How to feed a human baby

Feeding Your Newborn (for Parents)

How you feed your newborn is the first nutrition decision you make for your child. These guidelines on breastfeeding and bottle feeding can help you know what's right for you and your baby.

Breast or Bottle?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for about the first 6 months. After they start on solid foods, babies should breastfeed through the first year of life and even beyond, if desired.

But breastfeeding isn't possible or preferable for all new moms. Deciding to breastfeed or bottle feed a baby is usually based on the mother's comfort level with breastfeeding and her lifestyle. In some cases, breastfeeding may not be recommended for a mom and her baby. If you have any questions about whether to breastfeed or formula feed, talk to your pediatrician.

Remember, your baby's nutritional and emotional needs will be met whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your newborn has many benefits. Perhaps most important, breast milk is the perfect food for a baby's digestive system. It has the nutrients that a newborn needs, and it’s easily digested. Commercial formulas try to imitate breast milk, and come close, but can't match it exactly.

Breast milk has

antibodiesthat help protect babies from many infections, including diarrhea and ear and lung infections. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop medical problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, and allergies. Breastfeeding also might make a child less likely to become overweight.

Breastfeeding is great for moms too. It burns calories, so can help nursing moms lose the weight gained during pregnancy. Breastfeeding also may offer protection from breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Some moms find breastfeeding easier and quicker than formula feeding — it needs no preparation, and you don't run out of breast milk in the middle of the night. Also, breastfeeding costs little. Nursing mothers do need to eat more and may want to buy nursing bras and pads, a breast pump, or other equipment. But these expenses are generally less than the cost of formula.

Breastfeeding meets a variety of emotional needs for both moms and babies. The skin-to-skin contact can enhance the emotional connection, and providing complete nourishment can help new moms feel confident in their ability to care for their newborn.

Limitations of Breastfeeding

With all the good things known about breastfeeding, why doesn't every mother choose to breastfeed?

Breastfeeding requires a big commitment from a mother. Some new moms feel tied down by the demands of a nursing newborn. Because breast milk is easily digested, breastfed babies tend to eat more often than babies who are fed formula. This means moms can be in demand as often as every 2 or 3 hours in the first few weeks. This can be tiring, but it's not long before babies feed less often and sleep longer at night.

Some new mothers need to get back to work outside the home or separate from their babies from time to time for other reasons. Some opt for formula feeding so other caregivers can give the baby a bottle. Mothers who want to continue breastfeeding can use a breast pump to collect breast milk to be given in a bottle, so their babies still get its benefits even when mom isn't there to breastfeed.

Fathers and other family members may want to share in feeding the baby. When mom is breastfeeding, dad or siblings may want to stay close by. Helping mom get comfortable, or providing a burp cloth when needed, will let them be part of the experience.

When breastfeeding is going well, other family members can help by giving the baby pumped breast milk in a bottle when mom needs a break.

Some moms may feel embarrassed or worried about breastfeeding. These feelings usually end after a successful breastfeeding process is set. It can help to get advice from those who've gone through the experience. Most hospitals and birthing centers offer in-depth instruction on breastfeeding to new moms. Your pediatrician, nurse practitioner, or nurse can answer questions or put you in touch with a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding support group.

In some cases, a mother's health may affect her ability to breastfeed. Moms getting chemotherapy for cancer and those who have HIV should not breastfeed, for example.

If you have a medical condition or take any medicines regularly, talk with your doctor about whether it's OK to breastfeed. If you have to stop nursing temporarily, continue to pump breast milk to maintain milk production. If you or your baby are sick, continue to breastfeed if you can. Talk to the doctor if you have any concerns.

In some situations, it may not possible to breastfeed, such as when a baby is very sick or born early. Mothers should talk with their baby's doctor about expressing and storing milk. Often, a baby who can't breastfeed can get breast milk through a feeding tube or bottle.

Some moms who have inverted nipples may have trouble breastfeeding, but a lactation consultant usually can help them overcome this. Likewise, women who have had plastic surgery on their breasts should be able to successfully breastfeed. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.

