Having a new baby creates an abundance of decisions for parents, with providing the best nutrition at the top of the list.
What is the importance of breastfeeding?
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics affirm that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and breastfeeding with complementary foods for at least twelve months is the ideal feeding pattern for infants whenever possible.*
Breastfeeding provides health benefits for baby, including a reduced risk of ear infections, gastroenteritis, respiratory illness, sudden infant death syndrome, and obesity and hypertension later on in life. For mothers, it provides a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and postpartum depression. Breast milk is nature’s ideal nourishment for baby, containing the right amount of fat, sugar, water, protein and other nutrients for optimal growth and development.
* American Dietetic Association, Position paper: “Promoting and Supporting Breast Feeding, Vol. 109, Issue 11, Pgs 1926-1942.
If I am not breastfeeding, how can I pick a formula that will meet my baby’s needs?
Formula manufacturers are able to create formulas that closely resemble breast milk in terms of protein to carbohydrate and fat ratio and vitamin and mineral content. The one thing missing from formulas is the immune-quality of breast milk. Consult your physician if you have questions about what kind and how much formula to feed your baby.
If my baby doesn’t tolerate a milk-based formula, what are my options?
Sometimes the lactose in cow's milk challenges digestion. Consider switching to a soy-based infant formula However, do not use regular soymilk because it does not have the necessary nutrients to support an infant's growth and development.
What about formula fortification?
When babies are breastfed, the iron in mother’s milk is easily absorbed. Formulas with a cow or soymilk base require added iron to cover baby’s needs.
What else does my baby need that is not in a standard formula?
Human breast milk is a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid). DHA and ARA are responsible for proper growth and development, especially for eye and brain development. The formula you choose should be fortified with DHA and ARA.
How much and how often to feed baby?
Plan to feed on demand – when a baby signals hunger. A formula-fed baby may not eat as often because formula digests more slowly than breast milk. It is important for babies to learn hunger and fullness cues. You’ll know if baby is getting enough by observing if there are 6 or more wet diapers a day, if baby seems content between feedings and if baby’s weight is steadily increasing.
When should I start spoon-feeding?
Most babies are ready to start spoon-feeding at about four to six months of age. Look for these important signs:
• Baby has doubled his/her birth weight, or weighs at least 13 pounds.
• Baby can lift up chest, shoulders and head when lying tummy-down
• Baby still seems hungry after eight to ten breast feedings, or 32 ounces of formula.
• Baby can push their tongue back and forth and, after a few tries, swallow food.
When baby is ready for spoon-feeding:
• Use a small spoon with a long handle
• Put just a little bit of food on the tip of the spoon.
• Start with just a teaspoon or two and work up to one to two tablespoons, two to three times a day.
What type of baby food should we start with?
• Iron-fortified infant cereal digest easily. Mix with breast milk or infant formula.
• Try infant cereals in this order: rice, oats, barley and after baby is 6–12 months old, introduce wheat.
• Introduce new foods one at a time, with 3 to 5 days between new foods. Be alert to baby’s appearance and behavior for any signs of allergic reaction: rash, hives, runny nose, diarrhea, gas, vomiting and irritability.
Any other tips for first foods?
• Babies are especially vulnerable to food-borne illness. Put baby food in a separate dish, instead of spooning from the jar, and refrigerate baby’s food promptly.
• Humans are hard-wired to prefer “sweet” taste, so baby may naturally reject tart or less-sweet foods. Keep offering food like carrots, squash and green beans. Research shows it can take up to 10 exposures for baby to decide if he/she likes a food!
What about making homemade baby food?
Making your own baby food can be cost-effective and rewarding. You have control over ingredients and additives. Mash or puree soft fruits and prepare cooked foods using the following directions:
1. Cook food
2. Mash, add liquid and process until smooth
3. Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze 8-10 hours
4. Remove cubes and place in freezer bag for up to 6 weeks