I don’t think anything in parenthood is as greatly debated as much as nutrition.
Breastmilk, formula, purees, table food, how much, how often, the list goes on and on. It all usually starts with some old school advice from well-meaning relatives. Feed the baby more, put cereal in the bottle, give them solids so they sleep longer, babies need bland foods because their taste buds aren’t like ours. It’s nearly impossible to navigate all the information. It’s important to follow the advice of your pediatrician, but I have some quick tips that may help. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about the older kiddos too!
In the early days, breastmilk and/or formula are all a baby needs. Infants fed at the breast will generally take in between 24-30 ounces in a 24 hour period by the time they are a month old and until right around 6 months when solids are introduced. The amount of breastmilk needed won’t increase, because breastmilk changes to meet the baby’s needs. Formula fed babies are similar, but the amounts increase as baby grows. Something I have been working to introduce here at the center is paced feeding. In short, it’s the practice of slowing down the bottle feeding so baby has more time to feel full, rather than gulping the entire thing down.
Introducing solids is where things get tricky. Some recommendations say 4 months is the time to introduce while some say 6 months. A handy list of physical milestones to watch for can help determine if your baby is ready. Sitting unassisted, loss of tongue thrust reflex and the development of a pincer grasp are some great signs to look for.
But wait, WHAT do I feed my baby? Great question! You have several options. My personal favorite is baby led weaning. Baby eats what you eat and it’s a fun, messy experience for the whole family. There are some great resources out there to get started. (I even have a book you can borrow, feel free to stop by my classroom!) Another option is starting with baby cereals and purees. (Tiny side note, we have the ability to puree fresh fruits and veggies when we have them with our school meals!) Whatever you choose, it’s important to follow your baby’s cues. Start slow and see where it takes you. And be sure to take LOTS of pictures.
After a year when breastmilk and formula have tapered out, and even if breastfeeding continues, your kiddo will be eating primarily solid foods. Current guidelines recommend that a child between the ages of 12 months and 36 months needs between 1000 and 1400 calories a day, depending on size, age and activity level. (They’re all pretty active though, amiright?) From a year to 2 years, they need 3 servings of whole grains, 1 serving (1 cup) of fruit and 1 serving of vegetables, 2 servings of protein (1 egg or 1 ounce of cooked meat), and 2 servings of milk. Yogurt, cheese, breastmilk and non-dairy milks meet that recommendation. This increases only slightly from the age of 2-3. 5 servings of whole grains, 1.5 of fruit, 1.5 of vegetables, 2-4 of protein and 2 of milk. From 4 to 5 years of age it goes to 6 servings of grains, 5 fruits & vegetables, 2 protein and 3 milk. In reality though, knowing how much they eat is typically less important that what they’re eating. A variety of healthy foods from each groups is a great way to ensure they get what they need.
Now, what about those busy nights when you forgot to turn on the crockpot, or you had an insane day and just need to grab something quick? No worries! Seriously, a meal from McDonald’s here and a couple of Chic-Fil-A nights there aren’t going to mess your child up for life. Organic? It’s nice for certain foods, but not something you necessarily need to spend all your time stressing about. Those crumbs in the back seat of your car or the snacks your child finds somewhere weeks later? No problem. Take it from me. I breastfed both of my boys for 2 and a half years each, and to my great surprise, my oldest did not die when he found a chocolate donut in his Batmobile about a week after I remember seeing it, and he ate it right in front of me. My brother-in-law was formula fed and he was the cleanest, least disgusting eater ever as a child. I was formula fed and I am completely in love with fruits and veggies as an adult! Feed your child in the way you choose that works best for you and your family. You have the information, be free to do with it what you’d like!
Infant Nursery Supervisor
Parent Connection Coordinator