I just gave birth and I am so tired! What’s the big deal about just one bottle?
After labor and birth, new parents are understandably exhausted! You may wonder if it’s okay to send the baby to the nursery and have the staff give her a bottle so you can rest. However, this is likely to result in a less than optimal start to establishing breastfeeding. Here’s why:
A newborn’s tummy is the size of an almond on day 1. Feeding your baby a bottle of formula in these early days may make her less hungry to go to the breast as the formula will fill up her tiny tummy. Breastfeeding early and often is of the utmost importance to ensure your baby gets your colostrum; your first milk. This is all she needs in the first few days.
Your baby will latch differently on a bottle than she needs to at the breast. For some babies, this can create confusion, and mom may experience sore nipples as a result. Also, a bottle nipple flows faster than the breast, which may cause your baby to refuse the breast.
Margaret Neville and Marianne Neifert of "Lactation: Physiology, Nutrition, and Breastfeeding" say that early formula supplementation can change the pH balance in your baby’s digestive system, which makes her more vulnerable to infections. Giving only breast milk in the early days will optimize your baby’s immune system and keep her tummy more comfortable as your milk is easily digestible.
Frequent breastfeeding, at least 8-12 times a day will ensure that you establish a good milk supply. Giving your baby a bottle too early may cause you to breastfeed less often, which may result in a low milk supply.
But don’t worry -it’s not like you can never give your baby a bottle! However, if breastfeeding is going smoothly, it is best to wait until she is at least 4 weeks old so your supply is well established and your latch is comfortable. Then, you or another caregiver can try giving her a bottle, preferably of your expressed breast milk, once a day, so you can feel confident that she will take it when you need to be away from her.
So, keep your baby close to you in the early days! Hold her skin to skin and watch her for feeding cues. Breastfeed as often as she shows interest. Your baby’s first few months are exciting, but exhausting! The time and energy you invest now in breastfeeding your baby will reap a lifetime of rewards for you and your baby. Enjoy it!