Feeding Your Baby for the First Year

Breast milk is the best choice for babies.

This statement is true with very few exceptions. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first four months of life and breastfeeding may continue for up to two years of age or longer. Mothers are encouraged to try to combine breastfeeding with work or school.

Breastfeeding helps build strong bonds between a mother and her baby, and offers babies lots of health benefits. These include protection from some infections, lower risk of diabetes later in life and a reduced risk of asthma and sensitivity to allergens. Breastfeeding also offers benefits to the mother, such as reduced risk of certain cancers and significant cost savings.

Breast milk normally contains all the nutrients a baby needs for healthy growth and development. However, breast milk is not always a dependable source of vitamin D in northern climates. If you’re in a northern climate, a vitamin D supplement of 400IU each day is recommended by the Canadian Medical Association for all breastfed, full-term babies. Those living above the 60 th parallel, such as Alaska, a daily supplement of 800 IU vitamin D is recommended. At about one year of age, the most common food source of vitamin D that you can give your baby is usually 2 cups of whole (homogenized) milk.

Alternate milks

When healthy, full-term babies are not breastfed or are only partially breastfed, caregivers often ask questions about qhich alternate milk to choose.

Q: What is the next best choice to breast milk?

A: We recommend a cow’s milk-based, iron-fortified commercial infant formula until your baby is nine to 12 months old. Pasteurized whole (homogenized) cow’s milk can be introduced to your baby at nine to 12 months of age when your baby is eating a variety of solid foods.

Q:If my baby is not breastfed, why should I offer a formula that is iron-fortified?

A: Iron is an important mineral for your baby’s normal growth and mental development. Anemia from a lack of iron is most common in babies between the ages of six and 24 months. In order to avoid iron-deficiency anemia, babies who are not breastfed should be given an iron-fortified formula (formula with added iron). The iron in these formulas is easy for your baby to absorb. Babies also need to eat iron-fortified infant cereals beginning around four to six months of age.

Q: If my baby is not breastfed, what about a soy-based infant formula?

A:Soy-based infant formulas are not recommended unless you do not want to give your baby a dairy-based formula due to health, cultural or religious reasons. Examples might include babies who have galactosemia (a rare genetic condition where a baby cannot property digest galactose, one of the sugars found in milk), or if you follow a vegan lifestyle. Cow’s milk-based formulas are the usual choice for most babies who are not breastfed because the effects of phytoestrogens and soy lecithin in soy-based formulas are still uncertain.

Q: My doctor said my baby may be lactose intolerant, and may not be digesting the lactose (sugar) in milk. If I do not breastfeed my baby, what formula should I choose?

A:If you baby can’t digest lactose in milk, choose a lactose-free cow’s milk-based formula. These formulas can be used for babies with lactose intolerance but should not be used for babies with galactosemia.

Q:Is it a good idea to give my baby skim, 1% or 2% milk?

A: These lower fat or fat-free milks are not recommended until your baby is at least two years old. The calories and fat missing from these milks are needed for proper growth and development and energy to play. These milks are also too high in minerals and proteins to safely meet your baby’s nutritional needs for health.

Q: I have a history of allergies in my family. What is the best formula to use to lower my baby’s risk for allergies?

A: The best alternative is a protein hydrolysate formula. Two types of protein hydrolysate formulas have been developed for non-breastfed babies. One type has been developed for babies who have a risk for allergies, and the other for babies who have a confirmed allergy to cow’s milk or soy-based infant formulas.

Q: Can I give my six-month-old baby a ‘follow up’ formula if I do not breastfeed?

A: Iron-fortified ‘follow-up’ formulas are optional after your baby is six months old and is eating solid foods. At this age, follow-up formulas are better for your baby than cow’s milk, but not necessarily better than an iron-fortified (starter) formula.

The next step: Solid Foods

Babies are unique. Just as height, weight, activity levels and sleeping patterns vary, so do eating habits and, to a certain extent, readiness for solid foods.

The American Pediatric Society, dietitians of America and the FDA recommend introducing solids when your baby is between four and six months of age, although some health care professionals advise waiting till six months. Watch to see that your baby is showing the typical feeding skills needed for eating solid foods. It is a concern that introducing solid foods too early may increase your baby’s risk for allergies. When you begin to introduce solids into your baby’s diet, keep these guidelines in mind.

1. Singly – Try one new food at a time. Avoid mixtures of new foods until your baby has accepted each food alone without any problems.

2. Slowly – Offer new foods about four to seven days apart and watch your baby for any unwanted reactions. Try not to rush the process. Your baby’s taste buds and digestive system need type to adjust to these new experiences.

3. Use a spoon – Solid foods, including infant cereal, should be fed from a spoon rather than a bottle. Feeding with a spoon helps teach your baby new eating skills.

4. Feed small amounts at a time – The first time you offer a new food to your baby, try only one teaspoon (5ml), and gradually increase the amount over the next few feedings.

5. Try new foods in a relaxed atmosphere – Your baby may be more likely to accept new foods when not over-tired and when your household is relatively calm. When your baby is less than 9 months old, offer new foods after you breastfeed or bottle-feed. When your baby is over nine months old, you can begin to offer foods before you breastfeed or give your baby a bottle.

6. Gradually – Slowly change the texture of the foods you feed to your baby. Start with fine puree, move to coarser foods with fine puree, then coarser foods, finger foods, and finally table foods by the time your baby is one year old. At that time, your baby will be eating many of the same foods eaten by the rest of your family.

7. Commercial or homemade – Many parents choose to use commercially prepared baby foods. You can also make baby food at home by pureeing, mashing or chopping cooked fresh or frozen foods.

A baby’s need for food varies according to age, growth rate and activity level. The charts below serve as guides for feeding your baby. Look for typical feeding skills when you introduce solid foods, and watch for signs of hunger and fullness. Soon you’ll be able to develop a meal pattern based on your baby’s needs.

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