Baby Food Basics: What You Should Know About Feeding Your Baby
If you are new to the whole parenting gig, one of the first things you may ask yourself is, “How on earth do I keep this little screaming ball of cuteness alive?” The answer, of course, is never as easy as you would like it to be, nor as difficult as it would seem. You simply need to know how, what, and how much to feed your baby to help him thrive and grow into the little mini-me you have always wanted. We’ll take it step by step in age progression to make sure you have all the info you need. But remember that every baby is different, and some babies need more or less food because of health complications. Before you implement any dietary changes for your little one, it is always best to talk with your pediatrician first.
A newborn should receive only colostrum, breast milk or formula. Their stomachs are incredibly small, so they will feed roughly eight to 12 times a day (yay for motherhood, no?). At birth, an average baby’s stomach is only the size of a cherry. By day three it is the size of a walnut, and by week’s end, it has grown to the whopping size of an apricot. At one month, the stomach is roughly the size of an egg. You’d need to eat 12 times a day if your stomach was that tiny too!
As your baby gets bigger and his stomach grows, he will need fewer feedings throughout the day and the amount of time between each feeding should gradually increase. That means you may finally get a little more sleep, have an actual shower instead of your regular routine of dry shampoo and wet wipes, or simply just enjoy a little time to yourself.
One to Four Months
By the time your baby is one month old, your colostrum will have turned to milk. Baby should still only receive this breast milk or formula and nothing else. This is vital because their little intestines and digestive tracts are not yet fully developed, and they could develop some pretty serious digestive issues if they are introduced to solid foods before they are ready. Only in certain circumstances, and at the direction of your child’s doctor, should you ever feed baby any solids at this time.
Because babies are so different, it is best to feed them by weight instead of age. A general rule of thumb is that they need 2.5 ounces of formula for every pound of body weight every day. This means that an eight-pound baby would need 2.5 oz x 8, or 20oz of formula each day. To determine how much to offer at each feeding, simply divide the amount of total ounces per day by the number of feedings you offer in a 24-hour period. An eight-pound could be offered milk every three hours, or eight times a day. So 20oz / 8 feedings equals 2.5oz per feeding.
Notes on Breastfed Babies
Nursing your one to four-month-old baby can be incredibly trying simply because you may not be sure he is getting enough. Take special care to look at your baby’s body language for signs of hunger:
- Pulling off the breast frequently during feedings
- Fussy during feedings
- Frequently falls asleep at the breast, even after just a short time
- Never seems to be satisfied
- Not sleeping soundly or for longer periods of time
Each of these signs could point to a milk transfer issue that may make it difficult for you baby to get enough milk easily. Talk to your baby’s pediatrician and a lactation consultant to address the issue.
Four to Six Months
At this age, babies may begin to show some signs that they are ready to start solid foods. Solid foods at this stage should be about as “solid” as mush, which is slightly more viscous than water. Babies may not have enough teeth to properly chew their food, and they may still have to overcome the natural reflex that causes the tongue to push anything but liquid from the back of the throat and out of the mouth.
If your baby shows these signs, he may be ready to start on his solid food journey:
- Has doubled birth weight and weighs at least 13 pounds
- Can sit upright in a chair unassisted
- Moves food from the front of the mouth to the back
- Holds head up well
- Closes mouth around a spoon
If your baby does these things, you can introduce solids. In addition to regular breast milk or formula at 2.5oz per pound every day, add in about 1 teaspoon of pureed food and slowly increase the amount as they get more comfortable with the new tastes and textures. Don’t just stick with the bland and boring. Give them the foods you love, such as sweet potatoes, squash, bananas, apples, peaches and even pureed meats. Follow their lead. Just remember babies under one year should never eat honey due to the potential presence of botulinum toxin.
Six to Twelve Months
Between the ages of six and twelve months, your baby should follow a diet like the one he enjoyed when he first started eating solids. Breast milk or formula should remain consistent at 2.5oz per pound of body weight until one year old, and solids should gradually increase according to your baby’s needs. Babies are much better at listening to their bodies than adults, so you don’t usually need to be afraid of overfeeding. At six months, you can also begin to feed him small pieces of foods cooked until they are soft enough to easily smash with your fingers.
Twelve Months and Beyond
Once your baby hits one year, he can stop nursing or receiving formula, and instead should get most of his nutrition from regular meals and snacks. They may continue nursing for an extended time, but it is not nutritionally required. If you eat the food, your baby can too (except for honey before 1 year of age), so liven it up and let your baby explore all the wonderful tastes, textures and enjoyment that food brings. Simply chop it into appropriately sized pieces for safety and ease.
Feeding your new baby can be an overwhelming proposition, but don’t worry! You will all be fine! Simply follow this guide and talk with your pediatrician to come up with a plan. For more information on caring for your new little one, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.