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Feature Articles: Children


Feeding your newborn

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


So many questions about feeding arise when the first child is born. There are questions about whether to breast or bottle feed, when to start solids, how do you know if they are eating enough, and why do they spit up. It is good to be concerned and conscientious about these things because a significant amount of growth and development happens in the first year of life. During the first year, the baby learns how to chew after being born with only the ability to suck and swallow. By the time they are a year old, they are not only taking in solid foods but they are feeding themselves.

One of the first decisions that has to be made is whether to breastfeed or offer infant formula. Infant formula can provide adequate nourishment for an infant but many experts recommend breastfeeding. Breast milk is specially designed for your baby and is all your infant needs for the first four to six months of life. Breast milk is easy to digest and is rich in antibodies that help protect the infant from some types of illnesses and allergies. Keep in mind that your child benefits even if you breastfeed for a short period of time.

A breastfed infant generally nurses eight to twelve times every 24 hours. This is because their stomachs are small and their nutrient needs are great. If your baby has six or more wet diapers every 24 hours and their weight is increasing to the doctor’s satisfaction, that’s a good indicator your baby is getting enough to eat.

If you choose infant formula for your baby, iron-fortified formula is recommended. Iron helps to form red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout the body and is also necessary for brain development. Infants are born with iron stores that last around four months but iron-fortified formula helps prevent iron deficiency anemia. During the first four months, the infant usually eats 6-8 times per day and consumes 18-32 ounces of formula. It really doesn’t matter whether the infant formula is warmed or cool. The baby will drink it however you decide to prepare it but it is best to be consistent.

Spitting up is common in infants. It can be caused by trapped air from burping, overfeeding, too much movement during feeding or laying the baby flat after eating. To help control spitting up, burp the baby often during feeding, listen to the baby’s cues that they are full to control overeating and keep the infant upright for 15 minutes after feeding.

After four to six months the baby is usually ready to start solid foods but breastfeeding or infant formula is recommended for the first 12 months.


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Last update: Wednesday, June 22, 2011