Nutrition is essential for a proper child’s growth and development. Unfortunately, there are so many things to consider when feeding a newborn (what, how much, or often to feed) that can overwhelm new moms. However, don’t despair, we are here to help. Experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics have come up with a guide to help you start and stay on course with your baby’s proper nutrition.
General Guidelines for Baby Feeding
Feeding your baby will be a 24-hour commitment and an opportunity to start forming a bond with your baby. When done right, it helps strengthen the child’s immune system improve and promote healthy growth and development. That said, here are simple guidelines about how to feed a baby.
Stick with breast milk or formula
Breastfeeding is the ideal way of newborn feeding as breast milk has all the nutrients required for growth. It also has antibodies that help protect your little one against illnesses. But breastfeeding might sometimes not be possible due to challenges with latching out the nipple correctly or insufficient milk production. In such instances, you can nourish your newborn with formula milk or bottles designed for little ones.
New moms usually assume that common foods such as honey, chocolate milk, cow’s milk, soy sauce, egg yolk, and cheese are okay for newborns. However, unless your pediatric healthcare provider advises you to do so, don’t feed your newborn (less than four months) solid foods because:
- Breastmilk or formula has everything newborns need nutritionally
- The newborn isn’t physically developed to eat solid food from a spoon
- Solid foods might cause digestive issues or allergic reaction
- The foods can cause excessive weight gain
- Solid foods can lower vital nutrient intake
- They can lead to a choking hazard
Consider vitamin D supplements
Breastmilk contains the right combination of nutrients and vitamins and easy-to-absorb iron for babies. Hence, a healthy newborn nursed by a healthy mom doesn’t require additional nutritional supplements or vitamins, except for Vitamin D. The vitamin helps babies absorb phosphorus and calcium, essential for strong bones. Children who do not get enough vitamin D can develop rickets (a disease that softens and weakens your child’s bones). That means your child will end up having a soft skull, bowed legs when they grow older, and may experience delays in crawling and walking.
It’s recommended that all breastfed newborns get vitamin D supplements within their first few days until after their first birthday. Moreover, if your newborn is bottle-fed and is drinking less than 1 liter or a quart of formula a day, you should consider a vitamin D supplement.
Expect variations in your newborn’s eating patterns
A newborn’s feeding program can be unpredictable. Therefore, your baby won’t necessarily eat the same amount at the exact same time every day. For instance, during growth spurts, your baby might want to be fed more and frequently. So, instead of keeping a strict eye on the clock, try responding to early signs of hunger.
How Often and How Much Should Your Baby Eat?
Give your little one food every time they’re hungry, and that can generally be every 1-4 hours. Breastfed babies should be nursed 8-12 times per day, for an approximate 15 minutes per breast at each feeding. For formula-fed babies, you should feed them 6-10 times per day.
The typical portion sizes and daily intake for different babies ages are as follows:
0-4 months: 2 to 4 ounces of breast milk or infant formula
4-6 months: 6 to 8 ounces of breast milk or formula (four to six feedings per day). You can also add:
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of infant cereal.
6-8 months: 6 to 8 ounces of breast milk or infant formula with feedings per day being 3-5 times. You can also add:
- 2-4 tablespoons of infant cereal
- 0-3 ounces of juice or water
- 2 crackers or ½ slice of bread
- 2-3 tablespoons of veggies or fruits
- 1-2 tablespoons of meat or beans
8-12 months: 6-8 ounces of breast milk or infant formula throughout the 3-4 feedings per day. You can also add:
- 2-4 tablespoons of infant cereal, ½ slice of bread, 3-4 tablespoons of pasta, or 2 crackers
- ½ cup of yogurt or ½ ounce of cheese
- 3 ounces of water or juice
- 3-4 tablespoons of veggies or fruits
- 3-4 tablespoons of meat or beans
- Infants shouldn’t go more than 4-5 hours without feeding.
- Nursing moms shouldn’t worry about the additional breast milk required as breastfeeding will
stimulate milk products, and your supply will adjust to your newborn’s demand.