Hold off on pacifiers or bottles until your baby has gotten used to and is good at breastfeeding. Lactation professionals recommend waiting until a baby is about 3–4 weeks old before offering artificial nipples of any kind (including pacifiers).

Benefits of Formula Feeding

Commercially prepared infant formula is a nutritious alternative to breast milk. Bottle feeding can offer more freedom and flexibility for moms, and make it easier to know how much the baby is getting.

Because babies digest formula more slowly than breast milk, a baby who is getting formula may need fewer feedings than one who breastfeeds. Formula feeding also can make it easier to feed the baby in public, and lets the father and other family members help feed the baby, which can enhance bonding.

Limitations of Formula Feeding

Just as breastfeeding has its unique demands, so does bottle feeding. Bottle feeding takes organization and preparation, especially if you want to take your baby out. Store-bought formula can be pretty expensive, but do not try to make your own formula at home.

It's important to make sure that you have enough formula on hand, and bottles that are clean and ready to be used.

Here are a few guidelines for formula feeding:

  • Carefully follow directions on the label when preparing formula. Do not add more water than directed.
  • Bottles left out of the refrigerator longer than 1 hour and any formula left in the bottle that a baby doesn't finish should be discarded.
  • Prepared bottles of formula can be stored in the refrigerator up to 24 hours and carefully warmed just before feeding. You don't have to warm formula, but most babies prefer it.
  • A bottle of formula can be warmed by holding it in running warm water or setting it in a pan of warm water. A bottle of formula (or breast milk) should never be warmed in a microwave. The bottle can heat unevenly and leave "hot spots" that can burn a baby's mouth.

How Often Do Newborns Eat?

Your newborn will nurse about 8 to 12 times per day during the first weeks of life. In the beginning, mothers may want to try nursing 10–15 minutes on each breast, then adjust the time as needed.

Breastfeeding should be on demand (when your baby is hungry), which is generally every 1–3 hours. As newborns get older, they'll nurse less often and have longer stretches between feedings. Newborn babies who are getting formula will likely take about 2–3 ounces every 2–4 hours. Newborns should not go more than about 4–5 hours without feeding.

Signs that babies are hungry include:

  • moving their heads from side to side
  • opening their mouths
  • sticking out their tongues
  • placing their hands and fists to their mouths
  • puckering their lips as if to suck
  • nuzzling against their mothers' breasts
  • crying

A feeding schedule is not necessary — you and your baby will get into a routine. Babies know (and will let their parents know) when they're hungry and when they've had enough. Watch for signs that your baby is full (slowing down, spitting out the bottle or unlatching from breast, closing the mouth, turning away from the breast or bottle) and stop the feeding when these signs appear.

As babies grow, they begin to eat more at each feeding and can go longer between feedings. There may be other times when your infant seems hungrier than usual. Continue to nurse or feed on demand. Nursing mothers need not worry — breastfeeding stimulates milk production, and your supply of breast milk will adjust to your baby's demand for it.

Is My Newborn Getting Enough to Eat?

New parents often worry about whether their babies are getting enough to eat.

Babies are getting enough to eat if they:

  • seem satisfied
  • have about 6–8 wet diapers a day
  • have regular bowel movements (poops)
  • sleep well
  • are alert when awake
  • are gaining weight

A baby who is fussing, crying, seems hungry, does not appear satisfied after feeding, and has fewer wet diapers may not be getting enough to eat. If you're concerned that your baby isn't getting enough to eat, call your doctor.

Most infants "spit up" a small amount after eating or during burping, but a baby should not vomit after feeding. Vomiting after every feeding might be a sign of an allergy, digestive problem, or other problem that needs medical care. If you have concerns that your baby is spitting up too much, call your doctor.

Should Newborns Get Nutritional Supplements?

Breast milk has the right combination of vitamins and easily absorbed iron for newborns. A healthy infant being nursed by a healthy mother doesn't need extra vitamins or nutritional supplements, with the exception of vitamin D. Breastfed babies should begin vitamin D supplements within the first few days of life, continuing until they get enough vitamin D-fortified formula or milk (after 1 year of age).

