Infant Nutrition

Choosing how to feed your baby has life-long 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 unsure, consider the fact that your milk is the best milk for your baby. It is the ideal first food for your baby’s first several months.

  • Breastfeeding. Nature designed human milk especially for human babies. It has several advantages over any substitute ever developed. Your milk has just the right balance of nutrients and it has them in a form most easily used by your baby’s immature body systems. Because it was made for your human baby, your milk is also the most gentle on your baby’s systems.

  • Bottle-feeding. If you decide not to breastfeed, or are unable to breastfeed, commercial iron-fortified formulas can provide adequate nutrition for your baby. Infant formulas have enough protein, calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals for growth. However, formula doesn’t have the immune factors that are in breast milk. The immune factors in breast milk can help prevent infections.

Babies who take enough iron-fortified infant formula (over 1 liter a day) usually don’t need vitamin and mineral supplements. Fluoride is sometimes needed after 6 months of age if the water supply doesn’t have enough fluoride. Talk with your baby’s healthcare provider about the need for fluoride supplements. If your baby is breastfed or still too small to drink enough formula, ask your baby’s healthcare provider about vitamin D supplements.

Helpful hints for feeding your baby

These 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.

  • Cow’s milk-based infant formula with iron should be offered as the first choice of formula if you do not breastfeed.

  • Keep your baby on breast milk or infant formula until they are 1-year-old.

  • Start solid foods when your baby can hold up their head, sit-up with support, and no longer has tongue thrusting (4 to 6 months).

  • When starting solids, start with rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula on a spoon. Do not give solids in the bottle or with an infant feeder.

  • Once your baby is tolerating cereal, offer vegetables, then add fruits, and then meats.

  • Ask your baby’s healthcare provider about the best way to add new foods to your baby’s diet.

  • Progress in the texture of foods so that your baby is eating table foods by their first birthday.

  • Don't give these foods to your baby during the first year of life:

    • Honey

    • Foods that can be easily choked on (like hot dogs, peanuts, grapes, raisins, or popcorn)

  • Unless your baby is known to have or has severe allergies (for instance, breaking out in hives, vomiting, or having trouble breathing), recent reports and studies have shown that introducing whole eggs and peanut butter at a young age—even at 4 to 6 months—reduces the chance of your baby developing allergies to these foods. Talk to your baby’s healthcare provider about whether these foods are appropriate for your baby.