Children's Health and Wellness

Infant Nutrition

Choosing how to feed your baby is an important decision that 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 uncertain, 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 contains just the right balance of nutrients, and it contains them in a form most easily used by the human baby's immature body systems. Because it was developed for your human baby, your milk is also the most gentle on your baby's systems.

  • Bottle-feeding. If you decide not to breastfeed, or are unable to breastfeed, commercial iron-fortified formulas can provide adequate nutrition for your infant. Infant formulas contain adequate amounts of protein, calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals for growth. However, formula does not contain the immune factors that are in breast milk. The immune factors that are found in breast milk can help prevent infections.Infants who take enough iron-fortified infant formula (over 1 liter a day) usually do not need vitamin and mineral supplements. Fluoride is sometimes needed after 6 months of age, if the water supply does not have enough fluoride. Talk with your infant's health care provider about the need for fluoride supplements. If your baby is breastfed or still too small to drink enough formula, ask your infant's health care provider about vitamin D supplements.

Helpful hints for feeding your baby

The following are some helpful hints for feeding your baby:

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

  • Offer cow's milk-based formula with iron as first choice of formula, if you do not breastfeed.

  • Keep your baby on breast milk or baby formula until he or she is 1-year-old.

  • Start solid foods when your baby can hold up his or her head, sit-up with support, and no longer has tongue thrusting (4 to 6 months).

  • When starting solids, begin with rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula on a spoon. Do not give solids in the bottle or with an infant feeder.

  • Once your baby is tolerating cereal, offer vegetables, then add fruits, and then meats.

  • Ask your child's health care provider about the best way to add new foods to your baby's diet.

  • Progress in texture of foods so that your baby is eating table foods by his or her first birthday.

  • Do not give these to your child during his or her first year of life:

    • Honey

    • Foods that can be easily choked on (like hot dogs, peanuts, grapes, raisins, or popcorn)

  • Limit juice to 4 ounces a day. Water is not necessary for infants. Better choices include formula, breast milk, or juice for added nutrition.

  • Unless your child is known to have or has severe allergies (for instance, breaking out in hives, vomiting, or having trouble breathing), recent reports and studies have shown that introducing whole eggs and peanut butter at a young age — even at 4 to 6 months — reduces the chance of your child developing allergies to these foods. Talk to your child's health care provider about whether these foods are appropriate for your child.

Print Source: Fleischer, DM. Primary Prevention of Allergic Disease Through Nutritional Interventions. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice (2013); 1(1); pp. s29-s36
Print Source: Wagner, Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants, children, and Adolescents. Pediatrics (2008); 122(5); pp. 1142-1152
Online Source: Breastfeeding Your Baby, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Online Source: Bite-Sized Milestones: Signs of Solid Food Readiness, American Academy of Pediatrics
Online Source: Fluoride Supplements, American Academy of Pediatrics
Online Source: Switching To Solid Foods, American Academy of Pediatrics
Online Source: Vitamin & Iron Supplements, American Academy of Pediatrics
Online Source: Water & Juice, American Academy of Pediatrics
Online Source: Botulism, American Academy of Pediatrics
Online Editor: Geller, Arlene
Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: Topiwala. Shehzad. MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/11/2015
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.