What I Didn't Know And Wish Someone Had Told Me About... Feeding A Newborn
When I had my first child, I knew I’d be breastfeeding. So confident was I, that we had a single bottle of pre-made formula in the house. For use in emergencies only. Of course, as any mum will tell you, nothing about parenthood is so black and white.
My beautiful, doe-eyed, 8lb 8oz baby boy Would. Not. Latch. To cut a rather long story short, in order to be released from the hospital, I agreed to combi-feed him both expressed breastmilk and formula. But on returning home I started expressing exclusively with a hospital-grade breast pump. For six months, I expressed every 2-4 hours, day and night to fill his bottles with milk. Then, at six months old, he miraculously latched, and I continued breastfeeding him until just before his second birthday.
But this isn’t a blog solely about my journey. It’s about the many ways that you might end up feeding your newborn and preparing you for the fact that sometimes, things don’t go to plan. My advice? Be optimistic, but be flexible too.
Let’s start with breastfeeding, the most natural (and some might argue, most convenient) way to feed your baby. If all goes well, your newborn will latch right after birth with the encouragement of a little skin-to-skin. In some cases a supplemental nursing system may be needed, such as for cleft or palate issues, or premature babies. This delivers added nutrition through a thin tube which is attached by tape to the breast and helps mothers to meet the feeding needs of their baby while encouraging the breastfeeding latch.
Remember, breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful. If it is, seek support immediately to help with any latching issues.
Expressing, or “pumping”, is a lot more common than many expectant mothers realise. Bizarrely, it isn’t generally covered in NHS or NCT antenatal classes. If your baby doesn’t immediately latch after birth, you’ll be encouraged to hand express your colostrum into a syringe, which allows you to drip the “liquid gold” into baby’s mouth. Often, this will be enough to stimulate their suckling reflex, and you can go about your merry way.
However, that isn’t always the case. Once your milk comes in, you may continue expressing, using a small cup or spoon to allow baby to drink. Many women successfully express exclusively for the first few weeks, months or even years of their child’s life. While some midwives may tell you it can’t be done, it most certainly can if it’s something that works for you. Read Becky and Isla’s story to learn more.
Last but not least, bottle feeding is another way you may feed your newborn, whether it be pre-planned or a necessity. Even within the category of bottle feeding, there are plenty of variations other than straightforward formula feeding.
First of all, you may find yourself using a bottle to deliver expressed breastmilk, either due to expressing or simply to allow someone else to take over a feed. Or, perhaps you’ll opt for donor milk over formula, another increasingly popular option. Many milk banks exist to help new mothers having supply issues or for babies in NICU. Using donor milk is a fantastic option if for any reason you can’t supply your own. Check UKAMB to find your local source.
Another possibility is that you may decide to formula feed, but then find that your child doesn’t cope well with dairy - affecting an estimated 7% of babies. Thankfully, even this can be overcome, thanks to a range of formulas suitable for children with CMA. If you notice any of the symptoms listed on the NHS website, see your GP or midwife to discuss the best way forward.
Whatever challenges you face in your feeding journey, remember that support is only ever a call away. Here are some helpful links to have on hand should you need them. You’ve got this mama!
Originally from New Zealand, Sarah is a mother to two boys and has lived in the UK for the past 10 years. She is a home-educator, freelance writer, Netflix-binger and has a penchant for strong black coffee.