Tuesday, September 17, 2013

For First-Time Parents: Feeding

Here's part three of the First-Time Parent series which addresses topics common to all parents. Part One was about night-time sleep and Part Two was about napping.

LB loves fruit!

It's amazing to witness the many transitions in the first year of life. People start out as helpless, squirming infants and by their birthday they are on the move, able to get themselves where they want to go. They enter the world crying and are saying actual words by one year of age. They begin with a liquid diet of one substance and are consuming a variety of liquids and solids at year's end.

In this section I will share my family's experiences with feeding during a baby's first year. Yours will probably vary in some form from ours. I do not intend for this to be all-encompassing.

Both of our kiddos started out receiving breast milk. BB was born early so I was instructed to begin pumping right away to get my milk supply flowing. BB and I struggled a bit with latching. Breastfeeding hurt A LOT for me. Some nights in the first few weeks we would feed her formula through a syringe. Other than that, it was all breast milk all the time (not to say that we wouldn't have supplemented again if the need had arisen). With both kids breastfeeding hurt or was uncomfortable for the first six weeks. After that my body seemed to have gotten used to the process and toughened up. I have heard that it shouldn't hurt at all and it means you're doing something wrong if it does. I disagree. I have not yet met a mother who had a peachy keen time from the beginning (if you did, I'd love to hear about it). Breastfeeding is what I wanted to do and I toughed it out. It wasn't as bad enduring the initial six weeks the second time since I knew it would get better. I was able to breastfeed BB for her first year. I'm striving to do the same with LB. So far so good.

In the beginning I fed the kids every two hours, day and night. It stretched out to two and a half and then three hours. After the first two to four weeks I let the kids sleep as long as they would during the night and fed them whenever they woke up. During the day we were on a regular time interval feeding schedule. BB started going without night feedings at eight weeks. LB didn't achieve this until about six months. They ate every three hours during the day for a while, then stretched to three and a half and finally four. It stayed this way through the first year as far as I can recall.

One thing I wish I would have done with both of them was to give them a bottle regularly (such as once per day or once every other day) starting at around four weeks of age. We gave each of them one bottle about this time. They took it without issue so we assumed they would always be that way. Failing to continue to offer it meant that five weeks later (or whenever we tried to give another one) they wouldn't take it. This was not a huge issue as I was home with each of them. But if I had needed to go back to work it would have been a rough transition. As it was, we struggled to have a relaxing date night for the first few months of our babies' lives. They did both accept bottles better after having received solid foods for awhile. I guess something about receiving nourishment from spoons and their own fingers helped them accept milk from a different source.

We started introducing solid food to both kids at six months. We started with cereal and then moved on to pureed fruits and vegetables. I started giving LB small pieces of mushy fruit earlier than BB (maybe at about 7 or 8 months). I had read about Baby-Led Weaning and thought I might give it a try. I can't say that I've stuck closely to it. I try to offer cut up soft foods but he isn't all that interested if it isn't a Cheerio, puff or piece of fruit. Vegetables he tends to snub so I have continued with some purees to help get the nutrients and tastes in there. LB wasn't eating much cereal from six to nine months which decreased his iron levels. I couldn't remember how we got BB to eat it well. PB reminded me that we alternated and/or combined cereal and yogurt (because BB loved yogurt) so we tried that with LB and it worked like a charm.

We offer water through a sippy cup and a straw cup during the second six months. Both kids did better with a straw cup because they don't have to tip it up to get liquid. Not receiving lots of bottles prevented them from learning how to hold a cup and tipping it up to drink. (I'm guessing. Perhaps bottle fed babies also use straw cups better at first.)

Between nine and twelve months we started to drift toward a three-meal feeding schedule with snacks as needed. I don't remember how we did this with BB. I'm currently nearing the 10 month mark with LB and he nurses four times each day (around 7:30, 11:30, 3:30 and 7:30) and eats breakfast, lunch and dinner with BB, PB and myself. I'm sure by 12 months the nursing schedule will be stretched more to 7:30, 12, 5, and bedtime so that they can be replaced by cow's milk and the bedtime one eventually dropped. I will probably get more adventurous with offering pieces of food around the year mark, especially when his molars come in.

When I try to think about the end of the first year and how we transitioned from breast milk to cow's milk I get a little fuzzy. I know that we made sure BB would drink cow's milk out of a cup. Then I dropped one feeding every three or four days until she was only drinking cow's milk from a cup. I didn't experience any engorgement or pain weaning this way. I don't remember when she stopped having food and drink after dinner. I guess whenever we felt like it wasn't nutritionally necessary and we were ready to test whether she would still sleep until her normal wake up time.

That is most of my experience. I cannot share any experiential information about formula feeding. I would assume it's similar in the regular interval feedings. I hear formula is digested slowly so the feedings are spaced out earlier. I'm sure being able to see how much the baby is eating at a feeding (by reading bottle measurements) can be helpful and comforting. I used the number of wet and dirty diapers as my gauge to whether my kids were receiving enough milk.

Did I forget any other useful information about feeding during the first year? Do you have any helpful tips for new parents? Anything specific to formula feeding that others can use?

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