How to Prepare for Feeding Your Baby Before Baby Arrives

How to Prepare for Feeding Your Baby Before Baby Arrives

Have you thought a lot about how to feed your soon-to-be baby? This basic act is surprisingly more complicated than you would think (as is most of parenting!) and planning is key. So, we’re here to help! Use the simple tips below to prepare for any unforeseen circumstances and create a roadmap for success — which will be a helpful resource in those early, sleep-deprived days:

  • If you can, plan to breastfeed for at least the first 8 days. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first year and we support that recommendation. But it can be an overwhelming commitment for many moms, so we encourage you to take it one step at a time. The very first feedings are especially important. Mother's milk changes over time and the "first milk" (a.k.a. colostrum) has a very unique constitution specifically suited for newborns. Colostrum has high levels of nutrients like protein and carbohydrates, large numbers of antibodies and leukocytes to help protect against harmful viruses and bacteria, and even natural probiotics to help establish a healthy digestive tract. All of this and more is highly concentrated in colostrum, so newborn babies (and their very tiny, immature digestive systems) reap a lot of benefits from just a little bit of food. These early frequent feedings are critical in helping to establish mom’s milk supply. Additionally, "[t]he first 8 days appear to be a critical window,” says renowned pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene. “Babies are setting their internal sense of how much is ‘normal’ for them to eat. Too much, or too little can lead to lifelong impacts. Thankfully, breastfeeding typically leads to the right amount and pacing during that first week. You are designed to provide just what your baby needs! With formula-fed babies, you’ll need to be more attentive to not over- or underfeed.” (More on that here.) If you do plan on breastfeeding, nipple cream will also prevent getting sore or chapped nipples.

  • If you know you’ll be bottle-feeding, get your gear in advance. Many hospitals have freebie formula and even bottles from major manufacturers, but there are safer options. Choose glass, stainless steel, or safe plastic bottles like those made from polypropylene. (The hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A was widely used in baby bottles and formula cans, but both uses have been banned, so you don’t need to worry about that anymore.) Also, opt for organic formula or even breast milk from a breast milk bank.

  • Have a Plan B. Life is full of unexpected surprises and you certainly don’t want to be caught off guard when it comes to feeding your baby. Consider a couple of what-ifs: What if your baby is premature? How and what will you feed your baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)? What if something happens to you and you’re unable to breastfeed or feed your child at all? Does your significant other know about organic formula and breast milk banks?

  • Take classes. You’ve probably considered childbirth education, but also look into newborn parenting classes, breastfeeding classes, and La Leche League meetings. The more informed and empowered you are, the more likely you’ll successfully fulfill your feeding goals.

  • Find out what your hospital or birthing center’s postpartum protocols are and how they address first feedings. How hands-on and informed are their nurses when it comes to breastfeeding? Do they allow immediate skin-to-skin contact? What about if a C-Section is necessary? Is there an on-site lactation consultant to assist you during those first days?

  • Have a clear birth plan and someone in attendance who will advocate for you and your wishes. Go beyond a basic birth plan and make sure your wishes are clear in regards to some of those “what if” possibilities mentioned earlier. The more empowered you are, the more successful you’ll be during first feedings.

  • Set up a support system. A lactation consultant can be invaluable. Look for an IBCLC - International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s pediatrician for supportive advice. Identify friends and family who have weathered these experiences before (both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding) and put them on speed dial. It takes a village!

Keep this in mind, too: How you feed your baby does not define what type of parent you are. It’s an extremely emotional and personal experience. There is no right or wrong way, so if it doesn’t always work out how you envisioned, it’s okay. We’re all for putting judgement, preconceptions, and guilt aside and just focusing on loving our babies!

Did we miss anything that you’ve been considering? Or do you have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.