What’s Best for My Newborn?

Category: Newborns

Breast milk or formula? Pacifier or no pacifier? MH rounds up some big decisions you need to make regarding your newborn.



If you’re a first-time mother, you’ve probably heard different and conflicting advice from other mothers when it comes to the important decisions you need to make for your newborn. From whether your baby should share a bed with you to the pacifier debate, there are some key things you need to carefully consider before your little bub arrives.


Breast Milk vs Formula

You’ve probably heard countless times how breastfeeding is always favoured over formula-feeding, and there are good reasons for this.


Why breastfeed?

Breast milk provides the nutrients and antibodies your baby needs to grow healthily. “Breast milk is a miracle super food because it has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, proteins and fat, which the baby needs for its growth and development,” says Dr Varsha Atul Shah, senior consultant, Dept. of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, SGH, “Colostrum, or the yellowish first milk, provides important protection to an infant. It is the baby’s very first immunisation and helps the baby to fight infection. It also helps to prepare the lining of the infant’s gut to receive the nutrients in the milk.”

The benefits of breastfeeding don’t just stop with your baby; mothers who breastfeed have a lot to gain too. According to Dr Varsha, breastfeeding aids in the contraction of the uterus, thus reducing post-birth bleeding.



Breastfeeding is also a great way for mothers to bond with their babies. Breastfeeding mothers tend to shed their pregnancy weight more easily too and face a lower risk of developing osteoporosis and anaemia.



Why formula?

As wonderful as breastfeeding is, there are certain circumstances that may influence a mother’s decision to feed her baby formula, as listed by Dr Varsha:


  • Baby has poor sucking reflex (common in premature babies)
  • Prolonged mother-infant separation
  • Painful nursing
  • Fear that baby is not getting enough milk
  • Mother needs to return to work
  • Mother has a health problem that requires medication unsafe for a nursing infant (e.g. mothers who have conditions like HIV, herpes, tuberculosis and breast infection, as well as those who are taking medications like anti-cancer or anti-psychotic medications)
  • Desire to let other family members help feed the baby


Best option?

Ultimately, the decision to feed your baby breast milk or formula depends on what you think is best. As advised by Dr Varsha, “It doesn’t really matter whether mums breastfeed or formula feed, as long as the child is regularly fed, healthy, satisfied and loved or care for.”


On-Demand vs. Scheduled Feeding

On-demand feeding means feeding your baby whenever he is hungry, while scheduled feeding means only feeding your baby according to timed intervals.


Why feed on-demand?

On-demand feeding can be time-consuming for mothers, and you might wonder if your baby really needs to be fed so often, but remember that breast milk is digested quickly so frequent feedings are completely normal. If your baby is bottle-fed, on-demand feeding may also prevent him from overfeeding.


Why feed on schedule?

Some newborns may not have the strength yet to wake up on their own for their feedings. This can apply to babies who are premature, jaundiced or sick. In cases like these, feeding on schedule – such as waking the baby up every few hours – may be necessary to ensure he is getting sufficient feedings.


Best option?

“On-demand feeding can be more demanding for new parents, but it is definitely the preferred and healthiest way to go,” says Dr Varsha.



During your baby’s early months, it is best to feed your baby whenever he is hungry. As your baby gets older, you may be able to develop a flexible schedule according to your baby’s needs.



Pacifier vs. No Pacifier

Why use pacifiers?

Pacifiers may help soothe a crying baby more easily. They may also lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).


Why no pacifiers?

“Pacifiers may pose a strangling hazard if they are attached to the baby with a cord or ribbon,” says Dr Mary Varughese, associate consultant, Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, NUH. Early introduction of pacifiers may also affect the baby’s breastfeeding because the sucking methods between breastfeeding and pacifiers differ.

Prolonged pacifier use may also result in dental problems for the baby. “Prolonged pacifier use might cause a child’s teeth to not come in properly, or be misaligned,” explains Dr Varsha.


Best option?

You can let your baby use pacifiers if you wish but be sure to take note of the following:


  • Introduce pacifiers only after breastfeeding has been established (i.e. after four to six weeks old).
  • Don’t force the pacifier into your baby’s mouth if he doesn’t want it.
  • Don’t use pacifiers as a first resort to calm your baby. Try other methods first like swaddling or rocking your baby.
  • Don’t give your baby a pacifier when he is hungry.


Bed-sharing vs. Sleeping in Own Cot

Why bed-share?

Having your baby sleep in your bed makes

it convenient to breastfeed him as he is just next to you. Snuggling in bed with the baby is especially beneficial for your partner too. Since he doesn’t have the unique experience breastfeeding gives you and your baby, bed-sharing can help him bond with the baby better.


Why sleep in own cot?

Whether your baby has his own room or shares a room with you, having him sleep in his own cot is generally considered safer than bed-sharing. “This arrangement is most likely to prevent suffocation, strangulation and entrapment that may occur when the infant is sleeping in the adult bed,” says Dr Sudipta Roy Chowdhury, senior resident, Dept. of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, SGH. Having your baby sleep in his own cot also lowers the risk of SIDS.


Best option?

Most experts typically don’t recommend bed-sharing due to the dangers posed to your baby. If you are considering bed-sharing, Dr Michael Lim, consultant, Division of Paediatric Pulmonary and Sleep, NUH recommends waiting after your baby is three months old as the risk of SIDS is high during the first three months of your baby’s life.


Nursing Baby to Sleep vs. Sleep-Training

Why nurse baby to sleep?

Some mothers may choose to breastfeed their baby to sleep because of the bonding experience nursing helps to develop with their baby. Plus, in the early weeks of your baby’s life, breastfeeding and sleep tend to overlap because your baby is asleep more than he is awake.


Why sleep-train?

Sleep-training refers to having your baby sleep without the need to breastfeed. If your baby is used to falling asleep while breastfeeding, it can eventually take a toll on you, especially when your baby wakes up in the middle of the night and needs you to feed him to go back to sleep. Taking care of your baby is the number one priority, of course, but you should ensure you’re well-rested too.


Best option?

Dr Sudipta recommends mothers to sleep-train their babies. There are different training methods available, but it all depends on which approach you think is suitable for you and your baby. For instance, you can cuddle up next to your baby to show him it is time to sleep or set a bedtime routine for your baby by giving him a warm bath, putting him to bed and singing a lullaby.

Thanks for sharing!