parenting infant nutrition

Infant Nutrition: Breast Feeding or Formula Feeding?

Choosing how and what to feed your baby is a personal decision that deserves careful consideration. Feeding your baby breast-milk or bottled formula are both healthy and responsible decisions, each with advantages and disadvantages.

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How and what to feed your baby is a decision that should fit both you and your baby.  Whatever you decide, there is no one right or wrong decision.

Many professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, state that in normal situations breast feeding is better for your baby than bottle feeding. 

One of the most important advantages being that breast milk contains antibodies that help protect infants from a wide variety of infectious illnesses.  However, not all situations allow for breast feeding and breast feeding may not be possible or even desirable for you.

Bottle feeding (formula feeding) also has its advantages including giving the mother greater freedom and flexibility.  Either way, a baby's nutritional will be met whether you choose to breast feed or formula feed your infant.

For more about the advantages and disadvantages of breast feeding versus formula feeding, about the nutritional issues in both, and to get answers to the most frequently asked questions about breast and bottle feeding, please visit the links below:

Feeding Your Newborn
Breast Feeding versus Formula Feeding
Breastfeeding: The Advantages
Formula Feeding: The Advantages
FDA: Infant Formula Issues

Formula Feeding--Getting Started

Infant Nutrition: When to Introduce Solid Foods?

As your infant begins to mature the nutritional needs change.  For most infants, breast milk or formula is the only food your baby will need for the first 4-6 months.   Once the child is around 4-6 months old they will be developed enough to begin taking food that is more solid.  

You should always consult with your health care provider and follow their advice when it comes to beginning solid foods.  The following is a brief outline of what is typically recommended.

When your baby's health care provider says it is time to start solid foods, they will have you mix a teaspoon of a single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal (usually rice) with 4 to 5 teaspoons of breast milk or formula. It is strongly suggested you not serve this "mixture" in a bottle but instead help your baby sit upright and give them the milk-cereal mix once or twice a day using a small spoon.  Once the baby becomes successful in swallowing this liquidly mix you will begin slowly adding more cereal to make the mix thicker.

As your baby matures you can give your baby control over a spoon while you feed them with another spoon. Soon your baby will start to feed themselves with their spoon.  It can get pretty messy, but it helps them to develop.  You can do the same with first a "snippy cup" and eventually a real cup.  But remember with a real cup to put only a little bit of liquid in at a time so when it spills, and it will spill, it is easier to clean up.

Pureed (finely mashed) fruits, vegetables and other new foods are introduced one at a time in the order approved by your baby's health provider.  By about the age of 10-12 months, most babies can handle small portions of finely chopped finger foods like soft cheese, well-cooked pasta, and ground meat. After your child is about a year old, ground, mashed or diced versions of whatever you eat will be OK for your child.

Most baby health care providers suggest several cautions regarding infant and baby feeding.  Below are some things to be extra careful about:

* Do not give your child cow's milk, eggs, citrus or honey before the child has reached their first birthday.  After 1 year of age you may start give your baby homogenized whole cow's milk but it is suggested you not use 2%, low fat, or skim milk until your child is 2-3 years old.

* Avoid putting the bottle in bed or propping the bottle while feeding, putting cereal in the bottle, or heating bottles in the microwave.

* No peanuts, peanut butter, or any product containing peanuts until the age of 3.

* No fish or shellfish until age 3.

* Do not give your baby foods that pose a choking hazard. For example, no small, slippery foods, such as whole grapes, hard candy, or large pieces of fruit or vegetables and no popcorn, nuts, or food that can stick together to form a lump, such as raisins.

* No home-prepared spinach, beets, turnips and collard greens

* As your child gets older, avoid giving large amounts of sweet desserts, soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sugarcoated cereals, chips or candy.

Please remember to always consult with your health care provider and follow their advice when it comes to baby feeding and food.
Other sources of information about infant nutrition and feeding are available at:

Feeding a 1 to 3 month old
Feeding your 4 to 7 month old
Feeding your 8 to 12 month old
Introducing Solid Foods: What You Need to Know

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is an organization of doctors who specialize in baby and child care.  Their website will help you with general information related to child health and with specific suggestions concerning child care issues.

Where can I find other Infant Nutrition and Feeding Resource Information?

Bright Futures 
Sponsored by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Bright Futures focuses on providing health supervision for children and adolescents from birth through age 21.

Gaining and Growing: Assuring Nutritional Care of Preterm Infants
Provides information about feeding premature and very low birth weight infants.

Nutrition for Kids
Provides ideas for activities, educational materials, resources, and recipes.

The Diet Channel

Every U.S. state offers federal, state and local programs that will provide you and your child with information about, and access to, a more nutritious diet and free or low-cost food.

You may find clicking on the following resource links very helpful:

Child welfare agency for each state can help with pregnancy, parenting, and foster care.

Department of Health can provide nutrition information and help as well as help with pregnancy and post-pregnancy concerns.

Department of Education can provide you with information about school nutrition and pregnancy programs.

Food Banks distribute free food to those in need.

Food Stamp Program helps persons with low-incomes to obtain food.

WIC provides free food, nutrition counseling, and referrals at no charge.

Medicaid in each state can help you with answers about free services offered to you and your child.

Child Nutrition Programs provide access to nutrition information and free and low-cost food.  Programs include the Child and Adult Care Food Program and National School Lunch Program as well as the National School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. To find more about these programs click on the link Nutrition Assistance Programs.  For the specific programs contact the state Department of Education, the state Department of Health or the state child welfare agency, all listed above.

Where can I find Additional Information?

For additional information about infant nutrition and about breast and bottle feeding, please visit the website Pregnancy And Children.

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