Safety In: Feeding Baby
September is Baby Safety Month. Join us each week in September for a fresh off-the-presses blog covering baby safety from birth to 12 months. The first year of child rearing can feel like rolling the dice most times, but alas! Vegas Family Doulas has you covered. First up this week, safety when feeding a baby.
From those first suckles to holding their own bottles and from puréed carrots to birthday cake, the first year of feeding your baby is a journey all it’s own. Well-check visits are one way to help parents gauge how their baby is fairing in their milestones. And while these visits are routinely scheduled in increments throughout the baby’s first year of life, there are a variety of ways through feeding and excreting that parents can assess the health, well-being, and growth of their baby in between said visits.
It’s no surprise that feeding is the foundation for a healthy growth in babies. Whether it be by breast/chest, bottle, tube, or cup, or other methods, starting off the baby’s feeding journey will navigate their digestive system, eating habits, and food relationships as they grow older. Researching and reading, a new parent will find facts and opinions about what are the “right” ways and “wrong” ways of nourishing a baby. First, let’s begin with shedding any and all guilt relating to providing sustenance to the baby. Let’s think of it more as “when we know better, we do better”. And even then, what works best for one family, may not work at all for another.
The basics of safety in infant feeding is the ideal focus and goal for all parents. Practicing safe feeding methods, feeding standards, and feeding successes will ensure a healthy and happy overall feeding experience for parents and baby. Let’s break down the steps for safety when feeding your infant.
Frequency in Feedings
Newborns eat small amounts, and they eat frequently. A baby’s belly is roughly the size of their fist. Eating every 2-3 hours is what’s expected. When a growth spurt occurs, don’t be surprised if the baby is eating every hour to 1 ½ hours. These power feeds are fueling the brain and body. Overall, newborns should consume at minimum 8 satiated feeds in a 24-hour period. For the 4-6 month old baby, eating every 3-4 hours begins to become the norm. At 6 months plus, the baby is consuming breast milk or formula 3-4 feeds a day, with solids and snacks between feeds. Forgoing a feed because “they just ate”, is a trap that parents get stuck in. If the baby is hungry, feed the baby. Babies will state when they are not hungry by refusing the nipple (bottle or breast), playing with the nipple (bottle or breast), fussing when presented with the food, etc. Babies nurse for many reasons beyond hunger.
The Amount Matters
The amount your baby consumes will aid in their growth and development. Pay attention to what goes in, and notice what comes out. Listen to the baby. They will tell you exactly what they need (or don’t need). Overfeeding can present a fussy upset baby in pain. Pulling their legs up or straightening them out stiff are signs of this. Spit up larger than a half-dollar. For example, if the baby ate a 3 oz bottle at 8 weeks and seems fussy, it may not be that they are still hungry. In fact, they may be overfed and have an upset stomach which will need attention for relieving via burp or flatulence. Underfeeding is a major concern and can result in fetal demise. Lethargic, gaunt looking, dark circles and inset eyes, a void in stools and wet diapers, and sleeping more than normal, to name a few. Contact your provider immediately if this is present. A well-fed, nourished baby will have awake times, consistent bowel movements, restful sleep periods, elastic hydrated skin, and happy and satiated after a feeding.
Executing a Feeding
There are some ways that feedings can unknowingly do more harm than help. Propping bottles is a safety hazard which does not allow control of the flow of the nipple. A propped bottle will continue to excrete milk whether the baby is sucking or not. Milk in the ear can contribute to ear infections. Milk gathering in the throat can result in choking. Holding baby in an upright seated position with bottle perpendicular to baby’s body, known as paced-bottle feeding, is a great way to allow the baby to navigate the flow of the feed, avoid ear infections, and cut down on reflux and spit up. For breastfeeding, when feeding the baby, check that the baby’s face is visible to avoid suffocation. Making sure to place the baby in their safe sleeping space after a nursing session is another way to ensure baby’s safety.
Feeding Baby Solids
When the baby is ready for solids (sitting, 6 months and older, shows interest in foods), there are options. Introducing foods one at a time has been taught to help cut down on and pinpoint allergies. Nowadays, with the changes in food processing, that is not necessarily the case. Introducing allergens slowly can actually help prevent allergies. Peanuts, citrus, wheat and eggs are some of the items on the updated green list. The foods to avoid before that first birthday? Honey, whole nuts (smooth versions are a-okay), cow’s milk, sugars, high in nitrates or mercury. In the beginning of introducing food, remember that the main purpose is for the baby to get used to the new textures and ways that the month moves. Consuming solids is different from sucking from a nipple. Avoid heating jarred purees in their container for burn risks. At room temperature, the purees are ready for consumption.
For pick’em ups, cutting up the food into pieces that are ¼ inch and smaller helps prevent choking. Steamed vegetables and fruits are perfect as pick’em up foods for your curious older baby. They are easy to mash by their gummy mandibles. Inviting foods from grown-up plates is a fun way to introduce an array of flavors to your curious baby. However be cautious and watch for allergic reactions or aversions. If the baby isn’t’ interested in solid foods quite yet, it’s okay! Introduce foods as the baby begins to show signs of readiness, and follow their lead. Be sure to keep a close eye while baby is eating, and encourage seated dining.
It’s always exciting to get the opportunity to guide and support parents as they journey though parenthood. Feeding time can be a fun time! Stay tuned for more celebration of Baby Safety Month!
***Please consult with your baby’s provider for care regarding feeding concerns, issues, evaluations***