Baby Feeding Guide – How and When

The first year of every child’s life is essential in his or her development, as this is the time when the baby learns about interacting with you and everything around them. Somewhere between 6 and 8 months, they are going to increase their ability to grasp objects, their teeth will slowly emerge from the tip of their gums and the interest towards eating will increase exponentially. A lesser known fact is that during this stage of a child’s development, they will slowly realize the difference between them and otherness, gaining significant knowledge about the boundary that separates their being from the exterior world. What you feed your child is going to influence their evolution as healthy individuals. Moreover, one of the most important factors to take into consideration when establishing your baby feeding guide is the possibility of them being allergic to one or even several substances – this means that you must wait to introduce foods that are most likely to be allergenic when your child is 12 months or older. While we will discuss items such as formula and solids (an article I go into more detail about in another post  ), most pediatricians recommend feeding babies breast milk exclusively for their first year, if possible. However, for those that are either unable to or wish to try a different path, we will discuss other options in the article that follows.

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Development and food up to 6 months

From a very early age your child will manifest a tendency to watch you when you talk to them, recognize noises and even react to these in different manners, whereas their physical development will manifest by leg-kicking and slightly lifting their heads when lying on their tummy. It is a well-known fact that children learn from their parents and then reflect what they have gained in one way or the other. This stage of development is marked by an increased growth of the brain and spinal cord, rendering any minor influence critical to the later evolution of their intellect and personality. It is most advisable to maintain a warm and nurturing relationship with your child in order to help them develop in a healthy manner.

In terms of food, pediatricians and nutrition specialists recommend that you focus on providing the child with natural breast milk on the basis of their demand, as well as try to offer them baby formula if you aren’t able to breast feed. Under 1 month of age, you should try to give them baby formula from 6 to 8 times a day and then gradually going down to 5 to 7 and 4 to 6 times every four to five weeks. The average quantity that a child should receive per serving varies from 2 to 4 ounces (roughly 50 to 120 grams) and it increases in quantity proportionally as you provide them with less servings. In terms of breast milk, they should be nursed somewhere in between 5 and 10 minutes per breast. A good sign that your baby is receiving enough nourishment are wet diapers and their number will vary anywhere between 6 and 8. In the case of formula, always remember to hold both the baby and the bottle, never to heat the food by microwave oven or force them to eat more than they want to. The latter type of behavior can cause a series of issues with your child, from dietary to psychological ones.

From 6 to 8 months

             It is advisable that nursing continues still, although it should be alternated with formula meals and you should try to offer either of the two up to 6 times a day, in servings of 10 minutes or 8 ounces (roughly 220 grams). If the child is keen on sucking you can introduce them to a pacifier.

This is the average time when babies are introduced solid foods, but only in the form of puree or iron-fortified baby cereal (such as white or brown rice). You can try to puree sweet or white potatoes, carrots, squash or pumpkin. As for fruits, you can introduce them to bananas, apples, avocado, plums or peaches. The baby cereal can also be combined with their formula, case in which you shouldn’t try to feed them with a bottle.

Some possible clues that indicate your child is ready to try out solid foods are his or her ability to control their head, losing the extrusion reflex (pushing food out of their mouths with their tongue), significant weight gain, curiosity about solids that you are eating, along with an increased appetite. For these purposes, you want to be aware of your baby’s nourishment requirements and create your own baby feeding guide adapted to their needs.

From 8 to 10 months

             By this point, they should be familiar both with pureed vegetables, fruits and cereal. However, the problem now might turn to how much food they eat and therefore, you need to closely monitor the amount of food that you are feeding your baby. Paediatricians indicate that you offer your infant both formula and breast milk up to 5 times a day and close to the same amount of mashed fruits and vegetables. If they have acquired a taste for cereal, you can try offering them one or two servings of up to 4 tablespoons of cereal, but still keep in mind not to use the microwave for heating it.

There are a lot of choices in terms of fruits and vegetables which need to appear on your baby feeding guide, but you should try to introduce them one at a time, with a few days break in between. Some of them will be constantly refused, while for others your baby might acquire a taste. Just remember to always strain them, as they cannot handle chewing chunks, and to keep them refrigerated.

From 10 to 12 months

             In this stage of the your child’s growth you will start to notice that they are becoming more and more skilful at grasping objects, gaining abilities such as putting things in their mouth, the jaw motion of chewing or transferring items from one hand to another. To the previous stage of your baby feeding guide you can add small amounts of pasteurized or cottage cheese, cereals such as oats and barley, along with small pieces of protein food, such as eggs, pureed poultry meats, boneless fish meat, tofu and even well-cooked and mashed beans like lentils, black beans and split peas.

As you introduce your baby to finger foods, a lot of patience is required, while also always being careful not to give them chunks that require chewing. This period can also mark their introduction to various natural fruit juices (except from orange juice) and to being fed in a high chair.

