Appropriate and healthy feeding of your baby during the first year of life is very important. More growth occurs during the first year than at any other time in your child's life. For the first few months, breastmilk or formula is all that's needed. As your baby grows, starting a variety of healthy foods at the right time is important for correct growth and development. And starting good eating habits at this early stage will help set healthy eating patterns for life.
Don't give solid foods unless your baby's healthcare provider advises you to do so. Solid foods shouldn't be started for infants younger than 4 months old for these reasons:
Breastmilk or formula gives your baby all the nutrients that are needed to grow.
Your baby isn't physically developed enough to eat solid food from a spoon.
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.
All infants, children, and teens need to take in 400 IU of vitamin D each day. This should start soon after birth. This is to prevent complications from not getting enough of this vitamin. Vitamin D is found in supplements, formula, and cow's milk. If your baby is only getting formula, then they don't need additional vitamin D. That's because all formula is fortified with vitamin D. Your baby's healthcare provider can advise you on the correct type and amount of vitamin D supplement for your baby.
Amount of formula per feeding
Number of breast or formula 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
Breastfeeding parents often wonder how they know their baby is getting enough. What goes in must come out, so counting wet diapers is a good way to know your baby is getting plenty. In the first few days of life, your baby should have at least 5 wet diapers daily. If you notice your baby having fewer wet diapers, contact your baby's healthcare provider or lactation consultant for help right away.
These are some things to think about when feeding your baby:
When starting solid foods, give your baby 1 new food at a time. Don’t use mixtures like cereal and fruit or meat dinners. Give the new food for 2 to 3 days before adding another new food. This way you can tell what foods your baby may be allergic to or can't handle.
Start with small amounts of new solid foods. Try a teaspoon at first and slowly increase to a tablespoon.
There are no strict rules about what order you should give different foods in. Many people start with an infant cereal and slowly add fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
Don't use salt or sugar when making homemade baby foods. Canned foods may contain large amounts of salt and sugar, and shouldn't be used for baby food.
Don’t feed homemade spinach, beets, green beans, squash, or carrots to babies younger than age 6 months. These foods can have high amounts of nitrates. This raises the risk for a blood disorder (methemoglobinemia) that can interfere with oxygen delivery in the blood.
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.
Cow's milk shouldn't be added to the diet until your 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 your baby can drink from a cup (around age 6 months or older). But it's not a necessary part of a healthy infant’s diet and should be limited to a maximum of 4 to 6 ounces daily. Fruit juice is linked to both obesity and malnutrition in children. Whole fruits and vegetables are a much healthier option.
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.
Don't give your baby honey in any form for the first year. It can cause a type of botulism.
Don't put your baby in bed with a bottle propped in their mouth. Propping the bottle is linked to ear infections and choking. Once your baby's teeth are in, propping the bottle can cause tooth decay.
Your baby's healthcare provider can advise you on how to wean your baby off the bottle.
Don't focus on cleaning the plate. Forcing your child to eat all the food on their plate even when they're not hungry isn't a good habit. It teaches your child to eat just because the food is there, not because they're hungry. Expect a smaller and pickier appetite as your baby's growth rate slows around age 1.
Healthy babies usually need little or no extra water. Ask your child’s healthcare provider about giving your baby additional fluids throughout the day. Once your child is taking solids, offering sips of water is usually fine.
Don't limit your baby's food choices to the ones you like. Offering a wide variety of foods early can help lead to good eating habits later.
Fat and cholesterol shouldn't be limited in the diets of babies and very young children, unless advised by your baby's healthcare provider. Children need calories, fat, and cholesterol for healthy growth.