Feeding your baby in the early days: what you need to know … (Part 1)

Q1:The added ingredients in formula milk (such as probiotics) are as good as breastmilk for enhancing immunity and promoting your baby’s health.

A:Not true!

Breastfeeding:

  • Breastmilk contains unique natural antibodies, living cells, etc which strengthen your baby’s resistance to diseases.
  • Breastmilk provides complete nutrition to promote growth.
  • Intimate contact between you and your baby during breastfeeding helps him feel secure, thereby enhancing mother-baby bonding and promotes development of your baby’s brain.   

Formula milk:

  • No natural antibodies, growth factors and living cells, which help fight diseases. 
  • The added ingredients are meant to mimic the composition of breastmilk. There is not enough evidence to prove these added substances have long-term health benefits for your baby.
  • Contamination is possible during manufacturing, storage and the transportation process.
  • Improper handling during preparation of formula milk can lead to bacteria growth which is a risk to your baby’s health.

(Please read Chapter 1 of Love, Starts from Breastfeeding... for details.)

Q2: Breastfeeding may increase the physical burden on me.

A:Not true

  • It may but you can make adjustment to alleviate this.
  • Whether breastfed or formula-fed, your newborn baby needs to be fed frequently both day and night in the first month making you feel tired. However, when you breastfeed, a hormone is produced which has the effect of improving your sleep quality.
  • During this period, you can:
    • Sleep while your baby sleeps
    • Minimise guest visits in order to have more time to rest
    • Do less housework or ask others to help
  • From 1 month onwards, you baby may feed 7-8 times per day and sleep longer at night. At this point, you may get more time to rest.

(Please read Chapters 1 & 2 of Love, Starts from Breastfeeding... for details.)

Q3: You and your partner should have frequent intimate skin–to-skin contact with your baby regardless of whether she is breastfed or formula-fed.

A: True!

You can place your naked baby on your uncovered chest shortly after birth.

  • Direct and intimate skin-to-skin contact can:
    • Provide your baby with emotional security and enhance mother-baby bonding
    • Provide your baby with warmth and stabilise her heartbeat and breathing
    • Help your body produce hormones that promote breastmilk secretion and uterine contractions
  • Both you and your partner can have more skin-to-skin contact with your baby especially before feeding, or when your baby is crying.

(Please read Chapters 1 and 2 of Love, Starts from Breastfeeding… for details.)

Q4: Breastfeeding is not suitable for mothers who have the following conditions: flat or inverted nipples, hepatitis B carriers, or suffering from flu.

A:Not true!

  • There are only a few medical conditions that would make breastfeeding unsuitable.
  • Mothers with the above conditions can breastfeed their babies:
    • Having flat or inverted nipples: Apart from the nipple, the baby also takes in much of the areola during breastfeeding. Therefore, you can breastfeed your baby.
    • If you are a hepatitis B carrier: the baby will receive hepatitis B immunoglobulin and vaccine shortly after birth to prevent him from getting infected through the breastmilk. So it is safe to breastfeed.
    • If you have a cold or flu, the antibodies in your breastmilk can strengthen your baby’s immunity. In general, commonly used medications for colds and flu are suitable for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Please seek advice from healthcare professionals if you have any questions.

(Please read Chapter 7 of Love, Starts from Breastfeeding... for details.)

Q5: Putting your baby to sleep in his cot next to your bed, helps you to respond to his needs in time.

A:Right!

  • Sharing a room with your baby and staying close can help you better understand your baby’s needs and respond promptly.
  • When you notice your baby’s early cues of hunger, such as opening the mouth, or putting fingers into the mouth, you can start to feed him.
  • If you breastfeed your baby in a lying position, you should put him back in the cot after feeding so as to avoid accidents.

(Please read Chapter 2 of Love, Starts from Breastfeeding... for details.)

Q6: You should have a feeding schedule and give fixed amounts each feed.

A:Not true!

  • Every baby has own pace for feeding. Sometimes the baby needs to be fed more frequently, and sometimes sleeps more. Furthermore, the milk taken each feed may vary.
  • Baby should take the lead in feeding whether breastfed or formula-fed. Scheduled feeding and a set amount for each feed are not encouraged.
  • Start responsive feeding when you notice your baby’s early feeding cues.
  • As long as your baby has enough wet diapers and bowel motions every day and has satisfactory weight gain, the milk taken is enough.

(Please read Chapters 2, and 4 of Love, Starts from Breastfeeding… for details.)

Q7: The amount of “first milk” (colostrum) produced in the first few days after delivery is small. I should feed my baby with formula milk first and only start breastfeeding after the breastmilk “comes-in.”

A: Not true!

  • A healthy full-term baby is born with sufficient reserves of water and nutrients. The baby needs colostrum only in the first few days.
  • Benefits of colostrum:
    • The thick colostrum helps your baby to learn and coordinate her suckling, swallowing and breathing skills.
    • The small amount of colostrum matches the stomach size of your newborn baby which is the size of a marble.
    • Colostrum contains lots of antibodies and living cells that can be considered as your baby’s first natural vaccination.
  • Feeding your baby formula milk will reduce her desire to suckle at your breasts and in turn affect your milk production.

(Please read Chapter 2 of Love, Starts from Breastfeeding... for details)

Q8: Giving my baby formula milk and water, using bottles and dummies will not affect breastfeeding.

A: Not true!

  • Breastmilk is more than 80% water. Therefore, an exclusively breastfed baby does not need extra water intake.
  • Giving formula milk, water or glucose water to your baby as supplements:
    • Reduces your baby’s desire to breastfeed and thus decreases milk production.
    • Reduces the effect of the “protective film” formed in the baby’s gut produced by breastfeeding exclusively, hence increases the risk of infection and allergy.
  • Sucking at a bottle or dummy is completely different from suckling at the breast.
    • Introducing the bottle or a dummy to your baby before 1 month may affect learning to suckle at the breast correctly.
    • If expressed breastmilk or formula milk supplement is necessary, you may consider feeding the baby with a small spoon or cup.

(Please read Chapters 1,2 & 4 of Love, Starts from Breastfeeding... for details.)

Q9: The nutritional value of breastmilk reduces 6 months after my baby is born, so I can stop breastfeeding.

A: Not true!

  • The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding exclusively during the first 6 months of the baby’s life. When the baby is around 6 months old, solid foods should be gradually introduced and breastfeeding should continue up to 2 years old or above.
  • Breastmilk contains a wide range of nutrients and your body can adjust the content according to your baby’s needs at different developmental stages.
    • The chances of having food allergies will be lower if you start introducing new foods to your baby while still being breastfed.
    • Your baby’s ability to produce antibodies starts to become more mature only on reaching the age of 2 to 3 years. The natural antibodies, living cells and other factors in the breastmilk can reduce the risk of infections.
  • The longer you breastfeed, the greater the health benefits for both you and your baby.
  • Basically, there are no hard and fast rules. The best way is for you and your child to work out together when and how to wean .

(Please read Chapter 1 of Love, Starts from Breastfeeding... for details.)

We have included reference materials on infant feeding in the antenatal welcome package:

Family Health Service

Website:www.fhs.gov.hk
24-hour information hotline:2112 9900

(Published 03/2018)