As a new parent, you want to know how to best take care of your baby. It can be difficult to know which sources to trust when there are so many opinions out there. That’s why we’ve put together these infant feeding guidelines for you. These tips will help you provide your baby with the best possible nutrition and set them up for a healthy future.
Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines for the First Year
According to health professionals, breastfeeding is the healthiest method of feeding your baby. It provides all the nutrients for infants during the first six months of life, and has a range of health benefits, like reducing the risk of chronic disease and aiding healthy growth.
Breastfeeding helps protect babies against infection, lowers their risk of developing asthma or allergies, and can even help them lose weight after birth.
Until approximately six months of age, it is recommended that you only breastfeed your baby. You should not use any other milk, foods or beverages while breastfeeding. It’s recommended that you start offering solid foods at six months old, but continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months. Breastfeeding for longer periods of time will provide your baby with more benefits.
At around six months old, an infant’s demand of energy and nutrients outstrips that of breast milk, which means that they need supplementary foods to satisfy their needs. This stage in a child’s life is also when they are developmentally prepared to consume other foods. Complementary feeding is a term for this transition.
Introducing complementary foods at an early age can be beneficial for an infant’s growth. However, delaying the introduction of solid food or allergenic foods doesn’t prevent allergies and may cause poor growth.
Complementary foods must meet the nutritional demands of babies and these should be:
- Timely – When a baby’s nutritional requirements exceed what can be met through exclusive breastfeeding, foods are recommended.
- Adequate – This means the meal will provide enough calories, protein, and nutrients to meet the nutritional needs of the baby.
- Safe – Food should be stored and prepared in a hygienic manner, and handled with clean hands using clean utensils. They should not be fed using bottles or teats.
- Fed Properly – This means ensuring that meal frequency and feeding are appropriate for their age.
Feeding in exceptionally difficult circumstances
Families and children in tough situations require special help and practical assistance. Moms and babies should be able to stay together whenever possible and get the assistance they require to exercise the most effective feeding choice available. Breastfeeding is still the most effective way to feed an infant even during difficult circumstances because it is the best source of nutrients.
Some examples of difficult circumstances are:
- newborns that are born with low birth weight or premature infants
- mothers with HIV who live in areas where diarrhea, pneumonia and hunger are still common
- adolescent mothers
- infants and youngsters who are undernourished; and
- families suffering from difficult circumstances
What else should I know about feeding my baby during his or her first year of life?
Nutrition is essential for proper growth and development during the first year of life. Starting good eating habits at such a young age will lay the groundwork for lifelong health. Feeding should be determined by your infant’s development, food acceptance, feeding abilities, and age.
Here are some tips to help you feed your infant
How often should I feed my infant?
Breastfeeding should take place eight to 12 times a day, for 10 to 15 minutes on each breast at each feeding. For formula-fed babies, 6 to 10 feedings including during the night are recommended.
However, it’s not advised to put food into a bottle, such as rice cereal, in order to make your child sleep at night. This might lead to excessive weight gain and decreased essential nutrient intake and also be a choking risk.
As your infant becomes capable of chewing solid food and they become old enough to eat solid food, he or she will drink less. Gradually increase the amount of solid foods you give your baby and decrease the amount of milk or formula they get. Remember, food should always be served with a spoon, not in a bottle.
How do I know if my baby is hungry or not?
There are certain signs you’ll notice if your baby is hungry or has had enough to eat.
The following cues of hunger are:
- Taking hold of or leaning toward a breast or bottle
- Sucking on their fingers or hands
- Making facial expressions
- Putting their fists in their mouths
Babies who are not fed on time will become agitated, fussy or will be crying. It’s also important for caregivers to notice hunger cues in infants, so they can make feedings more enjoyable for both babies and themselves.
These are the signs when your baby is full:
- Withdrawing from a bottle, spoon, or breast
- Falling asleep
- Keeping the mouth closed tightly, moving hands rapidly from side to side and changing position
- Returning food to the feeder
Babies naturally stop eating when they are full. Don’t force them to eat more if they don’t want to.
How do I know if my baby is ready for solids?
During the first six months of his or her life, health care providers recommend that you exclusively breastfeed your baby to avoid the risk of allergy. You may be able to start introducing solids around the age of four to six months depending on if you’re not exclusively breastfeeding them.
Every baby is unique. Here are some signs to look for to determine if your baby is developmentally ready for solid healthy foods:
- The high chair can support the baby to sit up without any assistance
- Your baby can support their neck control for a long period
- After 8 to 10 feedings, the baby is still hungry
- Your baby is interested in what you are eating
- Your baby is eager to accept spoon-feeding and opens their mouth readily
Guidelines for infant feeding based on their age
Ages 0 to 4 months
- Breast milk or infant formula (60 to 120 ml) for eight to twelve times per day
Ages 4 to 6 months
- Infant or breast milk formula (170 to 230 ml); 4-6 feedings per day
- Infant cereal (one to two tablespoons)
Ages 6 to 8 months
- Infant or breast milk formula (170 to 230 ml); 3-5 feedings per day
- Infant cereal at least 2 to 4 tablespoons
- Crackers (2)
- Half slice of bread
- Water or juice, at least 0 to 90 ml
- At least two to three tablespoons of fruit or vegetables per day
- At least one to two tablespoons of meat or beans
Ages 8 to 12 months
- Infant or breast milk formula (170 to 230 ml); 3 to 4 times a day
- Cheese at 1/2 ounce or yogurt at 1/2 cup
- Infant cereal (2-4 tablespoons); half slice of bread; crackers (2); or 3-4 tablespoons of pasta
- Water or juice, at least 90 ml
- At least three to four tablespoons of fruit or vegetables per day
- Meat or beans at least 3 to 4 tablespoons
Additional Infant Nutrition Tips
Try to stick with breast milk or formula
It is important to continue breastfeeding, or giving your baby infant formula, as the main nutritional source because they contain the nutrients your child needs.
Start with one food at a time
When you start feeding solid foods to babies, it is recommended that you start with one food at a time. You will be able to identify any potential food allergies your baby might have. It is also recommended to have an allergy screening done by an allergy specialist for high risk infants.
Gradually increase the amount and variety of foods
Once you have introduced new food to your baby and he or she does not seem to have any adverse reaction, you can gradually increase the amount and variety of foods. Your baby will become accustomed to new tastes from a range of foods.
Feed your baby when he needs it
Always try to feed your newborn on cue. This means that you should start feeding them as soon as they show signs of being hungry and stop feeding them when they are full. This will help them develop a healthy appetite and avoid overeating.
Consider taking vitamin D supplements
Vitamin D supplementation is recommended for all breast feeders and partially breastfed babies. This is because vitamin D helps the baby to absorb calcium and phosphorus from food, which are important for bone growth. Iron-rich foods are also ideal.
Expect a variation in your newborn’s eating schedule
Everyday won’t be the same when it comes to your newborn’s eating schedule. They may eat more some days than others. It’s perfectly normal and there’s no need to worry about it. Make sure you’re giving them the same amount of milk or formula every day.
Treat each feeding as a chance to bond
Feeding time should be a special bonding moment between you and your newborn. Take the time to enjoy each feeding, relax, and talk with your baby.
Introduce your child to play-based learning!
Okinja Early Learning Centre is the perfect place to introduce your child to a play-based learning environment. Our educators are experienced and passionate about early childhood education and will ensure that your child has a fun and stimulating experience.