The word infancy is used to describe the first year of a child’s life, which is a critical period in the growth and development of the child. Therefore it is very important to adhere strictly to the nutritional requirements of infants because at this stage of a baby’s life they require a lot of nutrients to grow, maintain good physical health, and optimize cognitive development.
Infants require a balanced diet of both macro-and micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fat, proteins, and water. A baby’s access to these important nutrients is determined by the different ways of feeding methods used to provide sustenance to the infant.
What Are the Different Ways of Feeding Infants?
Infants require a lot of essential nutrients and one or two different feeding methods can be employed to provide them with the adequate amount of required nutrients.
The main feeding methods used for newborns include:
- Replacement feeding
Method 1: Breastfeeding
Amongst the main methods employed in infant feeding, breastfeeding is the most effective and undoubtedly the healthiest way to nourish an infant. Breast milk is enriched with the perfect blend of nutrients, energy, and other vital substances that the growing infant requires to promote mental and cognitive development, support healthy weight gain, promote immunity, grow strong teeth and bones, and reduces the risks of developing certain diseases. In addition to the above, it also provides vital bonding time between mother and child.
What Is the Right breastfeeding Position?
A typical breastfeeding session is done with the mother in a sitting position with the infant’s head facing the mother’s breast, with their entire body aligned. However, as easy as this sounds in theory, it may be more difficult in theory. However, proper breastfeeding technique is a skill that the mother has to learn and different methods are effective for different mothers and their babies. The most commonly utilized positions are the clutch, cradle, cross-cradle, and side-lying positions.
What Are the Right Steps in Breastfeeding?
Here are a few key steps involved in proper breastfeeding.
- Put the thumb of one hand slightly above the nipple or areola
- Place the other four fingers below the breast
- Position the breast pointing outwards like a cone, with the baby abreast the mother, head, and shoulders facing the breast.
- The mother must be in a relaxed and supported position while breastfeeding
- The mother bends forward slightly while supporting the baby’s neck with her palm
- She provides additional support to the baby’s head using her four fingers.
Optimal Breastfeeding Time
The onset of milk synthesis occurs under the influence of prolactin and typically begins during the second trimester of pregnancy, while at the third trimester, the alveoli contain significant amounts of colostrum (the first milk to come out of the mother’s breast after giving birth to the baby).
It is greatly enriched with essential nutrients that the baby needs. New mothers should breastfeed their baby the first colostrum within the first two hours of birth. Not only is colostrum energy-dense and rich in nutrients, but it also improves the baby’s immunity, as it is enriched with immunoglobulins, antibodies, and a variety of nutrients, which is very essential for babies’ development.
With the numerous benefits gotten from nursing a child with breast milk, it is important to breastfeed your baby whenever your baby shows signs of being hungry or/and or at least every 2-3 hours. Each feeding session should last at least 40 minutes, with at least 15-25 minutes per breast.
Different babies should be fed at different times, for example, infants who sleep for long at night should be breastfed frequently during the day to meet their nutritional needs.
Newborns start breastfeeding almost immediately after birth, usually as needed, and not regularly. To maintain adequate weight and nutritional status. Within the first week of giving birth, the infant should suckle more often on the mother’s breast to increase the production of breast milk in the breast.
What Are the Safety Measures Employed When Breastfeeding?
Let’s take a look at some steps which are involved in safe breastfeeding:
- When the baby is fed at night, the mother must stay awake, as she may suffocate the baby if she falls asleep on the child
- Do not force a baby to suckle your breast
- Artificial teats or pacifiers should not be used without strict supervision
- The mother must maintain good personal hygiene
Method 2: Replacement Feeding
Replacement feeding, unlike the breastfeeding method that is naturally gotten from the mother’s breast, involves any other prepared diary formula such as milk gotten from cows, sheep, and other lactating mammals or plant by-products such as soy-based formulas. It could be processed into powdered form, liquid form or it could come in a ready-to-use formulation.
This kind of infant feeding method is administered directly to the baby’s mouth by using a sterilized feeding bottle, or in some cases, the use of clean baby cups and spoons are used to feed the infant.
What Are the Reasons for Using Replacement Method?
Although the breastfeeding method is the best way for feeding an infant, some mothers employ artificial feeding methods for various reasons. These may include predisposing debilitating medical or non-medical factors from mother or child.
Non-medical reasons may include:
- Working mothers with a tight schedule that prevents regular infant breastfeeding
- Superstitious belief and ignorance
- A personal decision not to breastfeed
- Pressure from peers, family, colleagues, or society
- Religious restrictions
- Poor education on the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding
- Cultural restrictions, etc.
There are several medical reasons why artificial feeding method may be preferred include:
- Disorders of metabolism like phenylketonuria, maple syrup urine syndrome, and galactosemia of the baby
- Mastectomy as a result of breast cancer
- Breast lesions from herpes simplex virus or syphilis
- A previous surgery is done on the breast resulting in severe loss or damage of glandular tissues
- An HIV positive mother to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus
- Severe dehydration of the mother
- Chemotherapy and radiation
- Psychiatric condition of the mother
- General poor health of the mother
Disadvantages of Using Replacement Feeding
Although when don’t correctly replacement feeding is perfectly safe, there are some shortcomings which giving only artificial formulas to an infant may have on their growth and development. They include:
- Unlike breast milk, artificial formulas cannot change their composition to match the unique energy and nutritional requirements of the infant at different stages of growth.
- Infant formulas lack the immunological substances found within breast milk which is important for t her proper development of the infant’s immune system.
- Infant formula lacks some of the long-term benefits associated with breastfeeding such as increase intelligence, reduced risk of certain infections, reduced risk of certain conditions such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), diarrhea, heart disease. asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and so on.
Method 3: Mixed Feeding
Mixed feeding is a special kind of infant feeding employed in certain cases. It is also referred to as a combination type of feeding. This method involves a mother adopting both the replacement feeding and breastfeeding methods. That is, the baby is fed both breast milk and artificial formula such as processed formula, powdered or liquid milk.
Is It Safe to Use the Mixed Feeding Method?
This kind of feeding method is supplementary and it is perfectly safe to use in feeding your infant. This form of feeding is utilized for personal reasons or may be introduced out of necessity due to insufficient breast milk supply from the mother that may not serve the baby’s nutritional needs or increased nutritional requirement of the infant. The artificial feed balances the required nutrient that is lacking in breast milk.
Notes When Using Replacement Feeding or Mixed Feeding Method?
For mothers who practice the replacement feeding method or mixed feeding method, they must pay correct attention to the kind of formula needed by the baby. It must essentially be the most suitable for the baby, must be easily digestible, contain the right amount and balance of nutrients, and have a convenient taste for the baby.
Attention must also be given to the appropriate preparations of the formula and rules guiding proper feeding methods.
What Are the Rules of Guiding the Use of Artificial Formulas?
The rules guiding replacement feeding are essentially the same as those guiding breastfeeding. Before a definitive and quantitative guideline to feeding is established, the actual needs of the baby must be put into consideration. During the initial stages of feeding, the baby should be fed at demand, then as time progresses, the baby should be fed only what it needs.
Studies have also shown that newborns fed by their mothers have an improved mental health development due to the increased contact and emotional connection between mother and child.
Different methods of feeding are employed for reasons such as the child’s requirement, medical and non-medical reasons, and even personal reasons. However, the main methods for feeding an infant are all safe, with breastfeeding as the most recommended.