You baby needs the right nutrition to grow and stay healthy. The food you give him from birth and throughout all his growing years may affect his overall health, development, and of course his weight. That's why you need to start off using the best baby foods from birth.
You've probably heard that "breast is best" and it's true. Pediatricians recommend to breastfeed your baby from the newborn stage until at least 6 months and, if possible, for the whole first year of his life. This is because your breast milk contains the nutrients your baby needs in order to grow big and strong, as well as the antibodies he needs in order to maintain a healthy immune system. Breast milk is the most natural food you can feed your child.
Of course, for many women, especially those who work, breastfeeding for a whole year is simply not an option. It may also seem a little unnecessary, given that most babies move onto a combined diet of milk (which can be formula-based milk) and solid foods at around the age of 4 to 6 months.
Don't forget, however, that you have the option of using a breast pump. This means that it's possible for someone else to bottle feed your child using your breast milk, even when you're not there - at daycare, for example.
A lot of mothers, especially first time mothers, take a little time to get into the rhythm of breastfeeding. Although there are ways to make the breastfeeding experience easier, don't be put off if it's not easy from the outset. You baby doctor should be able to give you information and advice about breastfeeding, and some clinics even provide specialized breastfeeding support offered by a trained staff.
Fortifying Breast Milk
According to the World Health Organization, for the first 6 months, breastfeeding your baby should provide everything he needs for health and nutrition, but if you're determined that you're breastfeeding for the long haul, you should talk to your doctor about vitamin D supplements for your baby.
Sometimes, it's not possible for your baby to get all the vitamin D he needs from your breast milk. He needs vitamin D to help him absorb calcium and develop strong bones.
Some baby formula producers are aware of this problem and that's why they make breast milk fortifier products. Always check with your doctor before using a breast milk fortifier.
All baby formulas sold in the United States have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. There are three basic types of baby formula: cow's milk based formula, soy -based formula, and hypoallergenic baby formulas (sometimes based on amino acids). Many of the major baby formula brands (Similac, Enfamil, Nestle) sell all three kinds.
Cow's milk formula - feeding baby formula based on cow's milk to infants is quite common, and most babies tolerate this type of formula very well. The cow's milk itself is processed in a way that makes it more like breast milk. However, some babies are allergic to the proteins in cow's milk, or the lactose (a sugar found in cow's milk), so they may need a different type of formula.
Soy-based formula - if your child has an allergic reaction to cow's milk baby formula, then bottle feeding a soy-based formula is your next step. Many parents who don't want to feed animal products to their child prefer to begin with soy formula (you should always talk to your pediatrician before putting your baby on any sort of alternative eating regime). Unfortunately, many infants who are allergic to cow's milk are also allergic to soy, so they need a hypoallergenic formula.
Protein hydrolysate baby formulas - feeding your baby these types of hypoallergenic formulas is recommended only if your child has allergies to cow's milk and soy. You should talk to your doctor before feeding baby formula of this kind to your child. Nutramigen is a well-known hypoallergenic baby formula brand.
Baby Formula Safety
Doctors are keen to stress that formula feeding is safe, but some studies have found a link between diabetes in infants and formula feeding. Speak to your pediatrician if you are concerned.
Solid Baby Food
Between the ages of 4 and 6 months, your baby may start showing an interest in your food, or even opening his mouth if you offer him a spoon. He might be ready for solid baby food. Consult your pediatrician, and, if you get the go-ahead, start introducing fortified baby cereals with milk into your baby's diet, and later pureed meat, vegetables and fruit. You can blend your own baby food or buy it ready made.