For happy mealtimes, here's a rundown of the basic steps for breast-feeding or bottle-feeding your baby


Nourishing your baby can be a daunting task for the first few weeks. Here's a guide to print out and keep at hand during feedings.

How to Breast-feed Your Baby

Breast-feeding may be natural, but that doesn't mean it always comes naturally. It often takes practice, so be patient and persistent -- it's worth the effort. In the first few days, your baby may not be too hungry, but she'll become more interested as her need for nourishment increases.

If you or your baby finds nursing difficult, seek advice from your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant.

Things to Know:

  • Nurse your newborn as soon as possible after birth, preferably within the first hour, and every time she shows signs of hunger thereafter. Watch for increased alertness, mouthing, nuzzling against the breast, or rooting (a reflex in which your baby opens her mouth and turns her head toward something that touches her cheek).
  • If you follow her cues, you'll probably be breast-feeding every two to three hours around the clock for the first four to six weeks. But do allow your baby to breast-feed more frequently if she wishes.
  • In the early weeks, if four hours have elapsed since the last feeding, you should rouse your infant by gently moving her arms and legs. If she doesn't awaken enough to nurse after a few minutes, stop and try again in half an hour.

Getting Started:

  1. Settle into a comfortable position: sitting up or lying down, with baby angled across your breasts or alongside you. The baby's entire body should be facing you, not just her head. Use pillows as needed to support your arms, your back, and/or the baby. (Make sure no part of the pillow might impede baby's breathing.)
  2. Ignore distractions and concentrate on the softness of your baby's face against your breasts. If your baby doesn't immediately suckle, you can usually trigger the rooting reflex by gently stroking her cheek with your finger or your nipple.
  3. Help your baby to latch on to your breast correctly. Her mouth should encircle the entire nipple area (called the aureole), not just the nipple itself. Some babies take a while to learn how to do this, but it's essential, because incorrect latching-on quickly leads to sore nipples. Help her by placing your nipple in the center of her mouth, with as much of the as possible aureole within her lips. Press your breast down away from her nose, if necessary, to allow her plenty of breathing space.
  4. Adjust your position and hers as necessary while she's feeding. The more relaxed you feel, the better the feeding will go.
  5. Allow your baby about five minutes on each breast when you first begin. Over the course of the next few days build to ten to fifteen minutes per breast. This depends on your baby's appetite -- and each baby's needs are different. Don't force the issue -- you'll know if you're baby is getting enough nourishment by your pediatrician's weigh-ins and the number of wet diapers (about 5 to 8 per day during the first few days, 6 to 8 per day thereafter).
  6. To break suction so you can switch breasts, simply slide your finger between her mouth and the nipple.
  7. Unless your nipples are sore, it's okay to let her enjoy slowly sucking for as long as she likes.
  8. After she's finished with each breast, burp her by patting gently on her back as you hold her against your shoulder or in some other comfortable position (some babies prefer a sitting up position on your lap). Put baby atop a clean cloth as you do this -- occasionally milk comes up with the burp. Be aware that she won't always burp audibly, but it's important to try to help her get rid of any gas.


Things to know:

  • While bottle-feeding, you can still have skin-to-skin contact by stripping your baby down to his diaper and lifting your shirt whenever possible. (If you're breast-feeding some of the time, don't try this. Your baby may smell the milk and reject the bottle.)
  • Small, frequent feedings are best. Formula-fed infants may feed a little less frequently than breast-fed infants because formula is more filling.
  • Typically, a baby less than 1 week old will take only an ounce or two per feeding. After that, infants usually consume two to four ounces per feeding for the first two months and increase by one ounce per month until they reach eight ounces per feeding. But each baby's needs are different; always follow your baby's cues.

Getting Started:

  1. Until your baby is three months old, you'll need to sterilize his bottles and feeding equipment by putting them in a pot of boiling water for five minutes or running them through the dishwasher on a hot cycle.
  2. If you're using formula, choose the type of formula that your pediatrician recommends as best for your baby. Carefully follow all instructions on the packaging regarding preparation and storage. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you boil water for less than a minute before adding it to powdered or liquid-concentrate formula.
  3. Formula can be served cold, or room temperature, or slightly warm. (To warm a bottle, put it in a pan of warm water for five minutes.) Test it by shaking a few drops onto your wrist. If you're using bottled breast milk, serve it at room temperature (bring it to room temperature after freezing or refrigerating by running the milk container under a warm faucet).
  4. Settle into a comfortable position. To encourage bonding, cradle him so his face is at breast level, the optimal distance for eye contact. Use pillows to support your arm and the baby as needed.
  5. Angle the bottle so that the formula always fills the neck of the bottle -- this will keep the baby from swallowing too much air. Never prop the bottle, which can cause a child to choke.
  6. Switch arms regularly to relieve discomfort and so that the baby will learn to feel at home facing in either direction.
  7. After every two to three ounces and at the end of the meal, burp your baby by gently patting his back as you hold him against your shoulder or in some other comfortable position (some babies prefer a sitting up position on your lap). Put baby atop a clean cloth as you do this -- occasionally milk comes up with the burp. Be aware that he won't always burp audibly, but it's important to try to help him get rid of any gas.
  8. Let your baby tell you how much he wants to eat. If he fusses, pushes the bottle away, or turns his head, he's probably done. Don't try to cajole him into finishing the bottle if he's not interested.
  9. Discard any formula left in the bottle at the end of a feeding.

Parents Magazine