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Baby Formula and Infant Feeding: What You Need to Know

Your most pressing feeding questions answered

Breast milk, baby formula, or some combo of the two provides all the nutrition your baby needs for her first four to six months. Easy enough. But what about all the stuff that happens (or in some cases, doesn’t) along with feeding? Read on for the answers you’re looking for.

Q: So how do I know if my baby’s getting enough to eat?
A: All will be revealed in the diaper. As long as your baby has six to eight wet diapers a day, you’re on the right track. In the first few weeks, doctors recommend feeding all babies on demand regardless of whether you’re nursing or bottle-feeding. Usually that means at least every two or three hours. In terms of amounts: You’ll start with two to three ounces of infant formula at a time and will likely be up to four at the end of the first month. (Here’s a handy guide: Babies require about 2 1/2 ounces of infant formula per pound in a 24-hour period.) If you’re nursing, you’ll notice your breast soften and feel less full. If your baby seems drowsy, he’s probably done. If not, try to burp him then go ahead and switch sides. There are no hard-and-fast rules about how long each feeding should last—some babies are fast, efficient eaters while other take their time—but in general, they tend to take around 20 minutes or so.

Q: Why do babies spit up and is it ever a cause for concern?
A: Spitting up after feedings is very common in infants, and usually it’s no big deal. It’s simply a sign that the valve between the stomach and the esophagus isn’t quite strong enough yet to stay closed, which allows some milk to gently come back up. In fact, your little one will hardly seem to care, and she’ll likely outgrow it by the time she’s sitting. Although it’s almost impossible to prevent completely, you can minimize spit up by keeping the feedings calm and leisurely; burping her when she’s downed two ounces from her bottle or when you switch breasts; and keeping her upright for 20 to 30 minutes after eating even if she’s sleeping (letting her hang in a swing or bouncy seat is fine). If you’re worried you won’t know the difference between normal spit up and actual vomiting, try not to stress: Vomiting is usually not only very forceful, but it tends to be very upsetting for your child. There will also be a much larger volume. Always check in with your doctor if your child throws up, especially if you see blood or a bright green color in the fluid.

Q: Sometimes I can’t get my baby to burp. How long should I keep trying?
A: If your little one is still burp-free after five minutes and seems comfortable, feel free to move on. There’s no rule they have to produce one every time!

Q: My newborn poops only a couple of times a week. Does this mean I’m underfeeding him?
A: No. There’s a wide range of normal when it comes to baby bowel movements—everything from several times a day to as little as once a week! As long as he’s eating normally and the poop is soft (not loose and watery or very hard), all is well. Every baby is unique, but generally breastfed infants have more frequent bowel movements than those who are formula-fed.

Q: Should I give my baby any vitamins?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that all infants get 400 IUs of vitamin D a day. If your baby drinks at least 32 ounces of formula a day—which is fortified with D and other vitamins and minerals—she’s getting everything she needs. If you’re nursing exclusively or supplementing with baby formula, talk to your doctor about vitamin D drops. Otherwise, eating a well-balanced diet and continuing on your prenatal vitamin should keep both you and your baby covered.

This article was written by the publishers of Parents and American Baby magazines.

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