NEW YORK (WABC) -- Bringing home a new baby can be overwhelming. Pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Gardner shared her top tips for making sure your baby is getting his or her nutritional needs met. While it is widely acknowledged that "breast is best," a new survey found that two out of three moms used formula at some point during their baby's first year of life. So how can you make sure your baby is being fed properly?
1) Make feeding decisions in advance, but prepare to adapt to change.
"The most important job that your baby has for the first year of life is to grow," Dr. Gardner said. "The way that the baby grows is by you feeding. Other than just bonding with your child in the first year, your major job is to feed the baby."
2) Breast is best, but research formula beforehand, do your homework so that you can be prepared for unplanned circumstances.
"If you are going to breastfeed, great!" Dr. Gardner said. "But still understand the basics of formula feeding because there is always a chance that you might have to." The more you know about breastfeeding and bottle feeding the better.
3) If you need to supplement try to wait until your breastmilk supply is established before introducing formula. At a minimum, wait 4-6 weeks. Milk is better established 3-6 months and beyond.
"When it occurs later, at like six months, it's a lot easier to introduce a bottle to the baby because it's getting towards the end of when they are going to be using bottles anyway," Dr. Gardner said.
4) You can tell if your baby is drinking enough breastmilk or formula if they are making 8-10 wet diapers a day and following the same growth curve. If you are breastfeeding, your breasts should feel softer after each feed.
"You want their urine to be a pale color and not at all dark like apple juice," Dr. Gardner said.
5) Babies under a month old should wake up at least twice a night to feed. That reduces to once night between the ages of one and three months old. By four to six months old they should sleep through the night!
"If your baby is older than six months and still not sleeping through the night, they might actually be waking up for comfort more than actually needing a feed," Dr. Gardner said. "So the first thing to do is stop that feed and try to comfort your baby, but not introduce a bottle."
6) The best way to feed your baby is to be a responsive feeder. Follow the baby's cues and you will know they are hungry before they cry. Following your baby's cues can help create good eating habits that can carry over into childhood.
"You provide and your baby decides," Dr. Gardner said. "You feed your baby when the baby is hungry and you stop when they have had enough." Hunger cues include: rooting, lip smacking, sucking noises, and baby putting their hands in their mouth. Full cues include less interest, slowing pace, turning away from breast or bottle, hands in front of mouth, and yawning and falling asleep.
7) Pacifier use is a personal decision, but don't be a pacifier pusher. Let the baby have opportunities to self soothe. They can be useful when not overused.
"Certain babies want to suck a lot and you don't always want to give them a bottle," Dr. Gardner said. "So there's times to give them a pacifier and there's time to not."
Bonus Tip for Moms: Try to get yourself and your baby on a schedule when you can. It helps you feel in control of your parenting and planning walks can provide bonding time with the baby. "It's a great thing to do with a baby as it gets you exercise, it gets the baby out, and it is good time to spend," Dr. Gardner said. "So really getting into a routine and taking care of yourself, it's so important, take the time, even if it's just resting that helps you."
Jennifer Gardner, MD is a mom of three-year-old son, a pediatrician, and the founder of an online child wellness and weight management company, HealthyKidsCompany.com in Washington, DC. She is also a contributing author to The Mommy MD Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great.
Nationwide survey conducted by Perrigo Nutrition between July 23 - August 22, 2018, among 2,000 nationally representative Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 who currently have a child between the ages of one and three, using an email invitation and an online survey. Margin of error is +/- 3 percent.