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Healthy Living For Infants

What do I need to know about my baby's growth and development?

Your baby will grow more quickly during the first year of life than at any other time. Your baby's muscles and motor skills will develop during the first year. Your baby will learn how to eat foods and use utensils and cups. Healthy food that is right for his age will help him grow and develop normally. He will also need to be physically active so he can develop his muscle strength. Muscle strength will help him learn to pick up objects, crawl, stand, and walk.

Which foods should I feed my baby from birth through 6 months?

  • Breast milk gives your baby the best nutrition. It also has antibodies and other substances that help protect your baby's immune system. Ask your healthcare provider for information about the other benefits of breastfeeding. Babies should breastfeed for about 10 to 20 minutes or longer on each breast. Your baby will need 8 to 12 feedings every 24 hours. If he sleeps for more than 4 hours at one time, wake him up to eat.

  • Iron-fortified formula provides all the nutrients your baby needs. Formula is available in a concentrated liquid or powder form. You need to add water to these formulas. Follow the directions when you mix the formula so your baby gets the right amount of nutrients. There is also a ready-to-feed formula that does not need to be mixed with water. There are different types of formulas. Ask the healthcare provider which formula is right for your baby. Your baby will drink about 2 to 3 ounces of formula every 2 to 3 hours when he is first born. As he gets older, he will drink between 26 to 36 ounces each day. When he starts to sleep for longer periods, he will still need to feed 6 to 8 times in 24 hours.

  • At about 6 months, offer iron-fortified infant cereal to your baby. Ask your healthcare provider when your baby is ready for infant cereal. He may suggest that you give your baby iron-fortified infant cereal with a spoon 2 or 3 times each day. Mix a single grain cereal (such as rice cereal) with breast milk or formula. Offer him 1 to 3 teaspoons of infant cereal for each feeding. Sit your baby in a high chair to eat solid foods.

Which foods should I feed my baby from 6 to 12 months?

  • Continue to feed your baby breast milk or formula 4 to 5 times each day. As your baby starts to eat more solid foods, he may not want as much breast milk or formula as he did before. He may drink 24 to 32 ounces of breast milk or formula each day.

  • Offer new foods to your baby such as strained fruits, vegetables, or meat. Give your baby only 1 new food every 2 to 7 days. Avoid giving your baby several new foods at the same time or foods with more than 1 ingredient. If your baby has a reaction to a new food, it will be hard to know which food caused the reaction. Reactions to look for include diarrhea, rash, or vomiting.

  • At about 9 months of age, give your baby finger foods. When your baby is able to pick up objects, he can learn to pick up foods and put them in his mouth. He may want to try this when he sees you putting food in your mouth at meal time. You can feed him finger foods such as soft pieces of fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, or well-cooked pasta. You can also give him foods that dissolve easily in his mouth such as crackers and dry cereal. Your baby may also be ready to learn to hold a cup and try to drink from it.

Which foods should I avoid feeding my baby?

  • Liquids other than breast milk or formula should not be given to your baby in a bottle. Sweet liquids in a bottle may cause him to get cavities. These liquids also do not have the nutrients your baby needs to grow. When your baby is ready to learn to drink from a cup, a small amount of 100% fruit juice is okay. Do not give more than 4 to 6 ounces of juice to your baby each day. Your baby will get enough liquid by drinking breast milk or formula.

  • Regular cow's milk, goat's milk, soy milk, and evaporated milk do not have the iron your baby needs. They are also harder for him to digest. Do not feed these types of milk to your child until he is 1 year old.

  • Low-iron formula can cause your baby to have low levels of iron in his blood. Your baby needs iron to grow well. Do not give this formula to your baby unless his healthcare provider tells you to.

  • Raw eggs, honey, and corn syrup contain bacteria that can make your baby sick.

  • Baby cereal in your baby's bottle may cause him to choke or gain weight too fast. It may also cause your baby to drink less formula or breast milk.

  • Foods that can cause your baby to choke include hot dogs, grapes, raw fruits and vegetables, raisins, seeds, popcorn, and peanut butter.

  • Added salt or sugar is not needed to make your baby's food taste better. Your baby does not prefer to have foods that are salty or sweet because all flavors are new to him.

What other feeding guidelines should I follow?

  • Do not prop your baby's bottle. Your baby could choke while you are not watching, especially in a moving vehicle. Hold your baby in your arms with his head higher than his body when you feed him.

  • Use care when heating your baby's milk or food in a microwave. Food heated in a microwave does not heat evenly and will have spots that are very hot. Your baby's face or mouth could be burned. If you need to warm food quickly, put it in the microwave for a few seconds on a low setting. Shake or stir the food very well, and make sure it is not too hot before you give it to your baby. You can also warm milk quickly by placing the bottle in a pot of warm water for a few minutes.

  • Do not force your baby to eat. Your baby knows when he has had enough to eat. He may show you that he has had enough by looking around instead of watching you feed him. He may chew on the nipple of the bottle rather than suck on it. He may also cry and try to wriggle away from the bottle or out of the high chair. If you try to get your child to eat more than he wants, you may teach him to overeat. This may also cause him to gain weight too fast.

  • Ask about supplements your baby may need if you are giving him only breast milk. Breast milk does not contain the amount of vitamin D that your baby needs. Your baby will need a vitamin D supplement soon after birth. Your baby may also need an iron supplement after 4 months of age if he is not eating any iron-fortified foods. Talk to your healthcare provider about the amount and type of supplements that are best for your baby.

How can I help my baby get physical activity?

Your baby needs physical activity so his muscles can develop. Encourage your baby to be active through play. The following are some ways that you can encourage your baby to be active:

  • Hang a mobile over his crib to motivate him to reach for it.

  • Gently turn, roll, bounce, and sway your baby to help increase his muscle strength. When your baby is 3 months old, place your baby on your lap, facing you. Hold your baby's hands and help him stand. Be sure to support his head if he cannot hold it steady.

  • Play with your baby on the floor. Put a toy just out of his reach. This may motivate him to roll over as he tries to reach it.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Discuss treatment options with your baby's caregivers to decide what care you want for your baby. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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