Health Library

Infant Nutrition

Infant Nutrition

Choosing how to feed your baby is an important decision that has lifelong 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, and it is the ideal first food for your baby's first several months.

Breastfeeding

Nature designed human milk especially for human babies, and it has several advantages over any substitute ever developed. Breast 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 the human baby, breast milk is also the most gentle on your baby's systems.

Exclusively breast-fed infants should be supplemented with vitamin D within the first few days of life. Consult your infant's physician regarding supplementation.

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.

  • Unless your infant consumes 32 ounces of formula per day, he or she should be supplemented with vitamin D within the first few days of life. Consult your infant's physician regarding supplementation.
  • Fluoride is sometimes needed after 6 months of age, if the water supply does not have enough fluoride. Consult your infant's physician regarding fluoride supplements.

Tips

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 little support and no longer has tongue thrusting (6 months), or as advised by your infant’s physician.
  • When starting foods, you can begin with infant cereal, vegetables, fruit or meats. Fortified infant cereals, pureed meats, beans, and legumes are excellent choices as first foods because they are good sources of protein, iron, and zinc. Foods should be offered to the infant on a spoon. Do not give foods in the bottle or with an infant feeder.
  • Once your baby is tolerating the first food for three to five days, you may start with another food.
  • Try only one new single-ingredient food every three to five days to watch for signs of intolerance or food allergy. Food allergies can present as a rash, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea or trouble breathing.
  • Avoid mixing solid foods together when first offering solids, as experiencing new flavors individually encourages enjoyment of variety and helps to make eating more interesting.
  • Progress in texture of foods so that your baby is eating table foods by his or her first birthday.
  • Introduce a variety of foods by the end of the first year to facilitate the development of healthful food habits. If the infant refuses a food, try again. It can take 10 to 20 exposures before a food is accepted.
  • Do not introduce juice before 12 months of age. Once given, limit juice to two to four ounces a day and offer only 100 percent juice. Discuss the need for water with your infant’s physician before offering it to infants under the age of one year old.
  • Honey should not be introduced prior to the age of 1 year due to botulism.
  • Do not give your infant foods that can be easily choked on (hot dogs, nuts, grapes, raisins, popcorn, dried fruits, raw vegetables).

Last Updated 05/2021

Reviewed By Kathy Santoro, Registered Dietician III