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Infant Feeding Guide

Nov 30, 2008
How much, what, and when to feed your baby can seem daunting. But this cheat sheet will give you the information you need to start your baby on the right “nutritional” foot.

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.

  • 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)

Age

Amount of formula per feeding

Number of feedings per 24 Hours

1 month

2 to 4 ounces

6 to 8 times

2 months

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 two to three 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.

  • There are no strict rules about what order you should give different foods in. Many people start with an infant cereal and gradually add fruits, vegetables, and proteins.

  • 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.

  • 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). However, it is 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 associated with 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.

  • 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. Ask your child’s doctor 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 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.

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