Feeding Your Baby & Yourself

Your expert guide to nourishing your newborn and your postpartum self
Dr. Ariana Witkin

Whether or not your baby is already born, you may already be thinking about feeding. Should you breastfeed or bottle-feed? What brand of formula is best? What about pumps, bottles, and nipples?

There is no shortage of questions (and concerns!) when it comes to feeding your baby. Many women feel pressure to get it “right” and experience mounting anxiety as the responsibility of being the sole food source for your newborn sets in.

The purpose of this blog is to outline your choices for feeding your baby — and they are just that: choices. We will also review the keys to feeding and nourishing yourself.

If you take away one thing from this piece, let it be this: The most important thing is to feed your baby — it doesn’t matter how!

The Different Ways of Feeding Your Baby

When it comes to feeding your newborn, you can offer either breastmilk or formula. While we will discuss feeding directly at the breast and with a bottle, please note there are additional ways to feed your newborn, such as with a tube, cup, or syringe that will not be reviewed here.


Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life and through one year of age. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding through two years of age.

During pregnancy, many women will start producing breast milk during the second trimester (although you will likely not know it). Towards the end of pregnancy, you may see colostrum, the first milk, which can look like sticky drops of yellow fluid or dried crust on your nipple. For most women, this colostrum will transition to more mature breastmilk about 3 days after giving birth. 

If you’ve delivered your baby via cesarean section or have certain medical conditions (such as postpartum hemorrhage, breast augmentation, or breast cancer), it may take longer for your milk to transition. You may hear people refer to this period as your milk “coming in”. 

When a baby is born, his/her stomach is about the size of a blueberry. They don’t need very much milk to fill that space! Many women worry they do not have enough breastmilk to feed their baby, and most often, this is not true. All babies lose weight after they are born. Your pediatrician will advise you if you are breastfeeding and they are concerned your baby needs more volume or calories.

Many women continue to worry that they won’t make enough milk to nourish their babies in the long term. However, it can be helpful to understand that breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. The more often you feed your baby, the more milk your body will produce. You can’t overfeed a baby at the breast!

Breastfeeding Pros

Pros to breastfeeding include low cost (the milk itself is free!), portability, and health benefits for both mom and baby (such as increased immunity for baby and decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer for mom).

Breastfeeding Cons

Cons to breastfeeding include that it can be challenging (“natural” does not mean “easy”), painful and exhausting, as you are the only one who can feed your baby in this way. Additionally, some women find it stressful to breastfeed in public or around other people.


Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

Many women choose to feed their baby with formula for practical, physical, or emotional reasons. (Please note: “Because I want to” is all the reason you need.) It is safe to feed babies infant formula right from birth. The United States Food & Drug Administration heavily regulates infant formula, and therefore the ingredients in different brands are primarily the same. 

When selecting a formula, look for a container that says “Infant Formula.” Beyond that, I generally recommend buying whatever brand is the cheapest. If your baby was born premature, has a medical problem, or known allergy, make sure you talk to your pediatrician about what type of formula is right for your child.

Formula Pros

Pros to formula feeding include the potential for more flexibility as other people can feed your baby beside you, and involving partners/support people in feeding.

Formula Cons

Cons to formula feeding include that it can be expensive, requires planning to make sure you have your feeding supplies before leaving home and more time washing bottle parts.


Many women choose to both breastfeed and formula feed. They are not mutually exclusive! Both breastmilk and formula can be given in a bottle if that’s what you choose for your family. Additionally, you can breastfeed at the breast and give formula in a bottle. Some women prefer a combination method to get the health benefits of breastfeeding plus the shared responsibility of formula feeding.

Feeding Yourself

Now that we’ve covered feeding your baby let’s talk about YOU! Instead of focusing on what exactly you should be eating, I like to focus on how your food makes you feel. In general, a well-balanced diet is best. If you’re breastfeeding, your body needs an additional 300-500 calories per day than your non-breastfeeding body.

Your postpartum body and soul crave foods that are nourishing, comforting, and satisfying — and only you can define what those are! Some days that might look like a handful of fruit, and other days, it might look like a bowl of ice cream. Whatever kind of day it is, allow yourself to eat without passing judgment on your choices (there’s already more than enough of that to go around).

The first thing to say is, EAT! At the risk of sounding obvious, don’t forget to eat. Having a baby can be overwhelming and exhausting. Some days it will be 4pm, and you’ll realize you haven’t had breakfast. It can often feel like there are a million things to do to take care of the baby. Remember to prioritize feeding yourself, as taking care of yourself in this way is taking care of your baby.

When you do eat, try practicing mindful eating. Try eating slowly and tasting every bite instead of scarfing down the food as fast as you can. It takes about 20 minutes for your body to register satiety! 

Additionally, as much as possible, try eating without distractions. Put down your phone and turn off the TV. You’ll be better able to focus on your food if you’re not in front of a screen.

Practically, it can be helpful to have easy snacks ready to go. Use the list below for inspiration!

Below is a list of easy to prepare and eat snacks while holding or feeding a baby. Aim for at least 2 snacks per day in between meals, prepared the evening before, and put in a container for easy, ready-to-eat access!

  • Apple slices or banana with nut butter or sun butter
  • Carrot sticks, pepper slices, or crackers with hummus
  • Crackers with avocado and salt
  • Crackers with nut or sun butter
  • Turkey roll-ups with fruit or crackers
  • Toast with nut or sun butter and jam
  • Toast with avocado and salt
  • Toast with ricotta and jam 
  • Hard-boiled egg and fruit
  • Turkey or beef jerky and fruit
  • Chips and guacamole
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Cheese and fruit
  • Whole fat yogurt with fruit and granola
  • Protein bar

Remember: Aim for at least 3 meals and 2 snacks per day. 

Enjoy feeding your baby and nourishing yourself! And be sure to surround yourself with supportive people who believe in you and help you believe in yourself along the journey. You got this, mama!

© Ariana Witkin 2021  arianawitkin.com/work-with-me

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