Breastfeeding mothers who follow vegetarian diets that do not include animal products need vitamin B12 supplements.

Iron-fortified formula has the right blend of vitamins and minerals for a baby, so supplements usually aren't needed. Infants drinking less than 1 liter, or about a quart, of formula a day may need a vitamin D supplement.

Water, juice, and other foods usually aren't necessary during a baby's first 6 months. Breast milk and formula provide everything babies need nutritionally until they start eating solid foods. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about feeding your newborn.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

Date reviewed: February 2021

Baby's First Month: Feeding and Nutrition

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Your new baby's nutritional needs are greater than at any other time in their life. Feeding your infant provides more than just good nutrition, though. It also allows you to hold your newborn close, cuddle, and make eye contact. These are relaxing and enjoyable moments for you both, bringing you closer together.

Because of its nutritional composition and health-promoting properties, breast milk (also referred to as human milk) is the ideal food for human infants. With support, most women are able to successfully breastfeed their babies. If you are unable to breastfeed, infant formula is an acceptable and nutritious alternative to breast milk.

Breastmilk or formula should be your child's sole nutritional source for the first six months. When you add solid foods to your baby's diet, continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months or longer. 

During this time, you and your pediatrician will need to pay attention to her pattern of feedings and make sure that she's getting enough for growth. (See, "How Often and How Much Should Your Baby Eat?") Regular checkups and monitoring of growth is the best way to ensure this.

Getting to know your baby's feeding patterns

Each baby has a particular style of feeding. Years ago researchers at Yale University playfully attached names to five common eating patterns. See if you recognize your baby's dining behavior among them.

  • Barracudas get right down to business. As soon as they're put to the breast, they grasp the areola and suck energetically for ten to twenty minutes. They usually become less eager as time goes on.
  • Excited ineffectives nursers become frantic at the sight of the breast. In a frenzied cycle they grasp it, lose it, and start screaming in frustration. They must be calmed down several times during each feeding. The key to nourishing this type of baby is to feed them as soon as they wake up, before they get desperately hungry. Also, if the milk tends to spray from the breast as the baby struggles, it may help to manually express a few drops first to slow the stream.
  • Procrastinators can't be bothered with nursing until the milk supply increases, commonly referred to as "coming in. " These babies shouldn't be given bottles of water or formula, as feeding them bottles may make it more difficult to get them to nurse at the breast. You should continue to put them to the breast regularly, whenever they appear alert or make mouthing movements.
  • Reluctant nursers sometimes benefit from being placed naked on the reclining mother's bare abdomen and chest for a period of time. They may spontaneously move toward the breast, or they can be placed on the breast after a time. You may find advice on improved positioning and attachment from a lactation specialist helpful. For a baby who resists nursing for the first few days, you can use an electric pump between feedings to stimulate milk production. Just don't give up! Contact your pediatrician's office for assistance or referral to a lactation specialist.
  • Gourmets or mouthers insist on playing with the nipple, tasting the milk first and smacking their lips before digging in. If hurried or prodded, they become furious and scream in protest. The best solution is tolerance. After a few minutes of playing, they do settle down and nurse well. Just be sure the lips and gums are on the areola and not on the nipple.
  • Resters prefer to nurse for a few minutes, rest a few minutes, and resume nursing. Some fall asleep on the breast, nap for half an hour or so, and then awaken ready for dessert. This pattern can be confusing, but these babies cannot be hurried. The solution? It's best just to schedule extra time for feedings and remain as flexible as possible.


Learning your own baby's eating patterns is one of your biggest challenges in the weeks after delivery. Once you understand their patterns, you'll find it much easier to determine when they are hungry, when they have had enough, how often they need to eat, and how much time is required for feedings. It is generally best to initiate a feeding at the earliest signs of hunger, before the baby cries. Babies also have unique positions that they prefer.

Talk with your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about your baby's feeding and nutritional need.

