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Infant Nutrition

Choosing how to feed your baby has life-long effects for your baby and for you. What you have seen and learned about infant feeding from your family, friends, and teachers is likely to influence your attitude and perceptions. Whether you definitely plan to breastfeed or you are still unsure, consider the fact that your milk is the best milk for your baby. It is the ideal first food for your baby’s first several months.

  • Breastfeeding. Nature designed human milk especially for human babies. It has several advantages over any substitute ever developed. Your milk has just the right balance of nutrients and it has them in a form most easily used by your baby’s immature body systems. Because it was made for your human baby, your milk is also the most gentle on your baby’s systems. Breastfeeding is advised until around 6 months of age. It can then be continued along with complementary foods until at least 1 year of age.

  • Bottle-feeding. If you decide not to breastfeed, or are unable to breastfeed, commercial iron-fortified formulas can provide adequate nutrition for your baby. Infant formulas have enough protein, calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals for growth. But formula doesn’t have the immune factors that are in breast milk. The immune factors in breast milk can help prevent infections.

Babies who take enough iron-fortified infant formula (over 1 liter a day) usually don’t need vitamin and mineral supplements. Fluoride is sometimes needed after 6 months of age if the water supply doesn’t have enough fluoride. Talk with your baby’s healthcare provider about the need for fluoride supplements. If your baby is breastfed or still too small to drink enough formula, ask your baby’s healthcare provider about vitamin D supplements.

Helpful hints for feeding your baby

These are some helpful hints for feeding your baby:

  • Breast milk is best for your baby. It is beneficial even if you breastfeed for only a short amount of time, or part-time.

  • Cow’s milk-based infant formula with iron should be offered as the first choice of formula if you do not breastfeed.

  • Keep your baby on breast milk or infant formula until they are 1 year old.

  • Start solid foods when your baby can hold up their head, sit up with support, and no longer has tongue thrusting (around 6 months).

  • When starting solids, start with your choice of single ingredient pureed baby food or infant cereal. It can be mixed with breast milk or formula and fed from a spoon. Don't give solids in the bottle or with an infant feeder.

  • Once your baby is tolerating 1 food, continue to offer other foods, including infant cereal, vegetables, fruits, and meats.

  • Ask your baby’s healthcare provider about the best way to add new foods to your baby’s diet.

  • Progress in the texture of foods so that your baby is eating table foods by their first birthday.

  • Don't give these foods to your baby during the first year of life:

    • Honey or foods made with honey

    • Cow's milk

    • Foods that can be easily choked on (like hot dogs, nuts, grapes, raisins, chips, raw vegetables, or popcorn)

  • Unless your baby is known to have or has severe allergies (for instance, breaking out in hives, vomiting, or having trouble breathing), you can introduce whole eggs and peanut butter at a young age—even at 4 to 6 months. Research shows it can reduce the chance of your baby developing allergies to these foods. But testing for a peanut allergy is advised for babies with severe eczema, an egg allergy, or both. Talk to your baby’s healthcare provider about whether these foods are appropriate for your baby.

  • Don't give your infant fruit juice in the first year of life, unless your child's healthcare provider advises otherwise.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.