One of the biggest challenges new mothers face is with feeding their babies. As the baby’s digestive system evolves and changes in the initial few months, feeding can often become unpredictable and sometimes stressful.
Even as a pediatrician, there were some things I never understood about infant feeding until I joined the ranks of sleep-deprived mothers everywhere. And I wanted to make sure all mothers knew these five things no one tells you about feeding your baby.
1) In the first few weeks, breastfeeding can cause abdominal pain
While the baby is breastfeeding, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin not only causes the contraction of the breast tissue to allow the letdown of milk, it also causes the uterus to contract. These contractions help the uterus to shrink down to its pre-pregnancy shape and size. All of this can cause painful cramps, which along with the tender breasts can make your body feel sore all over.
2) You may go through several formulas before you find the right one for your baby
While all formulas are required by the FDA to have similar nutrients, the differences between them may make all the difference for your baby. Some formulas can cause gas and fussiness, so you may need a broken-down formula or a more sensitive option for your child. This is only discovered through trial and error so be sure to consult with your pediatrician throughout the process.
3) If you are breastfeeding, your nutrition matters just as much now as when you were pregnant
Breastfeeding can make you really hungry! But this is okay because it is recommended that pregnant women consume 500 more calories per day to keep up with the demand of feeding a newborn. Be sure to make those calories count by eating a nutrient-dense diet to ensure your milk has adequate nutrients for your growing baby. A registered dietitian can help answer any questions about your diet.
4) Even an oversupply of milk can cause problems with breastfeeding
While most of us worry about not producing enough milk, producing too much milk can cause feeding problems as well. Some mothers have a fast or overactive letdown reflex of their milk caused by an oversupply. This can cause your baby to ingest large quantities of air when feeding, leading to gas, reflux, and colic. It can also cause choking or coughing while feeding. If you are experiencing an oversupply of milk, be sure to consult with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.
5) You will have to introduce your baby to the bottle at least two weeks before you go back to work
As they return to work, many mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding find that their babies refuse the bottle from their caregivers while they are away. This can be stressful for the mother, caregiver, and child. Therefore, introduce your baby to the bottle at least two weeks before you go back to work. This will ensure a smooth transition during those first days after maternity leave.
Whether you breastfeed, formula feed, or a combination of both, it is natural as new parents to feel guilty no matter what you do. This period brings with it a lot of anxiety, and along with sleep deprivation — you end up constantly second-guessing your choices. Just know that as long as your baby is fed and his or her diaper is changed, you are winning at parenting!
This is the final post in a series of four as we discuss common questions about infant feeding and parenting.