More information

  • How Often and How Much Should Your Baby Eat?
  • How to Tell if Your Breastfed Baby is Getting Enough Milk
  • Your Child's Checkups
Last Updated
Adapted from Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five 7th edition (Copyright © 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics)

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

The period of breastfeeding is one of the most important stages in a child's life

The period of breastfeeding is one of the most important stages in a child's life, which can be regarded as a transitional period from intrauterine development to a full-fledged independent existence.

Man is born completely dependent on his mother, and nature has provided for the possibility of transferring all the necessary nutrients to the child through mother's milk.

The best food for a baby is the milk of his own mother, and this is understandable. The fact is that during pregnancy, the child and mother are practically a single organism, and it is very dangerous for the baby to lose this connection immediately, from the first minutes after birth. No wonder it is often said that 9months of pregnancy and at least 9 months of breastfeeding - this is the full cycle of "carrying" the baby, necessary for its proper growth and development, as well as for the normal state of the mother.

So why is breastfeeding so important?

First of all, mother's milk is the best food for a baby. The mother's body produces milk with exactly the properties that are necessary for a particular newborn - different women have slightly different composition of breast milk, adapted to meet the needs of her baby.

Mother's milk also changes its properties as the child grows. Often women try to "check" if their milk fits certain regimens and are upset that it is "low fat" or, conversely, "too fat". But it would be enough for them to simply understand that their body produces exactly the product that is designed specifically for their children, and that the differences between the milk of different women are caused precisely by the fact that their children are not the same.

However, if for some reason the mother cannot breastfeed the baby, then it is better for him to receive donor milk from another woman than artificial formulas or cow's milk.

It should be remembered that just as a woman cannot raise a healthy baby of any animal on her milk, so a cow is not able to give milk that is optimal for a human child. Cow's milk is for calves, just like women's milk is for children.

Human milk contains more than 400 components necessary for the optimal development of the child. Some of them have an anti-infective effect, they gradually form the child's immune system, protecting it from various infections.

Some of the antibodies contained in mother's milk protect the baby's gastrointestinal tract from the introduction of pathogenic microflora and help him develop normal microflora.

The amino acids contained in breast milk are involved in the proper development of the baby's central nervous system and brain.

It is not for nothing that children who are fed with mother's milk for at least a year develop better than their "artificial" peers, learn more easily both in the garden and then at school, grow up more calm and balanced.
It is no coincidence that we started talking about school: we must always remember that breastfeeding a baby is important not only during his first year, but throughout his life. In addition, it should be recalled that the enzymes that make up breast milk help the child to digest it more easily, breast milk vitamins are easily and completely absorbed by the baby's body, and proteins and fats are in the optimal amount for the newborn.
Many substances necessary for a child are contained not only in milk, but also in colostrum, which some time ago was considered a product completely useless for a child. And only in recent years, it has become clear to scientists that in no case should children be fed during the first hours and days of life with donor milk, which is not designed for them.

The baby is much healthier than its mother's colostrum, which contains substances that help the child's immature intestines adapt to a new way of eating. A child needs very little colostrum - just a few drops, and this is justified by the fact that the body of a newborn cannot yet digest a large amount of liquid.

Therefore, we can say that the practice that exists in some maternity hospitals, and previously existed everywhere, the practice when the baby was fed with donor milk from a bottle for three days, and only on the third day was brought to the mother, does not hold water. Its results are mastopathy in the mother, jaundice in the child, and problems with the establishment of feeding in both. Colostrum is necessary for the baby, and early, immediately after childbirth, attachment to the breast is for the mother.

Early attachment to the breast is a natural end of childbirth, which is needed not only to feed the baby. The child begins to suckle the breast, the mother's uterus contracts, which helps to easily and painlessly exit the placenta.

In addition, contractions of the uterus during suckling by the baby of the breast rather quickly "put her in place" - and usually, the figure of a breastfeeding woman is restored somewhat faster than a woman whose child is bottle-fed. But, of course, much more early breastfeeding gives mom and baby psychologically.

