Helpful hints for breastfeeding, bottle feeding and introducing solid foods to babies in their first year
Good nutrition during infancy is important to help set your child up for healthy growth and development. But with so many different methods, navigating breastfeeding and solid foods can be overwhelming for parents.
Here, Mai Lam, a clinical dietitian at CHOC, provides tips to parents as they feed their infants and establish healthy nutrition for them.
Nutrition for infants under the age of 6 months
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends human milk as the main source of infant nutrition for the first 6 months.
- Mom’s milk supply correlates to the baby’s demands and needs. Thus, the more the baby breastfeeds, the more mom’s body will respond by producing a higher volume of milk to meet the baby’s growing needs.
- Working mothers may choose to schedule pumping time at work and store milk in the fridge or refrigerator. Fresh milk placed in the refrigerator can be used up to 5 days after pumping. Frozen milk is good for 6 months in a standard freezer and up to 12 months in a deep freezer.
- Other family members can be involved in the feeding process with pumped human milk or infant formula by bottle-feeding, spoon-feeding or syringe-feeding.
- Infants should be fed breastmilk or infant formula until 1 year of age prior to introducing whole milk. It is recommended that children should not be on low fat or skim milk until 2 years of age.
- If an infant is on a standard formula concentration, be sure to follow directions on the can of formula. If instructed to mix differently, a medical provider will instruct parents on the proper mixing recipe.
- Do not prop up bottles or put babies to sleep with a bottle. This may cause danger to your babies.
- All babies should be fed when showing signs of hunger.
Nutrition for infants over the age of 6 months
At around 6 months of age, you may start introducing solid foods to your baby. This is a milestone development for your baby to learn taste and textures while adding various nutrients to his/her diet, especially iron and zinc, which are limited in breast milk.
Tips for starting solid foods
- Gradually advance your baby’s food texture by first offering smooth foods (purees), then mashed, then finely chopped and finally finger foods that can be picked up by their own hands for self-feeding.
- Weaned your baby off their bottle by 1 year of age. Introduce sippy cups or cup feedings of water, breast milk or formula to allow learning new skills.
- Do not give your baby fruit juice or sweetened beverages before they turn 1 year of age. Limit their consumption to no more than 4 oz daily.
- Feed cereals and other solids from a spoon rather than adding them to a bottle. Your baby needs to learn to eat their food with a spoon and progress to self-feeding.
- Prevent serious illness or choking by refraining to give these foods to your child during their first year of life:
- Honey or foods made from honey. Honey may cause botulism, which is a serious food-borne illness.
- Foods in the shape of a circle or hard objects such as hot dogs, peanuts, grapes, raisins, raw vegetables, popcorn and candy.
- Other types of milk, such as cow’s milk, rice milk, soy milk, almond milk or goat’s milk, are not recommended during the first 12 months of age. These kinds of milk are not designed for babies and do not meet nutritional needs.
- Clean your baby’s spoon, plate, bottle, cup and hands before and after eating to keep your baby healthy and germ-free.
- Include your baby at the family table as your baby will learn to eat by watching you.
- Follow your baby’s cues of hunger (opens mouth/grabs for spoon) and fullness (turning head away or closing mouth). Let your baby decide whether to eat and how much he or she is willing to eat.
- Recognize your baby’s temperament and appetite at mealtimes. Doing this early can avoid unnecessary struggles and set the stage for a healthy relationship with food.
In addition to establishing healthy eating habits through breastfeeding and solid foods, infants may be introduced to tummy time as early as the first day of life.
Tummy time promotes social and emotional interaction between you and your baby. It also encourages your baby to build neck and muscle strength, while helping prevent plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome due to laying in one position).
Tummy time should be closely supervised, and babies should be put to sleep on their backs when falling asleep. Consult your baby’s physician prior to starting tummy time.
Helpful recipes for the transition from breastfeeding to solid foods
Butternut squash baby puree
Prep time: 5 mins; Cook time: 1 hour; Total: 1 hour 5 mins; Servings: 25 oz
1 butternut squash
1 tsp fresh thyme or rosemary, roughly chopped
1-2 tsp olive oil (optional)
1/2-1 cup liquid (water, fresh breast milk, formula, stock or bone broth)
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line the baking sheet with a silicone mat, tin foil or parchment paper.
- Cut butternut squash in half, deseed and place flesh side up, skin side down on the baking sheet. Optional – feel free to drizzle the squash with 2 teaspoons of olive oil for some added healthy fat.
- Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes or until you can easily prick the squash with a fork.
- Let cool until you can handle the squash with your hands. Scrape the flesh off of the skin and place in a blender or food processor.
- Add the thyme or rosemary to the blender.
- Turn on the blender or food processor and puree, adding liquid in 1/4 cup increments until you have the desired consistency. I had to add 3/4 cup of water to my puree shown below.
- Serve or freeze for later.
For ages 4-6 months and up.
Additional Spices: Feel free to sub the thyme or rosemary for 4 chopped basil leaves, 1 tsp chopped cilantro, 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp cinnamon or even 1/2 tsp of mild curry powder.
You can store this puree in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
This puree can be frozen for up to 4 months. Use the following freezer storage tips:
- Spoon puree into a freezer storage container– do not overfill.
- Place the lid on the storage container or cover it with a piece of saran wrap, and label with the date and recipe name.
- Place the tray into the freezer and let it freeze completely — preferably overnight.
- Pop out the baby food cubes and place them in a reusable baggie. Don’t forget to relabel the baggie for future reference.
Zucchini Baby Food Puree with Carrots and Apples
Prep time: 10 mins; Cook time: 20 mins; Total: 30 mins; Servings = 16 oz
1 pound zucchini
½ pound carrots
2 fuji apples (6 oz each)
12 oz water
- Wash all the produce. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and cut each half into 8 pieces.
- Peel carrots. Cut in half lengthwise and cut each half into 8 pieces.
- Cut apples in half, remove seeds and stem. Cut each half into 8 pieces.
- Add carrots and water into a large pot. Turn on high heat and cook for 8 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Add zucchini and apples and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
- Pour everything into a blender. Puree until smooth.
- Pour into ice cube trays. Allow to cool, wrap/cover and freeze.
- Thaw in the fridge the night before use, or thaw by putting the ice cube in a bowl over a bowl of hot water on the counter to defrost.
For more on CHOC’s clinical nutrition program