            Always remember to pay special care to possible allergens, as well as the provenance of the food that you are buying. Take your time when making such decisions, as it will never be a waste to ensure your loved one’s health.

After your child’s first birthday

             Paediatricians state that it is safe to offer your baby whole milk, as well as other snacks while at the table. These snacks are important because children at this stage of growth have an increased energy need. They should be allowed snacks at the table, as they can otherwise develop patterns of conduct that are similar to grazing and will cause them to eat more than their body requires. This type of eating behaviour will lead, on long term, to eating disorders such as obsessive compulsive eating. As long as your baby feeding guide follows some of the rules mentioned above, you should feel free to personalize. You may rest assured that you are on the right path of forming your child into a responsible adult that has a healthy and varied preference of foods. Good luck!

 

 

Infant Feeding Chart – Introducing solids

Every human being and therefore every child is unique in their own way. Consequently, they will develop at their own rhythm, both physically and mentally, gaining and discovering skills and areas with which they feel at ease. Nutrition is one of the important factors in the growth of your child, as it most often determines whether their body is receiving essential substances required in this fragile stage of their development, as well as their later food preferences to a lesser extent. Recognizing the importance of dietary requirements in your child’s education should be one of the top priorities, reason for which devising your own infant feeding chart is advisable. This can help you keep tabs of what your baby was introduced to, what he or she already enjoys eating and where you need to focus your efforts so that they have a healthy and balanced diet. Introducing solids to your baby can be a tricky business, so here’s how you can make it easier…

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Introducing solids – When?

             Pediatricians indicate that the average period of time when a child is ready to be introduced to solid food is somewhere between the landmarks of 4 and 6 months. Of course, this is an estimation to which variations may apply – so there is no need for you to be concerned about it. Some health organizations find it easier to state that you should delay this timeframe up until they are 6 months of age. This is a decision that relies mostly on the fact that solid or formula usually replaces the tedious habit of nursing, although breast-milk is still vital for the infant’s physical health and digestive development. If you keep this in mind and allow breast-milk its deserved place as most important in the diet of a baby this age, you can slowly start to familiarize him or her with solid food. Moreover, there are some clues that you, as a parent, can look out for and that indicate that your baby is ready or willing to discover what else they can chew and has a good taste. Yum!

Some of the important growth milestones that have to be overcome by your child before introducing them to solid food are head control, losing the extrusion reflex (pushing food out of his or her mouth), chewing motions and teething, growing appetite and a curiosity about solid foods that you are enjoying. Introducing solid food before your child is 6 months old can also be risky, as some babies do not have throat and tongue muscles developed enough and the tongue thrust reflex might still be strong. As each infant develops at their own rate, if you do decide to introduce them to solids a bit earlier than 6 months, keep in mind the known allergens, as well as overfeeding.

One small bite for them, one big mouthful for their growth and evolution

             Up until the age of 1 year, both formula and breast milk should be an important component of the infant feeding chart you’ve developed. Both of these contain important proteins for their growth, vitamins and antibodies for their health and are in liquid form, which means they are easily digestible.

Having established this, you can slowly introduce them to single-grain cereals, such as rice and oats, or delicious mashed fruits or vegetables. Some of the most known starter vegetables include sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, swede and carrots, whereas babies will most likely enjoy pureed apples, bananas, pears or plums. In order to ensure that your child has not been exposed to an allergen, but also to keep track of what he or she has tried, liked and disliked, solid food should be introduced one item at a time, with a couple of days break in between.

            It is important that this new experience is introduced at a time when they are most comfortable, after a serving of formula or breast-milk. Never force them to eat it and always use plastic tableware to protect them from eventual injuries. When trying to offer your child cereal, you can mix it with some formula, but abide by the standard sitting at a table and eating with the spoon, as it will facilitate their learning the upright, healthy position for eating. Start slow, with one offer of solid food per day, whenever it seems that it’s more convenient for them. In time, you can increase it to more times a day, as they will become more interested in discovering what else is yummy. In this manner, solid food will most likely be associated with positive emotions, rather than negative ones and you can transform this experience into a warm, constructive practice with your son or daughter.

Just remember…

In a nutshell, it is more advisable to introduce solid foods in your baby’s diet closer to the 6 month marker, gradually and varying the types as much as you can. Breast milk and formula should still be an important part of their everyday meals until they reach one year of age. Try to stay away from known allergens, such as lactose, wheat grain, corn, egg or various types of nuts, which you can gradually introduce in their diet after the 1 year milestone has passed, with at least 3 days in between to confirm the lack of side-effects. Introducing solids and finger foods in your baby’s infant feeding chart is a mutual experience. You should observe their development, look out for clues that indicate they can handle chewing and mastication and make it an enjoyable experience. Never force-feed your baby, as they will most likely lose interest as a sign of lack of appetite – appetite can vary a lot at this stage of their development.

The process will naturally require your patience at first, but it will gradually improve, your baby will enjoy new tastes and sensations and you will feel proud of being a responsible and caring parent!