As it turns out, your little one has big nutritional needs. Babies grow quickly, developing more in their first year than they will at any other time in their life. Making appropriate food choices during those initial few months isn’t just important for proper growth and development, it also helps establish a healthy dietary pattern. Give your bundle of joy the start they deserve by offering the right nutrients at the right time. This helpful guide has the information you need to make eating (and feeding) time as healthy as can be!
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfed babies should eat as often and for as long as they want. Breastfed newborns typically eat every two to three hours, but you can watch for hunger cues such as licking lips, sticking out their tongue, rooting or suckling to know when they’re hungry. Nonstop nursing is called cluster feeding and typically signals a growth spurt. When feeding, be sure to alternate breasts, letting your infant complete one breast before switching to the other. Keep track of wet diapers and growth to judge whether your little one is receiving enough milk.
The amount of formula your baby needs depends on their age, weight and appetite. As a general rule of thumb, infants under 6 months will take in two to three ounces of formula per pound of body weight. As your little one (and their stomach) grows, the time between feedings and amount eaten at each will increase. Look for hunger cues to know when your little one needs a meal. Again, keep track of wet diapers and growth to judge whether they’re receiving enough.
If offering a combination of breast and bottle feeding, simply adapt the guidelines for both to find a rhythm that works for your family. Through trial and error, you can figure out how much your baby needs in their bottle, what type of nipple they prefer and which feeding schedule works best.
Around 6 months of age, your newest family member will be ready to step, or rather bite, into a big milestone by starting solid foods. While the amount of breastmilk or formula will decrease around this time, it remains the primary source of nutrition. At this stage, introducing foods is more about getting your little one used to chewing and swallowing. Some signs they’re ready to start baby food include sitting upright and holding their head up, showing interest in foods and exhibiting signs of hunger after a full day’s feeding of breastmilk or formula.
When they’re ready to start, baby’s first foods can be a fun experience for everyone involved. Make sure your little one is seated in an upright position and offer them food on either a spoon or by placing it on a plate or tray in front of them. If your little one shakes their head no, turns away or seems uninterested, wait a week or so and try again.
Feeding Recommendations by Age
4 to 8 Months:
Single-grain baby cereals and pureed fruits, veggies and meats are all great choices for your tiny human. Whether it’s from a jar, pouch or homemade, stick with single-ingredient options that exclude added sugar or salt. Bananas, peaches, peas and squash are popular, nutrient-rich selections. The main goal is to expose your little one to a wide variety of flavors and textures, including options from all five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein.
9 to 12 Months:
As your baby gets used to chewing and swallowing, you can begin adding more textures to the mix. Yogurt, cottage cheese and mashed fruits and veggies offer new, exciting sensations to experience.
Foods to Avoid:
Refrain from serving honey, cow’s milk and fruit juices until your little one is at least 12 months old. Also be wary of common choking hazards such as nuts, seeds, raisins, grapes, hard vegetables, popcorn and peanut butter.
Vitamins for Babies
The current AAP recommendation is that all infants and children take in 400 IU of vitamin D per day beginning soon after birth. This nutrient, typically acquired by spending time in sunlight, is important for building strong bones and teeth. Though most formulas include vitamin D, breastfed babies will most likely require vitamin D drops or supplements to meet their daily recommended intake.
Other important nutrients to look out for are iron and zinc, which support neurological development during infancy. These nutrients can be found in pureed meats and single-grain, fortified cereals. If your baby’s needs are not being met through their diet, they may require additional supplementation – be sure to discuss with your child’s healthcare provider.
Allergy Alert: How to Handle Common Food Allergens
When starting solids, the most common food allergens to watch out for are eggs, nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Introduce foods one at a time, then wait two to five days before introducing the next. To keep track of possible allergies, record everything your baby eats as well as any related reactions they have, including hives, itchy eyes or mouth, vomiting, pale skin, fainting, difficulty breathing and swelling of the eyes, tongue or lips. If your baby shows any signs of an allergic reaction, immediately stop offering the food. If your baby is suffering a mild to moderate allergic reaction, consult your pediatrician or healthcare provider. If your baby is having a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, call 911 immediately.
Mealtime can be a fun and rewarding experience but remember that starting solids takes time and patience. If your baby isn’t interested, relax and try again in a few days. Repeated exposure can help create variety in your baby’s diet. Setting up a good mealtime routine with your little one – even something as simple as just washing hands before sitting down – can also help them get ready to eat. Finally, offer healthy food options at each meal and let them decide how much they want and when they’re full. Starting good nutrition practices early can help your baby develop a healthy dietary pattern for life.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.