I often get asked questions about feeding infants by new parents in my practice. I have listed below some of the commonly asked questions.
Infancy is a period that is marked by a very rapid growth and physical development. For infants to grow and develop at appropriate rates, they need adequate calories and nutrients. Infants typically double their weight by age of 4 months to 6 months and triple it by age of 1. They increase their length by 50% by age 1. Therefore, infants need more fat and proteins in their diet compared to older children.
Q1. What kind of milk should I feed my baby?
Breast milk is the ideal source of nutrition for an infant and is recommended by most Pediatricians and nutritionists. Human milk is uniquely tailored to meet almost all of the infant’s nutritional needs for the 1st 6 months of life. Breast milk provides about 20 calories per oz and has about 1.2 g of fat per oz. Breast milk has two types of proteins: whey and casein. Approximately 60% is whey while 40% is casein. This balance of the proteins is very easy for the baby to digest.
Breast milk has different proteins which help babies develop stronger immunity and resistance to allergies, certain viruses and bacteria, ear infections and other common childhood problems compared to formula fed infants. Breastfeeding promotes maternal and infant bonding and is beneficial for mother’s health also.
If you cannot breastfeed for some reason, you can give your baby infant formula. Infant formulas also provide 20 calories per oz, with fat content 1.1 grams per oz. The regular formulas are based on cow’s milk and have a higher content of casein. Infant formulas have 80% casein and 20% whey protein. The cow’s milk based infant formulas are the most commonly used for feeding babies. There are also soy-based formulas and different elemental formulas available in stores. In special cases, your Pediatrician may recommend a soy formula or elemental formula for your baby. Please consult your Pediatrician about what formula is good for your infant.
During the 1st year of life, breast milk, infant formula or a combination of both is the main source of nutrition for infants. Both breast milk and regular infant formula have the sugar lactose which provides 40 percent of daily calories for the baby. 40-50 percent of calories in breast milk/ infant formula come from fat.
Fats should not be restricted in the first two years of life for infants and toddlers. Fat plays an important role in baby’s brain development and helps them reach their maximum growth potential.
Q2. How much milk should I feed my baby and how often?
During the first week of life, an infant will typically drink about 2 to 2.5 oz every 3 hours of breast milk/ infant formula. Gradually the milk intake increases to 3-4 oz per feed every 4 hours at 1-2 months age.
By 4 months babies can take 4-6 oz per feed, about 5 feedings per day. Baby will sleep on an average 5-6 hours at night in between feeds.
By 6 months, babies drink about 6-8 oz per feed, about 5 feedings per day. Baby will sleep on average 6-8 hrs at night without waking up to feed.
By 9 months of age, when the baby is eating more solids/ table foods, the milk requirement can reduce to 24 oz per day.
Q3. Does my baby need to drink water?
Breast milk and infant formulas have enough water content to meet the baby’s daily water requirement. Babies do not need extra water, till about 4-6 months age when they start eating solid foods.
Always follow Your Baby’s Lead.
Remember, each baby is unique and will vary her intake from feeding to feeding, and day to day. Don’t try to force-feed your baby. You do not need to worry as long as the baby is gaining adequate weight.
Look for the other three questions in our next post.
- AAP Pediatric Nutrition, 8th Edition
- Nutrition – What Every Parent Needs to Know by AAP, 2nd Edition