Every parent worries about the hows, whens, and whys of baby nutrition. There is a lot of noise and contradictory information on infant feeding and we at Healthy Matters sourced trustworthy recommendations. We asked pediatrician Dr. Eddie Cheung to share some easy-to-use feeding guidelines to your baby’s first 12 months.
Making the right feeding choices is important because more growth happens during the first year than at any other time in your child’s life. Plus, starting good habits early helps you set healthy eating habits for life!
For the first 6 months:
- Milk is the sole source of nutrients for babies.
- Breast milk provides the full range of nutrients a baby needs as well as antibodies and other bioactive substances.
- Babies who are not breastfed should receive infant formula. Give the baby as much or as little formula as it wants.
- Parents should not give babies water or juice during this period.
From 6 to 12 months:
- During this period, babies go through a developmental transition from a milk-only diet to an adult diet.
- Parents should start feeding babies solid foods at around 6 months.
- In the early transitional phase, breast milk or infant formula still provides most of the baby’s nutrients. As the babies eat more, in terms of variety and amount of solid foods, they need less milk.
- Nutritious baby foods can be home-prepared from the family’s food basket. This includes grains, cereals, vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, meats and beans.
- To ensure iron intake, feed the baby meat, fish, egg yolks, liver and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Alongside solid food, water should be introduced. This helps prevent constipation, which is commonly observed in babies eating solid food.
- Babies need to learn to use a cup and spoon to feed themselves.
- Parents should offer foods of different tastes, textures and colors. This helps children learn about food, enjoy eating and foster good eating habits.
Routine growth monitoring is crucial to assess infant health and nutrition. Serial physical growth data should be plotted against a standard growth chart, like those from the World Health Organization.
Vitamin D supplementation and breastfed infants:
- While breastfeeding is the recommended method of infant feeding, breast milk alone may not provide an adequate intake of vitamin D, particular if the mother has low vitamin D levels. Most breastfed infants are able to synthesize additional vitamin D through routine sunlight exposure. Vitamin D deficiency, which is also known as rickets, is rare among breastfed infants, but it can occur if a baby does not receive additional vitamin D from a supplement or adequate exposure to sunlight.
- Some countries, like the United Kingdom and United States, recommend breastfed babies take vitamin D supplements of 400 IU per day.
For breastfeeding information, read Breastfeeding Guide: How Much & How Often at Every Age | From Birth to Toddlerhood