One of the first decisions you have to make as a new mama is how are you going to feed this new little creature?!
Breastfeed? Formula? What is best? What if my first choice doesn’t work out?
My baby won’t latch? Or my baby has an allergy? It can become soo overwhelming! What it really comes down to is #fedisbest. Choose what works for you, your baby, and your family – with guidance from your pediatrician, lactation consultant, or dietician as needed.
Unfortunately, the decisions about nutrition are not over at that point! In fact, they are just getting started. Eventually, your sweet, tiny baby will need more than the liquid diet you have settled on. That’s when MORE questions arise! When do I start solid foods? HOW do I start solid foods? What foods should I introduce and what foods should I avoid?
As a new mama myself, I had ALL of those questions. I did my best to find the most trustworthy information, from the most reliable sources, to make my decisions along the way.
Good news for you!
I took all of my experience as a Certified Pediatric Nurse and carefully reviewed all of the information out there. Then I put it all down in writing for you to look through. No need to worry about where the information came from because I made sure to only include the most credible sources and have links for you to check them out if you want to do some more research yourself.
Liquid Only Diet
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of a baby’s life and continuing to breastfeed until the baby’s first birthday or longer. But, this doesn’t always work out! Having a baby who is growing and getting the nutrition he or she needs is THE MOST important part.
Some important tips to keep in mind for babies who are fed from a bottle:
- Breastmilk or formula are the only two things that should be given in the bottle.
- Make sure that you follow the directions carefully when mixing powdered formula so that you use the right amount of water and powder.
- Although you may have heard that adding cereal to a bottle will help a fussy baby, or help your baby sleep longer, there isn’t any research to support this.
Introduction of Solid Foods
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that you start introducing solid foods no sooner than 6 months of age, unless your child’s health care provider recommends something different. Prior guidelines recommended starting solids at 4 months, but research has shown that introducing solid foods earlier could increase the chances of developing diabetes, obesity, allergies and eczema. Before 6 months old, infants are getting everything that they need from breastmilk or formula.
After your baby reaches the 6 month mark, you should also look out for the following signs that he or she may be ready to start eating solid foods:
- Can sit with little or no support
- Has good head control
- Opens his or her mouth and leans forward when food is offered
- No longer has the reflex to push things out of the mouth
At first, solid foods are more for practice and exposure to new flavors and textures, rather than for nutrition. A baby’s main source of nutrition will continue to be breastmilk or formula up until one year of age.
WHAT THIS REALLY MEANS: from about 6 months to 1 year, your baby may not be taking in a ton of solid foods. I was feeling kind of discouraged that my Baby Bear wasn’t eating that much and even got frustrated when he only had a spoonful or two. Eventually, he got the hang of it and now he eats like a champ!
Especially for the first few months, your baby not be that interested, may take only a few bites, or may spit foods out. Sometimes baby’s interest goes in waves. One day, he or she chows down! Another day, you can barely get a bite in. Your job is just to keep introducing things, sometimes the same foods need to be introduced several times, and keep feeding your baby breastmilk or formula. Little by little, your little one will start to be more interested in solid foods.
Introduction of Cow's Milk
Even though your little one is trying out lots of new foods now, there are some that should be postponed to a little later. One of these is cow’s milk.
Liquid cow’s milk by itself is should not be given to your baby until his or her first birthday. The reason for that is because it is difficult for your baby to digest and does not contain enough iron. It is okay to give your baby other dairy products like yogurt or cheese after 6 months.
Once your baby reaches 12 months, it is okay to introduce whole cow’s milk, but you want to make sure he or she is still eating a variety of other foods as well. Milk is good, but too much milk is not good! Try to limit the amount of milk your child drinks to no more than 3 cups a day. More than that can cause him or her to not get other important nutrients.
When in doubt, your child’s health care provider is always the best place to look for information. You may want to read up on a specific topic before you have a discussion with your health care provider, but only he or she will be able to help you apply that information to your child’s specific situation.
Remember that no matter what information you find, it is always best to be open and honest with any health care provider!
Here is a list of reliable, up to date resources that may answer some of your questions: