Baby’s first food is breast milk or infant formula. Breast milk is the perfect food and is made especially for your baby, but infant formula will provide adequate nutrition for them too.
Formula milk is made from modified cow’s milk, however it cannot mimic human breast milk; which is the most natural food for your baby. If you are not comfortable with breastfeeding or are not able to breastfeed you can still give your baby a good start with formula milk.
Exclusive breastfeeding or infant formula is recommended for the first six months of a baby’s life. Complementary foods should be added when the baby is ready and breastfeeding or infant formula should continue until the baby is at least a year old. Ordinary cow’s milk is not suitable as your baby’s main drink before one year as it does not contain enough iron and nutrients for proper growth and is too high in sodium. Iron is critical for your baby’s healthy growth and development during the entire first year and a baby’s iron reserves start to run out at around 6 months. At 6 months of age your baby requires different nutrients which are not covered by exclusive breastfeeding or infant milk; these nutrients are then provided by the complimentary food.
Infants are often developmentally ready to gradually accept complementary foods between four and six months of age. When ready for solid foods, your baby will be able to control head movements and sit with support. To show an interest in food, they will open their mouth and lean forward. When they have had enough to eat, they will lean back and turn away.
The first year of life is a time of rapid growth when most babies triple their birth weight. Make sure your baby gets the proper nourishment they need to develop to their fullest potential. Their fast-growing brain, along with their nervous system, continues to develop until about the age of three.
Breast Feed if Possible: Breast milk is best during the first year of life. If breastfeeding is not possible, an infant formula is an acceptable alternative. Specialized formulas are available for infants that are allergic to regular infant formulas.
Heat Bottles Carefully: Some babies will drink a bottle straight from the refrigerator, but most prefer milk warmed to room temperature. Warm your baby’s bottle in one of these three ways.
- Use a bottle warmer according to directions.
- Hold it under a stream of warm tap water.
- Put it in a pan of warm water that has been removed from the stovetop a few minutes.
Do not put baby bottles in the microwave, because microwaves can heat unevenly. The milk inside could reach scorching temperatures while the bottle may feel cool on the outside. In addition, some vitamins and protective factors in breast milk may be destroyed.
Throw away milk or formula leftover in bottles, do not save it for another feeding.
Hold Your Baby When Bottle-Feeding: At feeding time, you and your baby are learning about each other. Relax and hold your baby close. Babies can see things best when they are about 25 cm away, which is about the distance between your eyes and theirs when you hold them.
Talk to your baby while they nurse or bottle-feed. Babies whose parents talk to them learn more words than other children. Hug and cuddle your baby to help them feel secure, because sharing love is important for your baby’s health.
Hold the bottle upright when feeding to reduce the risk of ear infections. Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle, because this increases the risk of choking and developing cavities in their teeth.
Don’t Force Your Baby to Eat: Babies are born knowing how much they need to eat to grow and thrive. Never force your baby to finish a bottle or food if they no longer act hungry. Over-feeding can lead to weight problems.
Avoid Regular Cow’s Milk: Don’t serve regular cow’s milk until your baby is one year old. Before then, babies may have an allergic reaction, low blood iron and stomachache. Between the ages of one and two years, your baby should drink whole milk, because reduced-fat and fat-free milk don’t have enough fat and calories for a growing baby.
Don’t Serve Cereal Mixed With Formula From a Bottle: This practice has not been proven to help a baby sleep better through the night. There is no connection between consumption of solid foods (including cereal in a bottle) and improved sleep patterns in infants.
In addition, serving cereal from a bottle may cause a baby to choke. Putting cereal in their milk also may give a baby too much cereal and not enough milk, leading to a lowered nutritional intake.
Always Wash Your Hands: Your baby could get diarrhea from the bacteria picked up by your hands. Studies show that the following percentages of mothers do not wash their hands after:
- changing a diaper – 32%.
- petting animals – about 41%.
- using the bathroom – about 15%.
- handling raw meat – about 10%.
- gardening or working with soil – about 5%.
To reduce the risk of illness, always wash your hands before preparing formula or food for your baby, as well as for anyone else.
Your baby will regulate his intake from day to day to meet his own specific needs. Don’t go by fixed amounts, let him tell you when he’s had enough. If he becomes restless y or easily distracted during a feeding, he’s probably finished. If he drains the bottle and still continues smacking his lips, he might still be hungry.
There are high and low limits, however. After the first few days, your formula-fed newborn will take from 60–90 ml of formula per feeding and will eat every three to four hours on average during her first few weeks. (Breastfed infants usually take smaller, more frequent feedings than formula-fed infants). If your baby sleeps longer than four to five hours during the first month, and starts missing feedings, wake him up and offer a bottle. By the end of his first month, he will have a fairly predictable schedule of feedings about every four hours.
Most babies are satisfied with 90–120 ml per feeding during the first month and increase that amount by 30 ml per month until they reach a maximum of about 180–210 ml. If your baby consistently seems to want more or less than this, discuss it with your pediatrician. Your baby should drink no more than 1000 ml of formula in 24 hours. Some babies have higher needs for sucking and may just want to suck on a pacifier after feeding.
Initially it is best to feed your formula-fed newborn on demand, or whenever he cries because he is hungry. As time passes, he will begin to develop a regular timetable of his own. As you become familiar with his signals and needs, you will be able to schedule his feedings around his routine.
At four months of age (or when the baby weighs more than 6 kg), most formula-fed babies no longer need a middle-of-the night feeding, because they are consuming more during the day and their sleeping patterns have become more regular (although this varies considerably from baby to baby). Their stomach capacity has increased, too, which means they may go longer between daytime feedings—occasionally up to four or five hours at a time. If your baby still seems to feed very frequently or consume larger amounts, try distracting him with play or with a pacifier. Sometimes patterns of obesity begin during infancy, so it is important not to overfeed your baby.
The most important thing to remember, whether you breastfeed or bottlefeed, is that your baby’s feeding needs are unique. No book can tell you precisely how much or how often he needs to be fed or exactly how you should handle him during feedings. You will discover these things for yourself as you and your baby get to know each other.