This is part one of a multi-part series on nutrition and children. Stay tuned for older babies, toddlers and big kids!

There are a myriad of choices to make when it comes to feeding your baby! Breast or bottle? Soy formula or regular? I’m going to try to dispel a bit of the mystery and take a stab at a few of these issues.

Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding? – We all know there are benefits to breastfeeding. Breast milk is free, designed for babies and provides immunities to many illnesses. It may lead to lower rates of obesity, autoimmune disease and diabetes. If it’s an option – go for it. Most of you who read this are Dads so you are off the hook. (Can you hear my laughter??) If your wife is nursing your job is to get the glass of water, bring the pillows, stock the snacks, make dinner, move laundry, change diapers and cheerlead. Breastfed babies need to be fed every 2-3 hours in the first few months, sometimes more often during cluster feeds. Its hard work and your partner needs to feel that support. If it doesn’t directly require boobs – you can do it!

Breastfeeding moms who have returned to work face the additional challenges of pumping – finding a clean place, making time in their work day, and unfortunately, sometimes dealing with unsupportive coworkers. Again, this is your moment to shine. Wash pump parts, offer to pack her bag and make sure she knows you appreciate the work she does to provide milk for your child. You get bonus points for touching base at the end of the day to help more seamlessly coordinate feeding times so that baby is hungry when she gets home.

For a variety of reasons, breastfeeding isn’t for everyone. Some women will struggle with milk supply, particularly with the return to work and transition to full or partial formula feeding. Others take medications that are not safe for breastfeeding or have trouble with latch. Again, make sure your partner feels your appreciate any nursing she was able to do, and your support in making a full or partial change to formula if it’s the best choice for your family. Regardless of the reason, there should be no shame in formula feeding. Bottom line is that all babies need good nutrition.

Which formula is best?
Families who choose formula often struggle with which formula is the best. This is a big market and there is LOTS of advertising out there to sway you one way or the other. Standard cows-milk formulas like Similac Advance and Enfamil Infant are appropriate for most babies. If your baby struggles to tolerate this, talk to your doctor about a formula for sensitive stomachs such as Enfamil Gentlease or Similac Sensitive. Soy formulas use to be a common choice for intolerant babies, but they may inhibit calcium absorption and are not the best choice for most infants. Avoid making frequent formula changes. Give your baby time to adjust and contact your doctor before any switches.

Store brand formulas are subject to the same regulations as name brand formulas and are safe for use. When new ingredients are added, such as the recent trend toward adding probiotics, these may not be present in the store brands.

Regardless of which formula you choose, remember that it’s your baby’s sole source of nutrition initially. Read the directions and mix carefully to ensure your baby gets an adequate balance of nutrients and fluids. Water should be measured first and scoops should be level but not packed in most cases.

What about a vitamin?
All babies should receive a vitamin which includes vitamin D starting at birth until they eat a full diet or take more than 1 liter of formula per day (about 30oz). A multivitamin with iron should be considered for breastfed babies, particularly at four months when iron stores begin to be depleted. Warning, these all stain. This is best given at a naked point in your day and not on your nice rug!

Next post: Starting solids and table foods.