If you have a new baby, one of the most pressing questions you might have is how best to nourish them. Whether you’re pregnant, preparing to watch someone else’s baby or you’re adjusting to the feeding process with your new little one, it might feel like there’s a lot to learn about feeding your baby properly. While there are many different ways and methods of feeding a baby, you can figure out what works best for both you and the baby you’re caring for.
Between breastfeeding, bottle feeding and baby formula, there are so many different options available for feeding your baby, and it can sometimes seem like there’s no real right or wrong answer for what you should do. And that’s partially because feeding a baby — just like all aspects of parenting and caretaking — is subjective.
Everyone has their own way of feeding their baby, but there are recommendations on how to do it that can help you nourish your baby as best as you can — no matter how you decide to do it. Here is what you need to know about feeding a baby.
1. Feeding Methods
Formula, or breast milk — it seems like this is one of the million-dollar questions so many new moms and parents stress over. Just like there are different sources which will give you all kinds of opinions and other parents who will share their experiences with you, there are benefits and setbacks to any option you choose. It’s truly all about your lifestyle and preference.
While some people go on a strict breastfeeding trajectory, others go strictly for formula. However, you can also use a combination of the two if you are having trouble deciding which would be the best option for your family.
Breastfeeding provides antibodies that can help improve your baby’s immune system, promotes positive brain development and even lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, which are all great. However, formula feeding can make it easier for working moms to have available, consistent nourishment on hand and can promote bonding with feeding when it comes to both parents.
It’s up to you which option you think would benefit your baby the most. Whether it’s formula, breast milk or a combination of the two, the most important thing is that your baby is fed appropriately — with food intended for babies. This means no cow’s milk, no juice and no chocolate milk or other sweets.
2. How Often
Many new parents wonder how often they should feed their baby, and while each individual baby and stage of feeding is different, most newborns eat every two to three hours. Some infants will eat even more often than that or slightly less often.
3. How Much
Babies inherently know when they are hungry or full. This means you don’t need to make them eat when they aren’t hungry or control their intake if they’re especially hungry. Unless they have a condition and your pediatrician informs you otherwise, they will have the body awareness to eat enough when you feed them. Most often, babies will consume between two and three ounces of breast milk or formula per feeding. However, the numbers can vary depending on a variety of factors like age and size.
4. When to Start Solids
One of the biggest questions many new parents have is when to start feeding their baby solid foods. Really, this depends on what you mean by solid foods. While certain four through six-month-old babies can be introduced to purees like squash, apple and pear, true solids like pasta, meats, beans, bread and other table foods should be kept off the radar until 10-12 months at least — and even that’s only if they’re truly ready.
Look into the stages of feeding and see where your child is progressing on the milestones. While age is an important factor when it comes to determining what solids you should feed your baby, it’s also important to make sure they’re ready, too.
5. What to Feed Them
When it comes to feeding your baby solids or more traditional foods for the first time if they’re ready, you might be wondering what some of the best safe baby foods happen to be. Of course, you should continue breastfeeding or formula feeding even after you introduce solid foods, but it’s also a great idea to try out different options and see what works for your baby on a case-by-case basis. When you start to introduce new foods to them, it’s best to stick to one new food every three days or so. Here are some great foods to start off with at the beginning:
- Infant cereal
- Vegetable purees
- Fruit purees
- Mashed foods like potatoes and avocados
Feeding Your Baby
Each baby is different and has different needs, and that includes their diets. Of course, you should always consult a pediatrician before you introduce your baby to new foods, and even as you plan your feeding progression. The most important thing — whether you choose to formula feed or breastfeed your baby — is that they’re getting the nourishment they need.