Ensuring your baby is getting the best nutrition possible can seem like a daunting task, so we’ve put together a guide to help you navigate your baby’s first year.
Zero to 6 Months
Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies in their first six months. It’s every mother’s decision whether or not to breastfeed. Sometimes exclusive or partial breastfeeding is not possible, and in those cases, formula is an excellent option.
While the Canadian Pediatric Society and the World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding for up to two years or longer, you can breastfeed as long as you and your baby would like.
Breast milk benefits for baby
Breast milk affects biochemical systems, enhances immunity, and destroys pathogens (Riordan & Wambach (2012). It’s easy to digest, provides vitamins and minerals, proteins, fats, and other substances for growth, as well as antibodies that strengthen the immune system.
Additional health benefits include:
- Decreased risk for many types of infections, such as ear infections and pneumonia
- Fewer gastrointestinal illnesses (vomiting and diarrhea)
- A possible lower risk of food allergies
- A reduced risk for certain conditions, like diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, and eczema
- A reduced risk of becoming obese later in infancy and during childhood
Breast milk benefits for mom
Breastfeeding assists your recovery from the stresses of pregnancy, labour and delivery. It also helps your uterus to contract, bleed less, and return more quickly to its pre-pregnancy size.
Breastfeeding supports bonding between mother and child and may also help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight. It has even been shown to decrease the risk for health problems, such as breast cancer and possibly ovarian cancer and diabetes.
Whether or not you breastfeed is a personal choice. Your thoughts feelings, and circumstances are an important part of the decision. Your health care team is here to support whichever type of feeding you choose.
Seeking breastfeeding support
Breastfeeding can be challenging at first, so if you have questions or need support, please let your nurse, doctor or nurse practitioner know. At Copeman Healthcare we have nurses and nurse practitioners who hold a certificate in Breastfeeding Counselling and can assist with any breastfeeding issues.
6 months and above
Around six months of age, most babies are ready to progress to solid foods. They will show this by:
- Demonstrating a curiosity about solid foods and your family’s eating behaviour
- Being able to sit with support
- Having good head and neck control
- Watching for and opening their mouth for the spoon
- Not pushing a spoon or food out with the tongue when it is placed in the mouth
Feeding solids, along with breastfeeding, provides the nutrient needs of the older infant. It’s recommended to start with iron-rich foods such as finely minced meat, mashed lentils, beans, tofu, and iron-fortified infant cereal. You can then progress to a variety of nutritious foods from the family meals.
Until recently, health care professionals told parents to hold off on introducing common food allergens, such as peanut, fish, wheat, milk products, soy and whole eggs. The current recommendation is that parents can introduce these foods from about six months of age, and continue to offer them regularly.
As a parent you decide what foods are offered and your baby decides if they are hungry and how much they will eat. Start by giving your baby small amounts of food and gradually increase the amount based on their appetite. Your baby will let you know when they are hungry and full.
A baby is hungry when they:
- open their mouth for food,
- get upset if the food is taken away.
- A baby is full when they:
- shut their mouth,
- turn their head or push food away.
As your baby eats more solid foods, they’ll gradually drink less breast milk.
Fun food exploration
Let your baby explore food with their hands – it can get messy! Finger foods include small pieces of cooked vegetables and soft fruits without the skin, strips of toast or roti, cooked pasta, and ‘oat rings’ cereal.
Ensure that lumpy textures are offered no later than nine months and encourage them to progress towards a variety of textures, modified from family foods, by one year of age.
Make it a family affair
Choose a time when your baby is happy, interested, and alert and sit down to eat together. Babies enjoy company and learn about eating by watching you and others. An older infant may not consume much food, but meal times provide excellent exposure to tastes, colours, and textures. Mealtimes create opportunities for families to model healthy eating habits to little ones, so encourage relaxed and positive mealtimes without distractions such as television or electronic devices.
Seeking nutrition support
If you’d like more information on healthy nutrition for your little one, please contact your Copeman Healthcare team to book an appointment.