The first two years of your child’s life are vital for adequate growth and development. Parents should follow strict dietary instructions for babies to achieve their optimum growth.
For new parents, it can be a daunting task to know what to do during each developmental stage. Questions such as how much to feed, how often to feed, and also how to feed your little one may come to mind.
The standard practice of feeding your baby depends on factors such as age, developmental phase, and nutritional requirements. You should ask the pediatrician to guide you with specific feeding instructions. However, we have prepared a useful feeding manual for your knowledge. Here goes!
This solely depends on your baby’s age. Let’s assume that he or she is a newborn – under the age of six months. The ground rule is to find a pleasant environment to feed your child. Try to avoid any distractions or chaos while feeding; in fact, we recommend you make eye contact with your baby to encourage interactions between the two of you.
Another reminder for parents whose babies are soon going to be toddlers. You should continue to offer your baby breastmilk or formula until the age of one or more.
However, their food palette needs to be broadened as they begin to start understanding texture and taste. Remember, toddlers are picky eaters, and they usually reject food regularly. But that doesn’t mean that you only stick to formula or breast milk, even if you are using the best toddler formula out there.
Breast milk for newborns is like a magic potion. It contains all the goodness that a baby needs for growth and development. This includes lactose, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, enzymes, etc. All these components help tremendously for babies’ physical and mental development, as well as their digestion. Breast milk also helps prevent and cure many illnesses in infants.
For newborns, breast milk should be their only source of food up until six months. It is highly recommended by healthcare providers to breastfeed your baby for the first year at least, which can be continued as long as the baby and the mother wish.
Breastfed babies often need to be supplemented with vitamin D, as it’s common for infants to become deficient. In order to ensure your baby’s bones are healthy, you should check if your baby needs an additional dosage of vitamin D (recommended daily intake is 400 IU for infants). Feel free to consult a pediatrician for confirmation.
Most baby formulas are made from cow’s milk, following certain modified processes to suit the baby’s nutritional demands. However, baby formula and cow’s milk are not the same.
With so many options to choose from, how can you decide what’s best for your baby?
Firstly, ask your doctor for advice. Inquire about the range of formulas they serve to newborns at hospital nurseries—many hospitals give out free baby formula to new moms. This should be a solid starting point.
Whatever you choose, remember that all formulas manufactured in the US follow strict guidelines for nutrition and safety. Therefore, your baby will adjust to any of them—unless certain conditions demand a special dietary requirement.
For the initial months, your baby’s only nutritional source should be breastmilk or formula, both of which are enough to meet the baby’s growth and development needs.
Solid food is usually introduced to babies at six months; however, some babies show early signs that they are ready even before then.
You should, however, be sure that your baby is ready for solid food, as experiments can often hamper their digestion. Note that solids are not going to be the source of your baby’s nutrition at this age at least; they are only given to enhance their taste buds and begin the process of chewing and swallowing.
Newborn babies should not be given any other food other than breastmilk and formula. Iron-fortified formula is often prescribed by doctors when the mother faces difficulty with nursing.
The frequency of feeding should depend on your baby’s cues. Initially, newborns are fed every 2-2.5 hours, but that can vary. It’s important to understand that every baby is different, which means that they have different needs.
There are newborns who sleep through the night and only wake up for one to two feedings, and there are babies who demand to be nursed every hour. You have to monitor your baby’s routine to understand the pattern.
Infants are known to be born with an adequate iron supply which can last up to six months. However, they also need an external supply of iron other than cow’s milk. This can be supplied by breast milk or iron-fortified formula. You should definitely have your doctor keep track of their iron levels.
You are advised to begin introducing solids to your child at the age of six months. This means that you can gradually offer them solid food along with their breast milk or formula.
You can start with pureed fruits and vegetables. A spoon or two (daily) should be enough during the first week. There are multiple options to choose from, such as vegetables, yogurt, fruits, oats, etc. Pro tip: Don’t offer combinations until your baby has tried the single ingredients individually.
For example, don’t mix pumpkin puree with anything else until you know whether the baby likes each one.
Did you know about the three-day rule? You should give your baby the same item for three days before changing their meal plan. Otherwise, it can mess up their digestion. Their stomachs are not strong enough to break down different ingredients. That’s why it’s ideal to follow the three-day rule.
You should also check with your baby’s nutritionist before introducing meats, beans, or other zinc-rich foods. They are usually harder to digest, so get your doctor’s approval first.
Your baby should be able to sit and reach out for things by now. They should also be able to eat textures like diced or mashed food. Pureed food can now be stopped. You can offer them multiple finger foods, boiled veggies, chopped fruits, and many more. Since they are able to sit, you can offer them food on high chairs. Let them touch and feel it.
Your baby will not be able to digest any uncooked food at this stage, so items like cheese, whole grapes, peanuts, popcorn, etc. should not be given to them. They can be hazardous.
Babies of this age should be able to grasp food with their fingers or hands and take the food close to their mouth as well. If they are not able to do this, please do not offer them diced or mashed food.
Your child should be more independent with their grip and be able to hold a spoon by now. This is another sign that your child is ready to explore new food options.
Even though they may have no teeth yet, their gums are hard enough to break down food easily as long as the food is mashable (nothing too hard). Offer them 3-4 meals. It’s okay if they reject some of them; you still want to introduce the habit of mealtime to them at this age.
You can still continue to breastfeed or give formula to your child. Your child should also be drinking plain water to meet their fluoride needs. However, don’t give your child any form of plain cow’s milk before the age of 12 months.
Once your baby has turned one, you can introduce a whole world of food and drinks to them. Begin with whole cow’s milk. Whole milk is recommended for extra fat, which helps with the baby’s brain development. If you are considering weaning your baby, start the transition with cow’s milk. Ideally, 16-24 ounces of milk daily is great for a year-old toddler.
However, if your child starts to drink too much milk, they will not have enough of an appetite to try other food items. This may get in the way of their nutritional requirements, so it’s vital to monitor their milk intake as well.
Make family meals a thing in your household. Your baby will soon get into the habit of enjoying their meals at the dinner table. Give them their own set of plates, cups, and cutlery.
They should be offered food from all food groups now, especially fruits, veggies, proteins, dairy, and grains. You can also look for plant-based nutrition for toddlers if your family meals exclude meat.
Most of the success stories we have come across come from families who shared the same meals for kids and parents. Offer them two regular meals and two snacks. And don’t forget to be patient.
Don’t be hard on yourself if your baby is eating less or more than what this guide explains. However, if you do feel that your baby’s growth is not up to the standard, you should definitely check with their doctor.
But keep in mind that every child is different. Their growth, development, and eating habits will be different, so it’s best not to compare. Try to encourage healthy eating habits for the entire family, not just for the baby. You’ll notice how quickly they adapt and learn to accept what’s on the table for them. Good luck!