New parents are bombarded with conflicting information about feeding their baby. However, by following a few basic guidelines – you can ensure that your baby has the healthiest start possible.
The first year of life is a period when the body is undergoing rapid growth and changes. Our long-term body weight, fitness, metabolic programming, immune system, and overall ageing are all influenced by what we eat as babies.
The First 6 Months - Breast is best for both mom and baby.
For the first six months of life, babies may be exclusively breastfed. Breast milk contains the ideal food combination for children. Antibodies, antimicrobials, enzymes and anti-inflammatories as well as fatty acids, are all present (which together promote optimal brain development).
Breastfeeding also aids in the proper development and growth of babies, as well as in the prevention of illness (such as gastrointestinal and respiratory infections) in the future. It can also ensure that children grow up to prefer nutritious foods.
Since breastfeeding triggers the release of beneficial hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin, it may help the mother lose weight and bond with her baby. Breast milk is delivered in a biodegradable “organic package”, so mom doesn’t need to use any plastic packaging.
Do your best and get help if you need it
While breastfeeding is best, don't feel bad if you can't exclusively breastfeed. There are a variety of situations that can make breastfeeding challenging. If you have a health condition or are taking any drugs, you may not be able to breastfeed. It is not your fault, you can only do your best.
If you use formula, please don't feel like you've failed. Formula-fed children thrive too! You may like to speak to your pediatrician about the best formula for your baby. Also, stay away from formulas that contain soy.
Foods to avoid while breastfeeding
What you as a pregnant or nursing mother, your baby eats.
- Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake
- Avoid certain herbal supplements
- Avoid highly processed foods
- Eat organic when possible; scrub your fresh veggies/fruits; and avoid most seafood
- Avoid fish which is high in mercury (exposure to high levels of mercury can permanently affect your infant’s central nervous system)
Supplementation whilst breastfeeding
Breast milk will provide all of the nutrients your infant needs for the first six months of life. However, some babies may need a bit of supplementation at times.
Preemies are often deficient in vitamin D and as a result, may need vitamin D supplementation. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all breast-fed babies take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400IU beginning right after birth.
Breastfeeding mothers who eat an exclusively plant-based (vegan) diet should supplement with vitamin B12.
When in the womb, a fetus will store iron from the mother's blood. Premature babies need additional iron because their supplies are insufficient. Breast milk is low in copper, but it is easily absorbed. Since iron stores can last until about six months of age, no iron supplement is required during this period. Infants that are fed formula will most likely get enough iron.
Fluids & hydration
The amount of fluid in breast milk or formula will typically be enough, so generally you shouldn’t need to supplement with water. However, infants easily and rapidly become dehydrated, such as if the child has a fever or is vomiting a lot or if the temperature is very hot.
If a child has diarrhoea, rehydration is important. As a reference, look at the color of your baby’s urine: Dehydration is indicated by dark yellow urine. Overhydration is indicated by clear urine. Optimal is something in the middle.