Advice for the first 3 Months of Baby’s Life
First, congratulations. Nothing compares to being a new parent. And you now have the opportunity to continue all the healthful habits you began during pregnancy so that your baby will gain and grow. Your baby’s nourishment is the most important part of what you provide.
Dr. Stan Cohen, one of the top experts in the fields of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition and author of What to Feed Your Baby in the country and founder of the Children’s Digestive Research Fund, provides 10 great nutrition tips for the first three months of their babies’ lives.
1) Breastfeed if you can. Breast milk has wonderful immune factors to lessen infections and doctor’s visits. Breast milk even helps to lessen asthma, diabetes, obesity, reflux and a host of other conditions. You’ll also lose your baby weight faster, by the way (and you will decrease your own risk for breast, ovarian and uterine cancers).
2) In those first days after birth, put the baby to the breast often to help your milk come in. The baby isn’t going to take much at a time (his stomach is only the size of a small marble). Let the skin-to-skin contact help stimulate your flow and let all that bonding nurture both you and the baby.
3) Don’t give up easily or assume breastfeeding is totally natural.
4) Breastfeed as long as you want to, though I recommend at least 6 months if possible, since the longer you continue, the more you may help to diminish any tendency to allergies and increase the baby’s intellectual and social development.
5) Make sure you eat fish 2-3 times a week to increase your supply of DHA that will cross to the baby. DHA is one of the factors that optimizes the baby’s brain and visual development, beginning in the last trimester of pregnancy through the second year of life. Watch out for fish with high levels of mercury, like swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, shark. If you’re allergic to fish, you can take DHA supplements or get it from other DHA-enriched sources (eggs, for example).
6) Continue your prenatal vitamins and consider taking extra vitamin D, some of which will get to your baby. and give the baby vitamin D drops as well. Unless you are taking high levels of vitamin D yourself, the baby won’t be getting enough from breast milk.
7) Don’t let all of the emphasis on breastfeeding cause any guilt if you are unable to breastfeed or choose not to. Infant formulas are quite healthful. They were developed to match breast milk and the outcomes of feeding breast milk as much as possible.
8) Watch for early hunger cues, especially when your baby is smacking his or her lips or seems to be sucking or rooting for your breast. It’s much easier to initiate a feeding before the baby is already shrieking with a hunger cry.
9) Neither breast nor bottle fed babies need to have a rigid feeding schedule. Nor do they need to finish a bottle just because you prepared it. Overfeeding can result in an uncomfortable baby or one who brings back the excess.
10) Ask for help if you need it–from your husband (or significant other) and your baby’s doctor. Not all babies are professional feeders and they may have problems that others can assist you with, even if it’s just to watch the baby so you can refresh and pamper yourself for a few hours. And remember,
Dr. Cohen is the author of WHAT TO FEED YOUR BABY: Cost-Conscious Nutrition for Your Infant. He is Adjunct Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia and an active member of the staff at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where he served as president of the medical staff at one of the affiliated institutions. He recently founded the Children’s Digestive Research Fund under the hospital’s stewardship to support important investigations in the areas of nutrition and gastrointestinal illnesses.