During the 9 months of intrauterine development, the child was in close contact with the mother. Having been born, he remembers her smell, her voice, her heartbeat, the taste of amniotic fluid. If you immediately pull him out of his usual environment, then the stress experienced by the baby may be unbearable for him.

Therefore, nature provided for such a kind of "return" to intrauterine life as breastfeeding. A child at the mother’s breast experiences almost the same sensations as before birth: he hears the familiar rhythm of his mother’s heart, her voice, inhales her smell, feels the warmth of her body, and the taste of milk, according to many experts, really resembles the taste of amniotic water.

That's why breastfeeding is more than a feeding process for a baby. It is also a kind of “relaxation” necessary for its normal growth and development.

Mom experiences the same thing. When she puts the child to her breast, she feels especially clearly that this is the same child that was in her womb. In addition, breastfeeding is the most important process of communication between mother and baby, necessary for both. Therefore, nothing should distract the mother from feeding: neither the phone, nor the book, nor the conversations, nor the TV. This is a complete concentration on the child, the moment at which mother and baby again become one.

Mother's breasts are not only a source of nutrition. An anxious, frustrated child can also be attached to the chest. He will not eat more than necessary, and then he will not seek solace only in food - this is not true. He will just feel calm and comfortable next to his mother. In general, one should not be afraid to once again attach the baby to the chest, take it in his arms - this will not spoil the child, but on the contrary, will give him a sense of security and self-confidence.

Having started to crawl and walk, he won’t be able to pick himself up so easily, and as practice shows, by the end of the first year of life, the most active discoverers of this world are precisely those children who spent infancy in their mother’s arms, and not at all those whom forced to stay in bed. Mom's hands, a patchwork holder, or a "kangaroo" is much more natural than a crib, the baby's habitat.

The same can be said about the notorious scheduled feedings. More and more neonatologists agree that breastfeeding should be as frequent as the child needs. Surprisingly, after a while the baby “sets” his own daily routine, and goes on for about the same three to three and a half hours between feedings.

The fact is that a child needs a mother's breast not only as a source of nutrition, but also as a "comforter", a source of warmth, comfort, a kind of link between him and the outside world.

In addition, even if we only talk about the nutrition of the child, then, as you know, everyone has a different appetite: in order to feel good, someone needs to eat three times a day and a lot, and someone needs six times a day, but only a little.

Newborn babies are as individual as their parents. Sometimes a baby, especially a young one, needs to be breastfed every hour, and sometimes more often. But all the inconvenience associated with feeding will pay off with interest. The main thing is not to be afraid to understand your child, listen to him and have no doubt that he is the one who knows what he wants better than all the authors of books.

Mom's secrets: feeding outside the home.

Summer is the time for joint walks and small trips around the city, and it is very disappointing to be dependent on constant feeding when it comes to a baby in such a wonderful time of the year.

Our secrets for moms will help you to go far away from home and at the same time not cancel breastfeeding:
  • - the baby sling can be adjusted so that the baby's mouth is just opposite the breast. And if you cover it with a hood, which usually comes with a sling, no one will even guess that the baby is doing an important job;
  • - A nursing bra, a button-down shirt and a small shawl (or neckerchief) will allow you to feed your baby while sitting on the subway, in the park, cafe or on the beach. If at the same time you do not bend to an unnatural position, but sit in a relaxed position, they will not pay attention to the nursing mother at all;
  • - in summer everyone prefers open terraces, and the halls inside the cafe are often empty. You can sit at one of the tables, and for complete peace of mind - put something voluminous on the table - the intimate process will go unnoticed;
  • - in large cities, large shopping centers are equipped with mother and child rooms, and polyclinics are equipped with healthy baby rooms. You can build your route in advance, given the proximity of buildings where you can feed the child;
  • - now in fashion - transformer capes of various shades. There are several options: some turn from a car seat cover into a shelter for mom and baby, others play the role of an apron that is worn around the mother’s neck and completely hides the child from prying eyes;
  • - a time-tested option - a bottle with pre-expressed milk: simple, convenient, for the most shy.

