Health Options: Feeding your Infant

Doctors advise that breast-feeding should be continued for at least 6 months and ideally for a year. Breast milk is better for your baby than milk formula. This is because breast milk contains the ideal balance of nutrients for a baby and also provides valuable antibodies (proteins made by the immune system), which protect against infections. Another good reason for breast-feeding your baby is that in the first few days after childbirth, the breasts produce a fluid called colostrum, which is especially rich in vitamins, minerals, and antibodies to protect the baby from infection. Bottle-feeding is a satisfactory alternative feeding method, as long as the formula is prepared according to the instructions. The formula is a milk preparation usually based on modified cows’ milk and contains valuable nutrients, similar to those found in breast milk. However, it lacks protective antibodies. Weaning is advised from about 6 months of age, when you can gradually introduce solid foods into your baby’s diet. However, you should avoid giving your baby certain foods (see Breast- or bottle-feeding) while he or she is weaning, and your baby should also continue to receive breast milk or formula throughout the first year of life.

Breast- or bottle-feeding

If possible, all mothers should breast-feed for the first month. Every extra month brings more benefits, but bottle-feeding may be a solution if you are taking drugs that pass into the breast milk and might pose a danger to your baby or if there are other considerations. Breast-fed babies are less susceptible to infections, asthma, allergies, and sudden infant death syndrome, and are less likely to become obese when they get older.

Natural protection from breast milk

Breast milk contains natural antibodies that protect against infections and also reduce the risk of allergies developing.

Nutritious formula

Most milk formulas are approximately as nutritious and digestible as breast milk but lack the protective antibodies that breast milk provides.

Weaning

During weaning, gradually introduce solid foods, first as purées and later in mashed or minced form. To reduce the risk of allergies and digestive upsets, do not give wheat-based foods, raw eggs, raw cows’ milk, citrus foods, fatty foods, or strong spices before the age of 6 months, and avoid nut products and honey before a year. You should also avoid giving your baby sweet foods and should not add salt to your baby’s food.

Diet at 6 months

Start by giving your baby a diet of baby rice or purées of vegetables or fruit during or after a milk feed. Slowly increase the amount of solid food, including puréed meat, fish, poultry, and pulses.

Diet at 7–9 months

You can now give mashed or minced food before the milk. Diluted fruit juices may be given. At 9 months, peeled apple and bread encourage self-feeding and provide chewing practice.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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