Feeding your Infant - Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding - Nemours Blog


Feeding your Infant – Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding

Feeding your Infant - Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding, powered by Nemours Children's Health System

Eat, poop, sleep, and repeat. As routine as these things may seem, we all know the struggles associated with parenting infants. Our job, as your friendly neighborhood dietitians, is to help guide you through that first part – feeding your infant.

We are going to discuss, in a rather general sense, two primary feeding methods. To make a sometimes confusing topic a bit more relatable, I like to compare infant feeding to macaroni and cheese. You have your homemade mac-n-cheese and your pre-made mac-n-cheese. Both are delicious, and typically contain the same calories and nutrients, it’s just a matter of the resources available to you.


First, let’s talk about breastfeeding. Just like your homemade mac-n-cheese, breast milk is designed to specifically meet your family’s needs. Breast milk is unique to each woman as well each environment. That means, if you breastfeed (or pump) in day care, the milk will contain antibodies from that environment. Breastfeeding is a wonderful, and affordable, way to nourish your infant. We certainly recommend this feeding method, if breastfeeding is a practice available to you.

In the days following delivery, your milk supply will naturally begin to letdown. Don’t worry, you will be able to fully nourish your child in the initial days while your supply is just coming in. The first little amounts of breast milk, or the Colostrum, is typically thicker than your standard supply and a bit more yellow. It is incredibly nutrient dense!

Breastfeeding How-To’s

There are multiple ways, physically, to breastfeed. You might feed your infant every two or three hours, or perhaps you will have a “cluster feeder.” It is possible that you are going to feed directly from the breast, by latching, or possibly, you will pump and provide a bottle for feeds. These are things you can’t exactly plan for; but rather, will learn as you get to know your little one’s hunger/fullness cues.

Overtime, your infant will start to take in greater volumes naturally to support weight gain in the early stages of life. It becomes essential, as a breastfeeding mom, to support your own health and well-being since your body will be under higher demand. Eating well, hydrating, resting and managing stress are all key components in maintaining your supply.

If you are planning to exclusively breast feed for the first year of life, remember to provide your baby with Vitamin D (D-vi-sol) daily, starting at birth, and then iron supplementation at 6 months. Like any practice, there is plenty of support out there for breastfeeding moms and infants. Lactation specialists, registered dietitians and primary care physicians are all wonderful resources.

Formula Feeding

If breastfeeding is not an option or preference for you, there are plenty (we admit, an overwhelming amount) of formulas out there to provide your little one. Infant formulas are designed to have the same exact calorie concentration and nutrient composition as breast milk. There are a variety of formulas out there; we are going to focus exclusively on the standard ones.

How to Choose Formula

Just like there are different brands of mac-n-cheese, (Kraft, Stoffers, Annies), there are different brands of formula. The ones we see most frequently are “Enfamil,” “Similac,” “Gerber” and generic brands. And just like mac-n-cheese, they are all delicious options – it is merely user preference.

Stepping into the formula section at your local grocery store, however, is a bit more stressful than picking out your favorite mac-n-cheese. So, here are some of the standard ones, by brand, that are an excellent starting point for any child.

  1. Enfamil Premium Infant (Changing soon to Enfamil NeuroPro)
  2. Similac Advance (Pro-Advance)
  3. Gerber Good Start – Gentle for Tiny Tummies

All of these formulas can support your child through their first year of life, just like breastmilk. Most infant formulas contain Vitamin D, which is wonderful, however, we still recommend supplementation with D-vi-Sol until your little one takes roughly one liter each day.

Is All Water Safe to Use to Mix Formula?

I frequently get asked about the water used for mixing formula. If you live in an area with safe and fluoridated tap water, go for it! If you live in area with well-water, you can also use it, just be mindful of a few things:

  • If you have any rare mushrooms, please consider testing the water.
  • If you live on or near a farm where animals may be excreting, I would also recommend getting the water tested.
  • Remember, you can always get the water tested for your own piece of mind.

“Feeding Solution” Formulas

Within all of these formula brands, there are “feeding solution” formulas designed for excessive gassiness, acid reflux, diarrhea and even malabsorption. If you think your little one is showing signs that they may need to transition formulas, get in contact your primary care physician or registered dietitian.

So there you have it – a quick infant feeding guide, with some help from my favorite side dish! Happy feeding!

Learn More

Breastfeeding FAQ’s (Nemours KidsHealth.org)
Formula Feeding FAQ’s (Nemours KidsHealth.org)

Lauren Cohen, MS, RD, LDN

Lauren Cohen, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian at Nemours Children's Hospital, in Wilmington, Del.