Basic Tips for Feeding Your Newly Adopted Baby
Congratulations! You are matched with an expectant mother, and your prospective new baby is due any day now. In the middle of all your excitement and the flurry of activity to prepare Baby’s room and stock up on diapers, you are also feeling a bit of panic: you are responsible for feeding your newly adopted baby!
Standing in the bottle and formula departments of your local retail store is totally overwhelming. There are so many types of formula. Even more overwhelming is the number of options for bottles. Glass or plastic? Short and round or tall and angled? What about bottle nipples? How on earth are you supposed to settle on one or two that Baby will accept, without spending hundreds of dollars trying them all?!?
Take a deep breath. We’ve got you covered with these basic tips for feeding your newly adopted baby.
Bottle-Feeding or Breastfeeding?
The majority of adoptive parents choose to bottle feed their newborn babies. One significant benefit of bottle feeding is that you and your spouse or partner can participate in feedings too. Humans bond over food, and feeding time is an excellent way to encourage skin-to-skin contact, eye contact, and the comfort of touch. Another benefit is the convenience of quickly having a bottle available for a hungry baby.
Breastfeeding your adoptive baby with donor breast milk is also an option. However, given the process by which donor milk is screened and prepared, the immunity benefits of donor breastmilk are no different than those of formula. Donor breastmilk is also significantly more expensive and less convenient for new parents to access and keep on hand.
For those adoptive parents who are considering breastfeeding, Creating a Family has resources to educate and support you for inducing lactation, finding donated breast milk, and other considerations.
There are so many options to consider when you formula feed your baby. Most retailers offer a variety of liquid or powder formulas, in both soy and dairy base. You can choose from several brand names or opt for the store brand.
So, what is the best? Well, unless your baby has allergies or health issues that require a specialty formula, you should feel free to choose the formula that you can afford. Consider also what will be most convenient for your lifestyle. Generally speaking, most babies start well on dairy-based formulas. *
What Type of Bottle?
Even more overwhelming than the variety of choices of the formula is the sheer number of options available in bottles. In a recent Creating a Family radio show, Dr. Scott Cohen boiled down the issue quite simply, “If milk comes out of it and the baby can get at that milk, then the bottle is fine.”
He went on to say that nipple size for the bottle is often a more crucial choice for your individual baby. If you have a full-term, generally healthy baby, start with nipple size one and learn your baby’s intake pace as you go. You can regulate the flow by positioning the baby in your arms. Similarly, you can adjust to another nipple size as your baby’s needs and preferences change as he grows.
What is the Rule of Two and Four?
Dr. Cohen gives this easy tip for new parents to help them remember how much and how often to feed their newborns.
Two and four answers every feeding question. The first two to four months of a child’s life, they typically take about two to four ounces of formula or breast milk, and they feed about every two to four hours around the clock…
This “rule” is a general guideline, and you’ll need to learn your baby’s cues that signal when he is done. You will also come to learn his cries when he’s ready again to feed. Typically, newborns do not overfeed, so when he stops taking formula in, he’s done for now.
Check out the AdoptionEd.org course on Basic Baby Care for Newly Adopted Babies for pre-adoption training with a certificate of completion.
Is Baby Getting Enough?
There are three general ways to help you determine if Baby is getting enough to eat.
- Watch your baby’s cues. If he’s feeding well every two to four hours, taking in those 2-4 ounces, and plumping up nicely, relax a little bit. If he is satisfied after feedings, sleeping typically (for a baby, that is!), and peeing and pooping regularly, Baby is getting enough to eat.
- Take your baby to the pediatrician regularly. Most doctors follow a standard visit schedule and will track your baby’s height, weight, head circumference, and growth curves. If Baby is gaining weight and growing on a steady trajectory, he’s getting enough.
- Discuss your questions or concerns with your pediatrician. He will be a terrific resource for understanding the range of typical feeding needs and giving you tools to learn more or to calm your fears.
If your baby does not appear to be gaining weight or growing on his growth curve, your pediatrician will likely offer a couple of things to try, such as:
- adding an ounce or two to a feeding
- introducing an additional feeding time
- changing the formula
- trying another nipple size with a different flow rate.
Take Care Of Yourself
Our final tip is less about feeding your baby and more about taking care of yourself so that you can feed the baby, bond well, and build a robust and healthy attachment. If you are not taking care of yourself, you will find all of those priorities so much more challenging to manage.
The old adage is to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” and while it sounds pretty lofty, it’s sound advice. Especially if this is your first child. The learning curve of newborn parenting is a steep one, and when you add irregular or interrupted sleep to the mix, your body will protest.
Take advantage of the moments when Baby is snugged up in his bassinet sleeping on a full tummy and get some shut-eye for yourself.
If you are offered meals, laundry help, grocery runs, or other practical supports, take your friends and family up on the offers. If you don’t have extra support for those things, consider simplifying your days to include paper plates, frozen foods, and food delivery services. Order extra underwear on Amazon to be sure the basics are covered even if laundry isn’t run regularly. This is a season for lowered expectations, offering plenty of grace and convenience options for you and your partner.
Image Credits: Mike Mozart, Sean Freese
*The information within this post is general advice only. If your baby has a significant family history of food allergies, is premature, has a significant health issue, or is born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, please consult with your pediatrician about formula type, nipple size, calorie intake, frequency of feeding and other crucial feeding concerns.