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Feeding Your Infant (birth to 24 months)
By choosing to complete this mail lesson, you have taken the first step in learning more about the importance of nutrition and its relationship to good health. The first year of life is a time of fast growth. Your child needs enough calories and nutrients for this amazing growth. This lesson will tell you how and what to feed your baby during the first two years. To complete this lesson:
- Carefully read this lesson. It should take about 15-20 minutes to complete.
- Answer the questions at the end of the lesson.
- When you are finished, place the questions in the prepaid envelope and place the envelope in the mail.
This mail lesson will discuss:
- Feeding your infant in the first 6 months
- Iron-fortified formula
- Feeding your infant from 6-12 months
- How and when to introduce solid foods
- Healthy table/finger foods to feed your infant
- Baby food
- Foods to avoid
- Feeding your toddler from 12-24 months
The First 6 Months:
For the first six months, breastmilk and/or formula are all your baby will need. Newborns will want to eat as often as every two to three hours. When feeding your baby, watch for your baby’s cues, such as crying, lip smacking, and sucking on their hands. Your baby knows how much they need to eat. Their tummies only hold a few ounces at a time. Allow your baby to tell you when they are finished with a bottle or food. Your baby is the best judge of how much to eat. Babies will tell you when they have had enough by turning their head away, closing their lips, or pushing milk out of their mouths. Six to eight wet diapers a day are a good sign that your baby is getting enough to eat.
- Breastmilk or formula? Take some time to think about breastfeeding your baby. Many mothers start breastfeeding because they know it is best for the baby. They continue to breastfeed because they enjoy the bonding time with their baby and the convenience. Breastmilk is free and will save you approximately $1000 over a 12 month period. Breastfeeding, even for a short period of time, is important for both the baby and mother.
Breastmilk is the best food you can give your baby. It is always clean, fresh, and ready when your baby is hungry. Babies’ tummies can handle breastmilk easier than formula. Breastmilk also helps prevent illness and may help reduce allergies. Breastfeeding also helps moms lose weight gained during pregnancy.
HOW TO STORE PUMPED BREASTMILK:
- Wash hands.
- Store breastmilk in glass or hard plastic containers that have been washed in hot, soapy water and rinsed. You may also use special freezer milk bags that are designed for storing human milk. These bags can be found in the baby section of your local store.
- Write the date and the amount of milk on the container. Freeze milk in single feeding portions (3 to 6 ounces). You may consider freezing both 1 and/or 2 ounce portions in ice-cube trays for when your baby wants a little more to eat. Remove the frozen milk cubes from the trays and place in a freezer quality zipper-storage baggie. Be sure to label the bag with the date and the amount of milk in the baggie.
- Do not add fresh, warm breastmilk to frozen breastmilk. If warm fresh breastmilk is added to frozen breastmilk, a thin layer of milk thaws. This may result in growth of bacteria that could make your baby sick.
- Warm or thaw frozen breastmilk quickly by gently shaking or rotating the sealed container under warm running water. DO NOT use the microwave or boiling hot water to warm or thaw frozen breastmilk because it decreases the quality of breastmilk and it may make the breastmilk too hot, which may burn your baby’s mouth.
- DO NOT thaw breastmilk on the countertop. Use breastmilk right away after it is thawed to avoid the growth of bacteria.
- Throw away any breastmilk left in the bottle after feeding.
BREASTMILK STORAGE TIMES
For freshly expressed breastmilk:
Room temperature 4 hours
Refrigerator 5-7 days
Freezer attached to a refrigerator 3-4 months
Stand alone deep freeze 6-12 months
For thawed breastmilk (previously frozen):
Room temperature Do not store
Refrigerator 24 hours
Freezer attached to a refrigerator Never refreeze thawed milk
Stand alone deep freeze Never refreeze thawed milk
If you choose to use formula to bottlefeed your baby, be sure to hold your baby so you can see their face. Always hold the bottle when feeding your baby. Never lean the bottle against another object because babies can easily choke or develop ear infections if the bottle is left in their mouth after they have finished feeding. The baby will also benefit from the closeness of being held during feedings.
Use iron-fortified formulas. Do not use cow’s milk until after your baby turns 1 year old! Please talk with your baby’s doctor before giving your baby cow’s milk.
Tips for Bottle Feeding:
- Formula comes in many different forms including ready-to-use, liquid concentrate, and dry powder. Ready-to-use formula needs no added water and is typically the most expensive. Powder formula is the least expensive choice. Regardless of what formula you use, carefully follow directions on the container. Always check the expiration date on the formula container. Do not use after this date. Avoid using tap water to make formula if the tap water available in your community is not safe for infants. Ask your doctor about the safety of the water in your community.
- Feed your baby the formula within 30 minutes after you make it. If it is not eaten within an hour, throw it away and start again with a clean bottle. DO NOT feed formula that has been left at room temperature for more than an hour.
- An opened can of liquid formula can be kept for up to 48 hours if tightly covered and placed in the refrigerator right after it was opened. Formula prepared from powder should be refrigerated and used within 1 hour. Do not freeze infant formula.
- Never heat bottles in a microwave. Microwaving bottles can cause hot spots inside the bottle that can burn your baby’s mouth and tummy. It is best to warm a bottle in a pan of hot water or run hot water over the bottle.
- Do not add infant cereals to bottles.
Feeding Your Infant 6-12 months:
During the first year of your baby’s life the main source of nutrition should be from breastmilk or formula. After 6 months, your baby should continue to have 5 to 6 breastfeedings or 24 to 36 ounces of formula in 24 hours. This is equal to 3 to 4½ cups of formula.
