here’s how to ensure your baby gets the right nutrients | The Star

2022-08-12 23:29:28 By : Ms. Cara Yang

This copy is for your personal non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready copies of Toronto Star content for distribution to colleagues, clients or customers, or inquire about permissions/licensing, please go to:

Among the challenges of caring for a newborn is ensuring your recent arrival is getting enough nutrients.

According to Joanna Benec, a clinical dietitian with The Hospital for Sick Children, breast milk offers the best nutritional start for your infant.

Here are her tips for ensuring your baby is well fed.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, which is also supported by Health Canada, dietitians for Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society. They recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, then adding complementary foods along with breast milk for up to two years or beyond.

Breast milk is the gold standard because it meets nutritional requirements for babies. It’s well-tolerated, more easily digested and has improved absorption of nutrients. Also, it’s unique to the baby. Breast milk is tailored to the baby in the way that the mother’s body knows when to change the composition from morning to night, as well as from feed to feed. What’s more, breast milk has antibodies and immune factors you can’t replicate, so it provides the right amount of quality nutrients for babies.

On top of the nutritional benefits for baby are a multitude of benefits for mom. For example, the act of breastfeeding produces hormones that help reduce stress. It also reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and breast and ovarian cancer. Plus, it’s free!

When should a mom who has just given birth start breastfeeding?

As soon as possible after birth. We know getting that skin-to-skin contact within the first 30 minutes helps to set up mom and baby for success. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand, and establishing milk supply and feeding patterns takes time. The more the baby is put to the breast, the more milk the mom’s body produces.

While breastfeeding offers the best start, it’s not always easy, and challenges are common. It can be hard for breastfeeding moms who consistently hear that breastfeeding is “natural.” It is natural, but it’s not effortless. It’s different with each child, even for the same mother.

That said, breastfeeding should not be painful. So, my advice would be to get help early, whether it be from a certified lactation consultant, specialist or breastfeeding clinic.

Once a mom has got a handle on breastfeeding, is it ever possible to schedule feeds?

The name of the game for breastfeeding is feeding on demand. A mother can choose what she feeds her infant — whether it’s breast milk or formula — but the baby is really in charge of when, where, how often and for how long. That’s up to them. They are the only ones who know when they’re hungry.

A baby should have a minimum of eight good feeds in a 24-hour period. The time between feeds might be different. Typically, babies feed every two to three hours, but some stretch it out to four. Frequent feeds are especially normal at the beginning because they help stimulate milk production.

How do you know if your baby is getting enough milk?

Firstly, you want to have a successful latch. A good latch ensures your baby gets enough and allows them to empty the breast more successfully, which then helps create a strong milk supply.

The other clue is wet diapers. In the first few days, while the mom’s milk is getting established, the baby will have fewer diaper changes — usually one a day. After milk comes in, four or five days later, you should see five to six wet diapers a day.

We expect the baby to get back to birth weight by 10 to 14 days. When you bring your baby to your health-care provider for checkups, they’ll be weighed, so you’ll see if they’re gaining weight adequately and meeting their milestones.

Do you need to supplement breast milk?

Yes. Breast milk supplies all the nutrients a baby needs with exception of vitamin D. The current recommendation is 400 international units for the first two years of life for a breastfed infant. Even for those infants who are partially breastfed — meaning they are also being fed some formula — you want to supplement with vitamin D. Give them vitamin D3 (called cholecalciferol), provided in a liquid form.

What do moms need to know about breastfeeding in hot weather?

Stay hydrated. Make sure to sip fluids regularly and try to find a cool place to breastfeed. Continue to follow baby’s lead; feedings may get shorter but more frequent, so watch for signs your baby is satisfied. Look for enough diapers with light-coloured urine. And keep in mind there is no need for any fluids other than breast milk.

What’s your advice to families for whom breastfeeding isn’t an option?

When informed parents decide they either cannot or choose not to provide breast milk, the only acceptable alternative is iron-fortified infant formula. These are designed to meet the nutritional requirements of healthy, term infants, and you want to prepare them according to the manufacturer’s instructions unless instructed otherwise by a health-care practitioner.

At a time when we’re facing formula shortages, safety is important. You do not want to feed your baby homemade formulas. You don’t want to dilute current formulas. Other beverages are not substitutes for infant formula: Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, evaporated milk, or any of the fortified or unfortified plant-based beverages, whether it be soy, oat, rice, cashew, coconut, are not appropriate. They typically don’t contain sufficient fat, protein, calcium, or vitamin D, nor do they meet the nutrition requirements of infants.

Finally, I think it’s important to do what feels right for you and your family, and to recognize that every baby is different. You want to learn your baby’s cues, whether you’re feeding them breast milk, formula, or a combination of the two. As long as you have your baby’s well-being in mind, and you’re feeding them in a way that feels comfortable for you and your family, that’s what really matters.

The benefits of breast milk

Anyone can read Conversations, but to contribute, you should be registered Torstar account holder. If you do not yet have a Torstar account, you can create one now (it is free)

Copyright owned or licensed by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or distribution of this content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited and/or its licensors. To order copies of Toronto Star articles, please go to: