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