Six Months. Before starting solid foods, talk to your doctor about when it is best for you and your baby. At six months of age most babies will be ready for solid food. You might be tempted to give your baby solid foods before six months of age, but this is not a good idea unless your doctor has told you otherwise. Your baby needs to be able to hold up his/her head, sit with support and move solid food from the front of his/her mouth to the back for swallowing. For most babies, this is around 6 months. Start with rice cereal for infants. Add breastmilk or formula to infant rice cereal. When feeding cereal to your baby, use a small spoon that fits into the baby’s mouth. For your baby’s first cereal feeding, mix 1 tablespoon of cereal to a smooth texture with about 4 tablespoons of breastmilk, formula, or water. As he or she gets older, decrease the amount of liquid for a thicker texture. Feed your baby breastmilk or formula first and then solids. If breastmilk or formula consumption drops below 24 ounces or your baby does not want to nurse, you may be feeding too much solid food.
Starting other foods. Once your baby is doing well with cereal, you can begin to offer pureed fruits, vegetables, and meats. Feed your baby in a high chair at the table. Try only one new food at a time and wait 3-5 days to try another new food. With each food, watch for signs of allergic reaction, such as diarrhea, rash, cough, and/or vomiting. If your child becomes sick, it is easier to narrow down which food caused the reaction.
You can introduce 100% fruit juice to your baby after they are six months old. It is best to offer juice only in a sippy cup without the stopper. Only formula or breastmilk should be fed from a bottle. Only give your baby 2-4 ounces (about ¼ - ½ cup) of 100% fruit juice per day. Avoid offering citrus juices, like orange juice until 12 months. Appropriate juices to offer before 12 months are 100% apple or pear juice.
Eight to ten months. At this age, most babies can pick up small pieces of food and feed themselves. Your baby is ready for more solid foods if he/she can sit up, chew, reach for and grasp objects, and sip from a plastic cup.
Make sure an adult is always present when feeding your baby. Babies can choke very easily. Give small bite size pieces of cooked vegetables, peeled soft fruit, cooked ground chicken, and meat. Be sure to include snacks between meals.
Snack ideas: cottage cheese and soft, peeled fruit, unsweetened breakfast cereals such as toasted oats or oven-toasted rice cereal, applesauce, plain toast, small pieces of peeled fresh fruit.
Ten to twelve months. By this time, most babies can start to use a small plastic cup and spoon to eat. Offer your baby three meals and two snacks a day. Remember, your baby is learning how to eat on his/her own, so he/she will probably make a mess when he/she eats. Just be patient as he/she masters the skill. Provide a variety of textures and flavors. Limit breastmilk to 3 to 5 feedings each day and/or formula to 16 to 24 ounces per day. Limit 100% fruit juice to no more than 4 ounces per day. Babies are generally weaned from a bottle by the end of the first year. Start using the bottle less and a plastic cup more.
Additional snack ideas: Cheese slices, vanilla pudding, unsalted soft pretzels, cooked pasta noodles, low-fat or non-fat yogurt and crackers.
Many parents choose to make their own baby food in a food processor, blender, strainer, masher or grinder. Two good things about making your own baby food are that it costs less and your baby will learn to eat the foods you make. If you buy baby food, remember dinners and desserts often have added sugar and are more expensive. They also may be less healthy than individual foods. The shorter the ingredient list on a food product the better.
Tips for making your own baby food:
- Fresh, frozen or canned foods can be used.
- Steaming and boiling are the best cooking methods for baby food.
- Microwave cooking is a good method. Try microwaving vegetables.
- DO NOT add salt, sugar, honey and/or corn syrup to baby food.
- Bananas, pears, peaches, melons and other soft fruit can be mashed. Be sure to wash and peel it first.
- Home cooked baby food may be refrigerated in shallow containers for one to two days or pour pureed food into ice cube trays and freeze. When food is frozen, remove the cubes and store in freezer-type plastic bags or containers in the freezer for no longer than 2 months. (Be sure to write the date and type of food on the plastic bag or container).
Baby food may be served cold, at room temperature, or heated. Do not heat baby food in baby food jars. Baby food can be heated on top of the stove or in the microwave. Be sure to stir food because of hot spots. Always test the temperature of baby food by placing some on your wrist to make sure the food is not too hot.
Foods to Avoid:
Children under 1 year of age should not be given the following foods because they may cause allergic reactions or illness:
- Egg whites
- Cow’s milk
- Peanut butter
- Berries (strawberries, blackberries, cranberries)
Other foods children under 1 year of age should not be given:
- Soft drinks/pop
- Sweets such as candy, chocolate, or cake.
- Salty foods such as popcorn or chips.
Children under 2 years of age should not be given the following foods because they may cause choking:
- Whole hot dogs
- Raw carrots
- Hard candy
- Tough meats
- Large amounts of peanut butter
- Whole grapes
- Small marshmallows
12 to 24 Months:
After the first year, your baby will continue to need to eat a variety of foods everyday. At 12 months, whole milk should be used rather than formula. Only give whole milk until 24 months (2 years). Offer your child 4 ounces (½ cup) in a cup, 4 times a day.
Continue offering fruits, vegetables, meat and high protein foods such as beans, and whole grains such as cereal and bread. Offer your child 3 small meals a day plus snacks. Plan meals and snacks to include foods from all of the MyPyramid food groups. Eat as a family at the table with set meal and snack times. Turn the TV off while you are eating.
You can help your child enjoy healthy foods and happy meal times at an early age by setting a good example. You are your child’s best teacher.
Parents are in charge of:
- Buying and making healthy foods
- Setting regular meal and snack times
- Serving foods that are healthy and look good
- Setting a good example
Children are in charge of:
- Deciding if he/she will eat
- Deciding what and how much he/she will eat
- His/her actions at the table