Sleeping and feeding tips for a smooth start in life
January 31, 2017
Sleeping and feeding tips for a smooth start in life

    When it comes to becoming a new parent, it’s easy get confused with all the different advice people offer. Trust your instincts and ask your health care provider to help answer any questions. Here are a few tips to get you started from pediatrician and mother of three Dr. Gauri Gulati:

    Safe & sound sleep

    While most babies sleep 16 to 17 hours per day, they usually only sleep one or two hours at a time and don’t have regular sleep cycles until about 4 to 6 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

    Babies be placed on their backs to sleep on a firm sleep surface.

    Babies sleep in the same room as their parents but not in the same bed.

    Soft objects or loose bedding be kept out of the crib. Bumper pads are not recommended. Wedges and positioners should not be used.

    Offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime during the first year of life. This helps to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. If an infant is breastfeeding, it is recommended to wait until breastfeeding is going well before offering a pacifier. This can take at least 3 to 4 weeks. Once breastfeeding is established, infants can use a pacifier. The pacifier should not have strings or clips that might be a strangulation risk.


    The AAP and World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding as the superior choice for feeding infants. Human milk has been scientifically proven to provide babies with all the nutrients needed to grow into healthy children and to offer protection from many illnesses. Breastfeeding also offers many health benefits for mom.

    Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before you give birth. Take a breastfeeding class and talk with your health care provider about your desire to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is a process that needs to be learned. Don’t expect overnight perfection. Breastfeeding takes practice and time.

    Hold your baby skin to skin after birth and breastfeed within the first hour. In the first hour of life, the baby is most alert and able to imprint the unique suckling movements necessary for successful breastfeeding.

    Feed on your baby’s cues. Most babies provide hunger cues such as rooting, smacking or licking lips, making sucking noises, or putting their hands to their mouth. Crying is a late sign of hunger.

    Most babies will initially eat 8 to 12 times or more in a 24-hour period. Feed as long as the infant is sucking and swallowing. Let your baby set the pace. Don’t watch the clock. The more often you breastfeed your infant in the first few days of life, the better chances of having a full milk supply for your infant later.

    Your baby does not need water or other sources of nutrition unless there is a medical issue. Introducing anything other than breast milk in the first few days may reduce chances of breastfeeding success. If you are concerned about your baby’s nutrition, talk to their health care provider to see if anything other than breast milk is needed. 

    Breastfeeding should not be a painful experience.  Ask for help right away. Have a lactation consultant or knowledgeable provider check how your baby is feeding so they can offer advice about how to minimize any discomfort.

    The AAP recommends scheduling an appointment with your baby’s health care provider at 3 to 5 days of age. Close follow-up can help minimize any breastfeeding issues.

    Every day you and your baby are changing and new breastfeeding questions may arise. Seek out breastfeeding support groups and contact your lactation support team.

    Every baby and breastfeeding experience is unique. Don’t compare yourself with others. Babies have different nursing styles. Some like to eat quickly and others take their time. What matters most is that your baby is gaining weight and growing appropriately.

    Formula feeding

    In situations where it is not possible to breastfeed, iron-fortified infant formula is an appropriate alternative for a baby’s first year of life. Formula has the nutrients required for infants to grow appropriately.

    It’s important to follow the proper instructions for preparation and safe handling of formula. Store unopened formula containers in a cool, dry place and wash hands thoroughly before preparing formula.

    Always follow the label instructions for mixing formula appropriately and always check the expiration date. If the expiration date has passed, you can’t be sure of the quality of the formula.

    Sterilize bottles and nipples before using them for the first time and wash these items with soap and water and allow them to air dry after each use. You can also wash in a dishwasher.

    There are three types of formula preparations: ready to feed, concentrated liquid and powder. If using concentrated liquid or powder formula, use safe water for mixing. The CDC recommends bringing tap water to a rolling boil for one minute, mixing with formula and allowing to cool. If bottled water is used and it is not labeled as sterile, follow the same process.

    Add the exact amount of formula as instructed on the label. Adding more or less concentrated liquid or powder than instructed could make babies ill.

    Feed appropriate volumes for your baby’s stomach size and age. Ask your provider for guidance on this.

    Personal care

    Take care of your health too so you can be fully prepared to take care of your baby.

    Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet. Planning, preparing and freezing food ahead of time can help take the burden off during the first few weeks with your baby.

    Sleep deprivation can affect your mood, memory and breast milk supply. Remember to sleep when your baby sleeps. In the first few weeks, your baby does not recognize day and night so it is just as important for you to sleep in the day when your baby sleeps as during the night.

    Be flexible and patient. Babies do not read the textbooks. Every family unit is unique and different. Trust yourself. Over time, you will recognize your baby’s patterns and learn to adapt to their behavior. You can never spoil your baby with too much love and responding to their needs.

    Accept help. It takes a village to raise a family. Let others help take care of you while you take care of your baby.

    Take quality time for yourself.  Take a walk, read a book, or sit down with a friend or your partner. Do whatever relaxes you to take away any stress. Moments of relaxation will help you better care for your infant.

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    New VA breastfeeding law – A new Virginia law enacted in July of 2015 allows mothers to breastfeed their children anywhere in Virginia, including public places like restaurants. In the past, Virginia’s laws only protected mothers who were feeding their infants on government-owned property.

    Baby-friendly designation – In 2015, VCU Medical Center earned a prestigious designation for providing the highest level of care for new mothers and their babies. VCU is one of approximately 300 U.S. hospitals recognized by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative for successfully implementing expert-recommended programming for breastfeeding success.

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