Appropriate and healthy feeding of your baby during the first year of life is extremely important. More growth occurs during the first year than at any other time in your child's life. For the first few months, breast milk or formula is all that's needed. As your baby grows, starting a variety of healthy foods at the proper time is important for proper growth and development. And, starting good eating habits at this early stage will help set healthy eating patterns for life.
Feeding guide for your child's first four months
Don't give solid foods unless your baby's health care provider advises you to do so. Solid foods shouldn't be started for infants younger than age 4 months for the following reasons:
Breast milk or formula provides your baby all the nutrients that are needed to grow.
Your baby isn't physically developed enough to eat solid food from a spoon.
Starting your baby on solid food too early increases the chance that he or she may develop a food allergy.
Feeding your baby solid food too early may lead to overfeeding and being overweight.
As a general rule, solid foods don't help babies sleep through the night.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all infants, children, and adolescents take in enough vitamin D through supplements, formula, or cow's milk to prevent complications from deficiency of this vitamin. In November 2008, the AAP updated its recommendations for daily intake of vitamin D for healthy infants, children, and adolescents. It's now recommended that the minimum intake of vitamin D for these groups should be 400 IU per day, beginning soon after birth. Your baby's health care provider can recommend the proper type and amount of vitamin D supplement for your baby.
Guide for formula feeding (0 to 5 months)
Amount of formula per feeding
Number of feedings per 24 Hours
2 to 4 ounces
6 to 8 times
5 to 6 ounces
5 to 6 times
3 to 5 months
6 to 7 ounces
5 to 6 times
Feeding tips for your child
These are some things to consider when feeding your baby:
When starting solid foods, give your baby one new food at a time—not mixtures like cereal and fruit or meat dinners. Give the new food for five to seven days before adding another new food. This way you can tell what foods your baby may be allergic to or can't tolerate.
Begin with small amounts of new solid foods—a teaspoon at first and slowly increase to a tablespoon.
The first solid foods are dry infant cereals, mixed as directed. Once your baby adjusts to these, you can add vegetables. Then add fruits, then add meats.
Don't use salt or sugar when making homemade baby foods. Also, avoid feeding homemade spinach, beets, green beans, squash, and carrots for infants younger than age 6 months because of the risk for methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder that can interfere with oxygen delivery in the blood, due to high concentration of nitrates. Canned foods may contain large amounts of salt and sugar and shouldn't be used for baby food. Always wash and peel fruits and vegetables and remove seeds or pits. Take special care with fruits and vegetables that come into contact with the ground. They may contain botulism spores that cause food poisoning.
Iron-fortified infant cereals should be fed until the baby is age 18 months.
Cow's milk shouldn't be added to the diet until the baby is age 12 months. Cow's milk doesn't provide the right nutrients for your baby.
Fruit juice without sugar can be started when the baby is able to drink from a cup (around age 6 months or older).
Feed all foods with a spoon. Your baby needs to learn to eat from a spoon. Don't use an infant feeder. Only formula and water should go into the bottle.
Avoid honey in any form for the first year because it can cause a type of botulism.
Don't put your baby in bed with a bottle propped in his or her mouth. Propping the bottle is linked to ear infections and choking. Once your baby's teeth are present, propping the bottle can cause tooth decay.
Your baby's health care provider can advise you on how to wean a baby off the bottle.
Avoid the "clean plate syndrome." Forcing your child to eat all the food on his or her plate even when he or she isn't hungry isn't a good habit. It teaches your child to eat just because the food is there, not because he or she is hungry. Expect a smaller and pickier appetite as the baby's growth rate slows around age 1.
Healthy babies usually require little or no extra water, except in hot weather. When solid food is first fed to your baby, extra water is often needed.
Don't limit your baby's food choices to the ones you like. Offering a wide variety of foods early will pave the way for good eating habits later.
Fat and cholesterol shouldn't be restricted in the diets of babies and very young children, unless advised by your baby's health care provider. Children need calories, fat, and cholesterol for the development of their brains and nervous systems and for general growth.