Tips for Managing Mealtime
Some tips to help manage mealtimes are:
Consider mealtimes as a bonding time with your little one: Use every feeding session as a chance to
build your little one’s sense of trust, security, and comfort. You can do that by holding your baby close during feeding, looking them in the eye, and speaking gently to them.
Trust your instincts: Don’t focus too much on how often, how much, or frequency with which your baby eats.
Rather, look out for:
- Contentment between feeds
- Steady weight gain
- More than six wet diapers and over three bowel movements daily by the fifth day after birth
How do I know if my baby is hungry or full?
Some typical signs that your little one is hungry include:
- Opening their mouths
- Moving their fists and hands to the mouth or even sucking them
- Sticking their tongues out
- Puckering or smacking their lips
- Nuzzling against their mom’s breasts
- Moving their head from side to side
- Grabbing for or leaning towards the bottle
- Pointing at a spoon, food, their feeder’s hands
Note: when you miss the hunger cues, your newborn will tend to get upset with crying and fussing. Therefore, you should try to note the signals to make feeding more enjoyable for you and your little one- and you’ll less likely be soothing a frantic newborn.
Some signs that your child has had enough to eat are:
- Slows down
- Stops suckling or unlatches from the breast
- Closes their mouth
- Pulls or turns away from the bottle or nipple
- Spits out the bottle
- Falls asleep
Keep Feedings Consistent
Many baby-wise moms find their babies waking up about the same time every day and following the same sleep, eat, and play pattern. Well, when you ask a mother, “at what time does your baby nap in the afternoon?” Many will tell you that that depends on what the baby eats in the morning and how long their morning nap was. There you got it; you need to establish a consistent feeding and sleep schedule. Here’s how you can do that:
Pick morning wakeup time
Some babies are early risers, while others sleep a bit late in the night. Depending on your baby, you should go with what works best for them. There are those children who sleep at 7 pm and wake up early in the morning and those who sleep at 9 pm and wake up a bit later. Although you ought to ensure that your child gets at least 10-12 hours of restful sleep every night, the time your baby should wake up is up to you. There’s no right or wrong time; you need to keep in mind the number of times you want your baby to feed and how you’ll distribute the feedings throughout the day.
The idea here is that when you sleep at the same time every day, you develop a natural, biological clock, and if you follow a certain eating routine, you tend to get hungry at the same time every day.
Pick your feeding times
Next, you need to pick the time you want to feed your baby. For example, if your child wakes up at 7 am can have a 7:00 feeding, a 10:00 feeding, and a 1:30 feeding. However, you might notice that this will work for a while, and your baby is a few weeks old; they might need to feed a little more often. Your baby might need to eat at 9:30 instead of 10:00, and after that, they might not be able to 10:00 feeding, so you might want to adjust to her needs.
To do this, you can write down the new times and follow through. You don’t necessarily need to give your baby food at the exact time- be on straight 2’s or 3’s– combo schedules work. Even without trying much, you and your little one will eventually establish a routine. Strive to follow it, and if family members or caretakers help feed your baby, ensure that they follow the same pattern and methods of use.
Typically, keeping a consistent feeding schedule has the following benefits:
- The child has the time to eat healthy, full meals
- Creates a calmer household
- Enhances the ability to nap and sleep well at night
- Establishes healthy, constructive habits
- Healthy play and quality outdoor time
- Regular bowel movements
- It gives your child direction and independence as they grow older
- It helps you as a parent to remember essential things
On a Final Note
Healthy and appropriate feeding is vital during your baby’s first year of life. It helps improve immunity to various infectious diseases, supports a healthy weight, and prevents obesity, and minimizes the risk of sudden unexplained death in infancy (SUDI).
Therefore, follow the guidelines to establish good eating habits at an early age and set healthy eating patterns for life.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Avery K.
When she isn’t looking after the many needs of her 2 kids, Avery enjoys taking walks in the park, enjoying nature, and getting her daily fix of caffeine.