Have a nice summer adventure!

Mother's nutrition during breastfeeding.

During pregnancy, expectant mothers actively prepare for the arrival of their baby. They carefully think over the interior of the child's room, lovingly choose things for the baby, attend classes to prepare for childbirth. But not many people think about how important its first food is for the baby, or rather, the mother’s diet during breastfeeding. In fact, this is a separate topic that should be given special attention.

Mother's milk is very important for the development of the baby, it contains all the necessary substances for the baby. In addition, during feeding, a close bond is established between mother and baby. Clinging to his chest, the baby feels the warmth of the mother and the beating of her heart, at these moments he is absolutely happy and calm. In order for milk to regularly arrive and not disappear in one day, women need to consume at least 2000 calories, but the list of products should be limited.

So, in the first months of a baby's life, experts recommend sticking to a strict diet and focusing on proper nutrition while breastfeeding. At first, the list of products is very scarce, since the baby's gastrointestinal tract is still developing and adapting to our world. Mom's nutrition during breastfeeding during this period is as follows: buckwheat, barley and oatmeal, millet, pasta are allowed. You can also introduce lean meats and white fish into the diet. From vegetables it is worth giving preference to potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli. Carrots and beets are allowed to be used in soups. For the fat content of milk, a young mother is recommended to include thirty grams of butter in her diet. Most likely, at the time of the rush of milk, you will want to consume dairy products in large quantities. Here it is worth noting one important point: choose milk, kefir and yoghurts without fruit additives and fillers. The ban includes: everything fried and smoked, black and red caviar, as well as products that cause the fermentation process - legumes, grapes, fresh bread. White cabbage, cucumbers, and apple peels can cause colic in a newborn.

Remember, if you eat even a small piece of fresh bread or a handful of grapes, it can affect your baby greatly. The baby will simply have a stomach ache, the baby will cry during feeding, sleep poorly due to pain. Another reason for the diet is the possible occurrence of allergies. Juicy strawberries and bright oranges can cause breakouts on baby's skin.

After the first month of a baby's life, it is allowed to gradually introduce new foods, but you should carefully monitor the baby's condition: if you notice any deviations from the norm, you should immediately eliminate this product from your diet. Experts advise trying new products once every three days.

As for the drinking regime: in order for the milk to come in the right amount, young mothers need at least 2-2.5 liters of fluid per day, and in pharmacies and children's stores today you can find special drinks that improve lactation. In addition, in the first months of breastfeeding, it is allowed to use dried fruit compotes, rosehip broth and tea with milk. Coffee and carbonated drinks should be abandoned, and, of course, alcohol must be completely eliminated.

Benefits of breastfeeding for baby 9

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20 Montgomery SM et al. Breast feeding and resilience against psychosocial stress. Arch Dis Child . 2006;91(12):990-994. - Montgomery S.M. et al., Breastfeeding and resilience to psychosocial stress. Arch Dis Child. 2006;91(12):990-994.

21 Bener A et al. Does continued breastfeeding reduce the risk for childhood leukemia and lymphomas? Minerva Pediatr. 2008;60(2):155-161. - Bener A. et al., "Does long-term breastfeeding reduce the risk of leukemia and lymphoma in a child?". Minerva Pediatrician. 2008;60(2):155-161.

22 Singhal A et al. Infant nutrition and stereoacuity at age 4-6 y. Am J Clin Nutr . 2007;85(1):152-159. - Singhal A. et al., Nutrition in infancy and stereoscopic visual acuity at 4-6 years of age. Am F Clean Nutr. 2007;85(1):152-159.

23 Peres KG et al. Effect of breastfeeding on malocclusions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatr . 2015;104(467):54-61. - Perez K.G. et al., "The impact of breastfeeding on malocclusion: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Akta Pediatr. 2015;104(S467):54-61.

24 Horta BL et al. Long-term consequences of breastfeeding on cholesterol, obesity, systolic blood pressure and type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatr . 2015; 104(467):30-37 - Horta B.

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