Parenting In Focus: Feeding your baby

Feeding your baby can be a confusing time. People frequently disagree about whether to breast feed or bottle feed your baby. Those who advocate one over the other can become very sure of themselves.

While there is some significant research about the physical benefits of breast feeding, nothing lessens the importance of you feeding your baby the way you want to feed him. If you feed him lovingly, he will feel your love.

In The Girlfriends’ Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood, Vicki Iovine writes about feeding your baby: “No matter how anguished you get over trying to make the right choices and decisions for your children, they will thrive, and move on to another set of problems for you” to worry about.

If a mother you admire tells you that her special child is already eating with a fork and your child can’t even get the food into your child’s mouth, compliment her. Then let it go.

Your child’s eating habits are something she will get beyond. Her eating at age one does not predict her heating at age 5. She will be fine.

Your breast-fed baby will feed eight to 12 times each day. If your child is a baby who is a formula-fed infant she will feed about six to 10 times each day. To compliment matters even more, you can start introducing some solid foods around 6 months of age.

Feeding issues continue in her life as she becomes old enough to eat solid food. The controversy remains over when to begin solids, when to wean your baby and how much to feed her.

As your baby starts eating solid foods, you can expect she will drink less. You can slowly decrease the breast milk or formula as you increase the amount of solid food you offer her. Be sure to offer all foods by spoon and not from a bottle.

Look for

How can you tell if your baby is hungry or full? Babies cry or are fussy because they are hungry, tired, upset, uncomfortable, or need a diaper change or to be burped. Some signs that your baby is hungry include smacking lips, grabbing toward breast or bottle, or moving her hands to her mouth and sucking her hands.

Some signs that your baby has had enough to eat include pulling away from bottle, spoon or breast, falling asleep, changing position, shaking head, keeping mouth closed tightly or moving hands actively.

So when do you switch to solid food? Many healthcare providers recommend that you breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months of life. However, if you are not exclusively breastfeeding, your baby may be ready to start solid foods between 4-6 months.

Every baby develops differently, so here are behaviors to look for to know your baby is developmentally ready for solid food:

• Your baby can sit upright with little or no support in the high chair

• She has good head control for long periods of time

• She is hungry for more nutrition after eight to 10 breastfeedings or 32 ounces of formula

• She shows an interest in what you are eating, or she quickly opens her mouth to accept the spoon feeding

If you have a child with special needs or was born early, talk with your healthcare provider before you switch to solid foods.

Watch your baby so you learn to recognize what she wants. This is a whole new time in her life. You may be in charge but she will let you know what she wants. Enjoy this new time.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, email to [email protected] or call 360-681-2250.