Feeding your baby can be very rewarding and a time to enjoy a real feeling of closeness. What you feed your baby during the first year is essential to your baby’s health, growth and development in later years. These early nutrients are the building blocks on which your baby’s future health depends. It’s not just nutrition from a feed, it’s also a time for bonding and babies enjoy the cuddle and the comfort.
Feeding a baby is among the common concern new parents have. During the first year of your baby’s life, it’s common to wonder how often to feed him and if he is getting enough. Even though baby cannot actually tell you when he’s full, often he will take charge of feedings by giving you indications such as crying when he is hungry. You can be assured that your baby is getting enough to eat if they seems happy and contented, produces about six to eight wet nappies a day, has regular bowel movements, sleeps well, is alert when awake, and is gaining weight.
It this section we provide guidance about breast feeding, night-time feeding and when to start night weaning.
Breast milk is good for your baby as it gives your baby more than just good nutrition as it contains antibodies that help your baby to fight any infection. The physical contact helps create a special bond between you and your baby. Your baby feel the comfort when they are held close and cuddled during breastfeeding. It provides babies with all the nutrients, calories, and fluids for them to be healthy. Breast milk is easy for your baby to digest and it has all the growth factors that ensure the best development for your baby’s organs.
Breastfeeding is good for the mum’s health too as it helps you to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy as breastfeeding requires on average an extra 500 calories per day. It also helps to return your uterus to the size it was before pregnancy more quickly.
Try and be organised by having everything you need during your night feeds in the same room as your baby. A feed can take a while, so it’s a good idea to have some water, nappies, a drink and snacks for yourself and anything else you may need. If you’re bottle feeding, you can speed up the process by having clean bottles and the formula ready to go.
Make each night’s feed should be as relaxed as possible for you and your baby. It’s a good idea to try and give your baby’s a feed just before you go to bed so that you can have some needed sleep before he wakes up for his next feed. Having your baby’s cot beside your bed will be a huge help during those first few months when you have to wake up often to feed your baby. Make the room cosy and have a night light with a dimmer switch so that it creates a sleep inducing environment. It’s vital to avoid chatting with your baby as this will keep your baby awake and stimulated.
After each feed wind your baby as any trapped air in the baby stomach will leave them feeling uncomfortable and may lead to crying. Changing your baby’s nappy might wake him up so try to avoid it unless he does have a dirty nappy.
Ask help from your partner with the night feed so that you will be able to get some needed sleep. This can be done by expressing your milk into a feeding bottle or having a bottle of formula milk.
We all know waking up at night to feed your new baby is part of parenthood and yet you will feel tired as your sleep will be interrupted. The time will come when the importance of consolidated sleep for both you and your baby will take priority over all those night-time feedings.
Once your baby has started eating solid foods, you can start to wean them off from their night feeds. Most babies will eventually grow out of their night feeding phase by themselves but the process will take longer than you expected. After completely dropping the night feeds and you still find your baby waking up, avoid feeding them but find other ways to comfort them back to sleep.
Practical tips for night-weaning
• Start slowly and gradually the weaning process.
• Gradually eliminate night feeding one at a time. You should drop each night feed gradually over a period of four to six weeks. However, if you try to eliminate feedings and your baby cries inconsolably for more than a few nights in a row, go back to your normal routine and try again in a week or two.
• Do not allow your baby to fall asleep while you are feeding him as he will associate falling asleep with eating.
• Shorten each night feeding session. Feed your baby for a shorter period of time on each breast or give him a smaller amount of milk in his bottle at night.
• Space out the feeds by stretching out the interval between feeding.
• Make sure your baby gets plenty to eat throughout the day. Try to encourage your baby to eat more during the day so that he can get most or all of the calories during the day.
• Offer extra feedings in the evening. You may even want to wake your baby up for a final feeding before you go to bed yourself.