How to Feed a Baby in Their First Year of Life

Ways to feed a newborn

This feeding guide is the ultimate destination to learn all of the methods for nourishing a baby who is 0-12 months. We are sharing the supplies you need to do it, the choices you can make, and helpful tips to make it easier.

Whether you're nursing, offering bottles, or ready to start solids, we have expert-approved and reviewed advice to answer your questions and prepare you to nourish your baby during that important first year of life!

But first, a note from our Editorial Director...

How I Ended Up “Triple Feeding” My Newborn Daughter

Before my first daughter was born, I made myself a stern promise: I will not get nutty about breastfeeding. I repeated this like a mantra in the weeks leading up to my due date. At 35, I was not the first of my friends to enter motherhood, and I had listened to hours of their stories about the unexpected struggles that can come with breastfeeding. 

“It was more painful than labor.”

“I felt so guilty stopping—I had anxiety.”

“I just couldn’t do it, and I still regret it.”

There was also encouragement. Many acknowledged it gets easier and less painful over time; and that when you do decide to stop, everyone adjusts. 

I remember seeing a friend arrive at a party with her second son. She plopped down at the table, exposed her breast, and her baby latched right on while she comfortably and confidently ate lunch over his suckling head. It seemed like the most natural act in the world. 

So there I was in the hospital after 20+ hours of labor—most of which I spent on an epidural post-induction. My crying, messy, beautiful little baby had just entered the world. I was pretty delirious, and my angel of delivery nurse seamlessly latched my baby onto my breast. Golden milk poured into her mouth. 

I have no real memory of how the nurse encouraged my daughter to feed in those early moments, but somehow, just as the books and classes I took said it would be, instincts took over.

I was soon sobbing trying to get her wiggly, helpless little body to attach to my breast.

Later that evening, when I was in my recovery room, it was time for my daughter to feed again. I was soon sobbing trying to get her wiggly, helpless little body to attach to my breast. We called the nurses in, but they couldn’t really help and suggested I give her formula from a bottle. After more struggles and tears, I gave in; and within her few hours of life, my daughter also became a formula-fed baby.

I went on to breastfeed for 14 months (it was a pandemic, we were home together); and during the entire time, she was also given formula and pumped breastmilk. She became a "triple-fed" baby.

I first learned about this method when a nurse from the hospital handed me a printed sheet outlining the concept of “triple feeding.” The idea is that you can give your baby three types of milk: breastmilk hot off the breast, breastmilk that has been expressed, or formula. No matter what method(s) you choose—fed is the best—because so long as baby is eating and gaining weight, it doesn’t matter how you feed them. All of these options are safe and healthy. 

The idea is that you can give your baby three types of milk: breastmilk hot off the breast, breastmilk that has been expressed, or formula.

Many healthcare providers and lactation consultants agree that whatever method of feeding out of those three works best for the family typically works best for baby. (There are, of course, always exceptions; and if you have concerns, talk to your healthcare provider.)

While I had a feeding plan, I, unfortunately, broke my promise to myself. I did get pretty nutty about breastfeeding. Being the type-A persona I am, I had to figure it out. I went down a Google rabbit hole, learning about nursing, how to increase supply (mine was low), and ways to make it more comfortable for mom and baby. 

I nursed through bleeding, cracked nipples until I set up a house call with a board-certified lactation consultant, who quickly fixed my daughter's latch. The process instantly improved. She also taught me the best hack for healing bruised nipples: soak them in a saline solution for one minute, twice a day. Apply it to the areolas with a shot glass hugging the skin, and then rinse the saltwater off. 

As I had hoped, it did get easier. When I started nursing, I truly could not imagine feeding in public at a lunch table as my friend had. I wasn’t embarrassed about feeding in public; I just didn’t believe we could recreate our set up outside of the nursery.  It seemed nursing only worked when I was in my glider chair with my daughter propped up on several pillows.

Of course, we figured it out. As she became better at latching, I became better at holding and positioning her. Before I knew it, I was breezily lounging with my new mom friends at happy hours as we all (myself included!) had our newborns hanging from our breasts suckling away.

Throughout this entire time, from that very first night at the hospital, my daughter was also fed formula. After she was a month old, I also started pumping. I credit breastfeeding for over a year because she was also bottle fed. It always gave me the option to take a break and allow someone else to feed her—be it her dad, one of her grandparents, or her nanny. This relieved some pressure off of me, so I could rest (because breastfeeding is also tiring—especially if you do it in the middle of the night!).

For the course of my daughter’s 14 months of breast milk—she was...exclusively triple fed! She gained weight at every doctor’s check-in. And eventually, I stopped driving myself nuts about breastfeeding and genuinely enjoyed both nursing and feeding her bottles. 

In 2021, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to breastfeed—often exclusively. And for many new parents for various health, emotional, and other reasons, this is not possible. At Verywell Family, we believe that fed is always the best. There are multiple ways to offer your baby milk, and whichever one you choose, is the right choice for your family. 

At Verywell Family, we believe that fed is always the best.

In this package on feeding your baby through their first year of life, we are breaking down all of the methods you can use to nourish your baby: breastfeeding, expressed milk, formula, and eventually solids. We will also share how much food babies need at each stage, so you can cocktail the ideal feeding plan for your family. Also expect lists of supplies to buy, solutions to common problems, and even self-care tips for you (because feeding is a two-way street).

Thanks for being part of our new parents' community, and if you have any ideas for articles you’d like to see on Verywell Family, please shoot us a direct message on Instagram.

Lauren Levinson

Editorial Director, Verywell Family

By Lauren Levinson
Lauren has 10+ years experience creating and managing content teams in the family, beauty, fashion, and lifestyle categories. As Verywell Family’s editorial director, she hopes to combine her creative ideas, editorial experience, and love for parenting to foster an engaged digital community.