Choosing how to feed your baby is an important decision that has life-long effects for your baby and for you. What you have seen and learned about infant feeding from your family, friends, and teachers is likely to influence your attitude and perceptions. Whether you definitely plan to breastfeed or you are still uncertain, consider the fact that your milk is the best milk for your baby, and it is the ideal first food for your baby's first several months.
Nature designed human milk especially for human babies, and it has several advantages over any substitute ever developed. Your milk contains just the right balance of nutrients, and it contains them in a form most easily used by the human baby's immature body systems. Because it was developed for your human baby, your milk is also the most gentle on your baby's systems.
If you decide not to breastfeed, or are unable to breastfeed, commercial iron-fortified formulas can provide adequate nutrition for your infant. Infant formulas contain adequate amounts of protein, calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals for growth. However, formula does not contain the immune factors that are in breast milk. The immune factors that are found in breast milk can help prevent infections.
Infants who take enough iron-fortified infant formula usually do not need vitamin and mineral supplements. Fluoride is sometimes needed after 6 months of age, if the water supply does not have enough fluoride. Consult your infant's physician regarding fluoride supplements.
The following are some helpful hints for feeding your baby:
- Breast milk is best for your baby and is beneficial even if you only breastfeed for a short amount of time, or part-time.
- Offer cow's milk-based formula with iron as first choice of formula, if you do not breastfeed.
- Keep your baby on breast milk or baby formula until he/she is 1-year-old.
- Start solid foods when your baby can hold up his/her head, sit-up with support, and no longer has tongue thrusting (4 to 6 months).
- When starting solids, begin with rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula on a spoon. Do not give solids in the bottle or with an infant feeder.
- Once your baby is tolerating cereals for two to three weeks, offer vegetables, then add fruits, and then meats.
- Try only one new food every five to seven days.
- Progress in texture of foods so that your baby is eating table foods by his/her first birthday.
- Do not give the following foods to your child during his/her first year of life:
- citrus foods (oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes)
- egg whites
- foods that can be easily choked on (i.e., hot dogs, peanuts, grapes, raisins, popcorn)
- peanut butter
- Limit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day. Water is not necessary for infants; better choices include formula, breast milk, or juice for added nutrition.