During the first year of a baby’s life, the only important aspect to be considered is how to ensure a healthy diet for the infant. The first thing, of course, that the parents have to decide is whether the child will be breast fed or bottle fed.
Many other decisions as regards the diet will also have to be taken as the infant matures rapidly during the first year. However, you must always check with your pediatrician before making any changes to your baby’s diet.
Birth – 3 Months
During the first three months, the only source of nutrition for the baby is either mother’s milk or the iron-fortified formula that is available in the market. Each source has its own pros as well as cons. It is a fact that breast feeding helps to build a bonding between the baby and you and there is expense associated with it. However, the baby’s father or your other family members cannot be of any help to you, especially when you have to handle the frequent bouts of feeding in the nights. If you choose to bottle feed your baby, then you will have to choose one of the three main types of preparation – cow’s milk, soy milk or hypoallergenic protein blends – that are available in the market.
4 Months – 6 Months
The baby becomes ready for having infant cereal during the period between the 4th and the 6th months. This supplements the bottle or breast feeding.
You must check with your child specialist and find out if your baby is physically ready to have solid foods. Some of the signs that give you an indication that they are ready for it include your baby sitting up by itself, gaining head control and showing interest in foods.
It is a good idea to start with a single grain cereal like barley or oats mixed with breast or formula milk. Initially, the infant will need only a couple of teaspoons of cereal. Most of the cereal will end up on the baby’s face. If the infant is able to tolerate the cereal, you can add a pureed vegetable or fruit along with one meal. If you wait for two or three days prior to introducing new foods, you will be able to determine if the infant does not tolerate any food.
6 Months – 8 Months
Though a healthy infant may continue to have breast milk or formulated milk through the day, the meal times would normally be established during this period. The infant may reach for the mother’s or father’s plate to get more solid foods. You can consult your pediatrician and find out if your baby is ready for finely cut soft foods. Small pieces of fruits (grapes can cause choking) and well-cooked pasta may be good starters. You should avoid giving hot dogs as they also can choke the baby. However, crackers as well as foods that can be easily eaten by gumming are healthy choices.
9 Months – 12 Months
The period from the 9th month to 12th month will be your baby’s transition time to follow the family meal time. Whereas a healthy infant may use a cup to drink and spoon to eat, it may continue to have breast milk or formula milk through the first year of its life. You can give fruit juice, but it should be limited to 4 oz. of pure and pasteurized juice. This is because juice may cause diarrhea in infants. If your infant is ready to your food, make sure that the baby’s portions are finely chopped and are free from chewy pieces such as steak.