Breast or bottle? Which solids and when? We make it as easy as A-B-C.
There are dozens of reasons to breastfeed your newborn, the most important being that breastfed babies are healthier in infancy and later in life than those who are formula-fed. "Breast milk protects against a range of diseases, from respiratory and urinary tract infections to ear infections and diarrhea," says Richard Schanler, M.D., a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) section on breastfeeding and chief of neonatal-perinatal medicine at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. Studies also link breastfeeding to a lower incidence of juvenile diabetes, leukemia, heart disease, obesity and infant mortality. In addition, breastfed babies perform slightly better on cognitive tests, and they seem to be at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Breastfeeding also benefits moms: Women who nurse have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and they tend to lose their baby weight sooner than those who don't. Convinced? Here are five ways to get off to a good start:
1. Nurse ASAP: "Breastfeeding seems to go more smoothly for women who nurse within an hour of delivery," says Wendy Haldeman, R.N., C.L.C., co-owner of The Pump Station in Santa Monica and Hollywood, Calif. If you can't nurse immediately—if you had a Cesarean section, for instance, and are too sore or groggy to try—ask your nurse to bring your baby to you as soon as you're ready.
2. Know the right latch: "Getting your baby on the breast with a 'deep latch' will help prevent sore and damaged nipples and ensure that your baby gets enough milk," Haldeman says. Make sure he takes the entire nipple and a good portion of the areola in his mouth. (For photos and instructions, click here.)
3. Nurse often: Breastfeeding is a game of demand and supply: If your baby demands milk, your breasts will make it. "During the first six weeks, it's essential to let your baby breastfeed whenever he wants," Haldeman says, "even if it's every hour."
4. Get comfortable: Breast milk flows better from a relaxed mom. At home, set up a "nursing nest," complete with a comfortable chair; an ottoman or stool to put your feet up on and take stress off your back; pillows to help position your baby properly at the breast; and a bottle of water and healthful snacks.
5. Take care of yourself: Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day; eat nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day; and get as much sleep as you can. (If your baby is up for much of the night, grab some Z's during the day by sleeping when your baby does.) "Ignoring your own health can affect milk production," Haldeman notes.
Human milk may be the best food for human babies, but not everyone wants to—or can—breastfeed exclusively. Many working moms, for example, nurse in the morning and evening and have a caregiver give the baby formula during the day. And some women choose to use formula full time.
If you decide to give your baby formula, your pediatrician will tell you which type is most appropriate for your baby's health, age and nutritional needs (such as dairy vs. soy). Once you choose a brand you like, you'll need to consider the convenience and cost of the various types—powder, liquid concentrate or ready-to-feed. Powder is the least expensive option, but mixing it requires an extra step. Ready-to-feed is the most convenient option but is also the most expensive.
No matter which brand of formula you choose, safety is not an issue, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates all commercially prepared formulas to ensure not only that they're safe, but that they contain specific nutrients necessary to sustain a baby for the first year of life. So when it comes to nutrition, one brand is not superior to another.
That said, here's a rundown of some of the most popular formulas on the market today.
Formula What makes it special Available in dairy and soy? Formulations available Suggested retail price for powder Iron-fortified? Baby's Only Organic Toddler Formula Made from organic ingredients; recommended for babies 1 year and older, unless approved by your pediatrician (the manufacturer doesn't want to compete with breastfeeding). Yes Powder only $11 for 12.7 ounces Yes Enfamil Gentle Ease Lipil Contains one-fourth the lactose of other dairy formulas; recommended for babies who are fussy or "gassy"; contains DHA and ARA. Dairy only Powder only $13 for 12 ounces Yes Nestlé Good Start Supreme Made with "comfort proteins," 100 percent whey protein partially hydrolyzed to be easily digested by babies with sensitive digestive systems; contains DHA and ARA (fatty acids found in breast milk that are important for brain and eye development). Yes Powder, liquid concentrate and ready-to-feed liquid $13 for 12.9 ounces Yes Horizon Organic Infant Formula with Iron Produced without the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones or pesticides, and following guidelines for organic food as set by the USDA National Organic Program. (Note: available in Oregon, California and Washington only.) Dairy only Powder only $19 for 13.2 ounces Yes Similac Advance Made with nucleotides, which help support the development of babies' immune systems; contains DHA and ARA. Yes Powder, liquid concentrate and ready-to-feed liquid $13 for 12.9 ounces Yes