Feeding your baby: The first year


Feeding your baby during their first year is a journey filled with fun new experiences. It's not just about nourishment, but also about setting the stage for healthy eating habits later on. So, let's dive into the world of feeding and explore some suggestions to make this experience exciting and enjoyable.

How often should you feed your baby?

Here's the deal, —believe it or not, your baby knows when they're hungry or full and will fuss or cry to get your attention. In the beginning,if you're breastfeeding, aim for about eight to twelve feeds per day, with each feeding  lasting anywhere from  about 15 minutes to 45 minutes.For formula-fed babies, they may feed six to ten times per day, which includes  overnight feedings. If you find your baby is taking longer than about 45 minutes to nurse or formula feed, it’s time to talk to your doctor and/or lactation consultant for help.

As your little one starts exploring solid foods, they'll naturally drink less milk so be on the lookout for that to happen.

How to decode your baby's hunger and fullness cues

Babies have their unique ways of expressing hunger and fullness. It's sort of like a secret language Here are some general signs to look out for:

  • Smacking lips
  • Reaching or leaning toward the breast or bottle
  • Pointing at the spoon, food, or your hand
  • Bringing hands to mouth and self-soothing by sucking their own hands

Missing these hunger cues can result in a grumpy and sometimes a hysterical baby . You want to avoid the hysterical point of deciding whether to feed the baby. So, try your best to catch those signs early and make feeding a joyful experience for both you and your little munchkin.

On the flip side, how do you know when your baby has had enough? Look out for these cues:

  • Pulling away from the breast, bottle, or spoon
  • Getting drowsy and falling asleep
  • Changing position, shaking their head, or keeping their mouth closed tightly
  • Handing food back to the feeder, signaling they've had their fill

These cues are your baby's way of saying, "Thanks, but I'm all done!" Watch closely, and honor their signals. And please, never force feed your baby or chase them around with a spoon.

When is your baby ready for solid food? Let's find out!

So, here's the deal—your baby’s readiness for solid foods depends on their development.  Keep an eye out for these signs that your baby is developmentally ready to venture into the world of solids:

  • Sitting like a champ: Your baby can sit upright with minimal support in a high chair.
  • Head control on point: Watch out for good head control that lasts for a good amount of time which is usually around 4 months.
  • Eyeing your plate: If your little one starts showing interest in what you're eating, consider it a sign for solid food time.
  • Ready to open wide: When your baby eagerly opens their mouth to accept spoon-feeding, it's a clear indication that they're probably ready to embark on this culinary adventure.
  • Weight gain: Generally, when your baby has doubled their birth weight is when that baby may be ready for those solid foods.

It’s very important that you don’t start any type of solid foods until you talk to your pediatrician first, they have to give you the go-ahead!

Guidelines for feeding your baby solid foods:

  • Homemade or store-bought? Both can be healthy. Look for single ingredient foods and introduce a new food group every 3-5 days.  Variety is important!
  • Start small, then increase gradually: Begin with small amounts of new solid foods—about a teaspoon at first—and then slowly work your way up to a tablespoon. Go at your baby’s pace.  Remember, you don’t want to force-feed.
  • Nutrient-rich goodness: Meats and veggies pack important nutrients. Fruits and whole grain cereals have a role too!  Offering your baby a variety of different foods from different food groups ensures your baby will have enough nutrients to grow and develop.
  • Water: Typically, healthy babies don't need extra water, except during very hot weather. As you introduce solid food, your baby might need some extra sips of water.  Talk to your pediatrician about the appropriate amounts of water before you begin to give it.
  • Juice: Your baby doesn’t really need any juice. Hold off on fruit juices for infants under one year old. When your baby is ready, and with your pediatrician’s permission, go for pasteurized, 100% fruit juices without added sugar. Limit it to 4 ounces a day, dilute it with water, and serve it in a cup during mealtime.
  • Finger foods: When your baby can bring objects to their mouth slowly decrease mashed/baby foods and offer more finger foods. All of the food must be soft, easy to swallow, and cut into small pieces. Get ready for some adorable self-feeding moments!
  • Mealtime vibes: Keep mealtime to a reasonable duration—around 15 to 0 minutes or so—and reduce distractions like TV, tablets and phones. It's all about focusing on the delicious bites!
  • The magic number of meals: Most babies should have about three solid meals at 9 months per age and  two to three snacks, which for a while, may be breastmilk or formula.

The foods: Ones to offer and ones to avoid

Now, let's talk about what to offer to your baby and what foods you need to be careful with. All the foods you offer need to be easy to chew and swallow since your baby is just learning those skills and has a high risk of choking.  Here's what you do:

Now, let's talk about what to offer to your baby and what foods you need to be careful with. All the foods you offer need to be easy to chew and swallow since your baby is just learning those skills and has a high risk of choking.  Here's what you do:

Offer these: 

  • Meat, fish, chicken, pork that is chopped or mashed
  • Mashed beans
  • Avocado
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tofu
  • Mashed/chopped fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grain breads, crackers tortillas
  • Oatmeal

    Avoid these choking hazards:

    • Nuts, seeds, & popcorn
    • Chips
    • Pretzels
    • Raw fruits and vegetables
    • Raisins
    • Whole grapes
    • Hot dog pieces
    • And sticky foods like marshmallows and gum.

    Extra tips to keep in mind:

    • Don’t microwave milk: Don't warm your baby's bottle or food in the microwave. It can lead to burns in their tender mouths. Instead, opt for warming bottles in a pan of warm water or under a stream of warm tap water. Give it a good shake to ensure even heating.
    • The right feeding position: Always feed your baby in an upright position with a spoon. For babies with special needs, consult your healthcare provider or therapists for adaptive feeding strategies.
    • Say no to sleep-time bottles: Avoid letting your baby fall asleep with a bottle. It can cause milk to sit in their mouths which can lead to tooth decay and may increase the risk of ear infections.
    • Say goodbye to the bottle: By your baby's first birthday, it's time to bid farewell to the bottle. Help your little one make the transition to cups.
    • Keep a watchful eye: Always keep an eye on your little one  while they're eating. Insist on them sitting down during meals and make sure they're supervised.
    • Those “allergenic” foods: Research now shows that delaying highly allergenic foods like peanuts, eggs, and fish doesn’t reduce the risk of food allergies. The facts seem to indicate that introducing certain foods early, like peanuts and eggs, might decrease the risk of developing an allergy. Please talk to your pediatrician provider for guidance.

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