Healthy Living for Infants
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.
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 or her age will help your baby grow and develop normally. He or she will also need to be physically active to develop muscle strength. Muscle strength will help him or her learn to pick up objects, crawl, stand, and walk.
Foods to feed your baby from birth to 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 or she sleeps for more than 4 hours at one time, wake your baby 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 or she is first born. As your baby gets older, he or she will drink between 26 to 36 ounces each day. When your baby starts to sleep for longer periods, he or she 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 or she 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 in a bowl. Offer him or her 1 to 3 teaspoons of infant cereal for each feeding. Sit your baby in a high chair to eat solid foods.
Foods to feed your 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 or she may not want as much breast milk or formula as your baby did before. He or she 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 or she can learn to pick up foods and put them in his or her mouth. Your baby may want to try this when he or she sees you putting food in your mouth at meal time. You can feed your baby finger foods such as soft pieces of fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, or well-cooked pasta. You can also give your baby foods that dissolve easily in his or her 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.
Foods to avoid feeding your 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 or her 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 ounces of juice to your baby each day. Your baby will get enough liquid by drinking breast milk or formula. Fruit juice should not be given before your baby is 1 year old. Fruit juice has no nutritional use for babies younger than 1 year. Ask your baby's healthcare provider when it is okay to give your baby juice. Do not give your baby juice before bedtime.
- 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 or her to digest. Do not feed these types of milk to your child until he or she is 1 year old.
- Low-iron formula can cause your baby to have low levels of iron in his or her 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. Do not add honey or corn syrup to your baby's bottle.
- Baby cereal in your baby's bottle may cause him or her 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. Do not add salt or sugar to your baby's foods.
Other feeding guidelines to 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 the head higher than the body when you feed him or her.
- Do not overfeed your baby. Your baby knows when he or she has had enough to eat. Your baby may show you that he or she has had enough by looking around instead of watching you. Your baby may chew on the nipple of the bottle rather than suck on it. He or she 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 or she wants, he or she may learn to overeat. This may also cause him or her to gain weight too fast.
- Ask about supplements your baby may need if you are giving him or her 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 or she 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.
Help your baby get physical activity:
Your baby needs physical activity so 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 the crib to motivate him or her to reach for it.
- Gently turn, roll, bounce, and sway your baby to help increase 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 or her stand. Be sure to support his or her head if he or she cannot hold it steady.
- Play with your baby on the floor. Put a toy just out of his or her reach. This may motivate your baby to roll over as he or she tries to reach it.
- Limit your child's screen time. Screen time is the amount of television, computer, smart phone, and video game time your child has each day. It is important to limit screen time. This helps your child get enough sleep, physical activity, and social interaction each day. Your child's pediatrician can help you create a screen time plan. The daily limit is usually 1 hour for children 2 to 5 years. The daily limit is usually 2 hours for children 6 years or older. You can also set limits on the kinds of devices your child can use, and where he or she can use them. Keep the plan where your child and anyone who takes care of him or her can see it. Create a plan for each child in your family. You can also go to https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx#planview for more help creating a plan.
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