First-Year Feeding FAQ: What, When and How to Feed Your Baby in the First 12 Months
After watching what not to feed your baby, you've probably come up with a million questions about what you should be feeding your baby. And when. And how. Well, you asked, we answered:
1. Why should I breastfeed my baby?
The American Academy of Pediactrics provides an extensive list about the benefits of breastfeeding. Besides establishing "physical contact [that] helps create a special bond between you and your baby," human milk has nutritional value as well. According to the La Leche League, breastfeeding gives a wide range of benefits, from antibodies that protect against illness, to having fewer allergies and cavities, to better jaw, teeth and speech development.
2. If breastfeeding doesn't work out for me, will formula harm my child?
Many women either cannot or do not wish to breast feed for a variety of reasons. According to the FDA, "nutrient specifications for infant formulas are set at levels to meet the nutritional needs of infants" so that your baby will still grow and be healthy.
3. What kind of formula is best?
The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests you should consulting your health care provider about whether or not to use an iron-fortified formula. The FDA ensures that any formula sold in the U.S. will provide basic nutrients so that they are all safe.
4. What should I eat while breastfeeding?
Eating a well-balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and bread products is very important, according to the California Pacific Medical Center. Breastfeeding moms also need to get plenty of calcium. CMPC also notes that certain foods, such as cabbage, broccoli, onion, garlic, and prunes, can change breastmilk's flavor; some babies will react to the change and could become gassy.
5. When should I start solid foods?
Not until a baby is about six months old, according to Dr. Sears. Babies younger than six months have immature intestines; they have a "tongue-flux reflex," which keeps them from choking but also makes it hard to eat anything that's not liquid. Swallowing and chewing are difficult so a baby should be able to sit up, Dr. Sears says, or the baby could associate eating with cuddling and it will be much more difficult to teach them to eat on their own.
6. Which foods are good ones to start with?
Dr. Sears recommends beginning foods that are most like the milk baby is used to drinking. "If your baby is used to the sweet taste of human milk, start with mashed bananas. If baby is used to the more bland flavor of formula, try rice cereal mixed with formula," he says. Rice is beneficial because it is the most intestinal-friendly grain and has a nutritional profile more like a fruit than a grain.
7. When can my baby drink cow's milk?
Children can start drinking milk at age 1, but they should only be drinking whole milk, NOT skim or reduced fat milk, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics.
8. Why should I introduce one food at a time?
Intelihealth recommends that you introduce each food (i.e. bananas, peas, carrots, apples, wheat cereal, etc.) singly, waiting about five to seven days between each one. If your baby has allergies, it can take a few days for an allergic reaction to present, so by waiting you are able to determine which food caused it.
9. What foods are off-limits before age 1?
Honey is very dangerous because it contains botulinum spores, which can cause the life-threatening disease botulism in infants with immature digestive systems. You should avoid feeding your infant foods that commonly cause allergies such as: egg whites, peanut butter, other nut butters, oranges, grapefruits, other citrus fruits, shrimp, lobster, other shellfish, according to Intellihealth. Also, children should not have small, round, hard foods that can cause choking until much later - such as grapes, raw carrots, popcorn, cut-up hot dogs, raisins, nuts, seeds, jelly beans, gum drops and other hard candies.
10. When should I introduce a cup?
Parents Magazine recommends that bottle weaning should start around 12 months, but the right wean time is different for every infant. The most important thing is to wean slowly. It is recommended to start the process about two months before your ideal stopping date.
11. When can I give my baby finger foods, like Cheerios?
At around 8 to 11 months, you should start introducing finger foods in daily meals, according to Parents Magazine. The AAP warns not to give finger foods that are too large and will cause choking, or too small and be easily aspirated. These include: raisins, nuts, popcorn, or small or hard food pieces.