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Feeding Your Baby: Part 1 (0-6 months)

September 14, 2013

Let’s talk about feeding babies.

Feeding Your Baby: Part 1 >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

Don’t have a baby?  That’s ok… it is still helpful to be well-versed in baby nutrition.  Surely you know and love someone who has a baby, even if you aren’t in that life season right now.

I have had a few requests for a post (or even a category) on baby and kid approved foods.  What a great idea!  There is a lot of misinformation out there about what children should be eating.  (And a lot of outdated information for that matter.)  And while I’m not a doctor or scientist of any sort, I do love researching food and making food.  So what to feed babies is a topic I’ve done a fair bit of reading on.  Feel free to take the advice here with a grain of salt… use what works for you!  And I’ll be sure to site my sources in case you decide to delve deeper.

So today’s post will be fairly basic since it’s for babies between 0-6 months of age.

I can tell you the absolute best, most-time tested, most “backed by science” diet for your baby at this age in but one word:

Breastmilk.

🙂

Haha!  But seriously.  Your baby needs nothing more during these crucial months.

And let me give a slight disclaimer here before I move on: the last thing I want to do here is alienate non-breastfeeding mothers.  In fact, I am unable to breastfeed myself.  (I had an elective double mastectomy earlier this year due to my genetic predisposition to breast cancer.)  I made the decision that eradicating my risk of cancer was worth trading the ability to breastfeed my children.  That said, I remain an advocate for breastfeeding because there is simply NO BETTER food for your baby on this planet.  I do not suffer from “Mommy Guilt” over the breastfeeding issue, because my situation is unique.  And I believe wholeheartedly in promoting breastfeeding for others as far as it is within my power to do so.  {Stepping off of soapbox now.}

I did, however, get to experience the joy (and the pains) of nursing my baby for her first 7 months before my surgery.  Thankful to the Lord for that.

Feeding Your Baby: Part 1  >>Pretty/Hungry Blog

Some interesting facts about exclusively breastfeeding well into your child’s first year include:

  • By breastfeeding you are enhancing your baby’s antibody response, promoting his/her immunity to all sorts of germs and illnesses.  In addition, you are strengthening the effectiveness of the vaccines they receive at the doctor.  By the way, nursing during the vaccination process will also offer your baby a unique level of pain relief.

  • By breastfeeding exclusively for at least 2 months, your child has a lower risk of food allergy at 3 years old.

  • By breastfeeding exclusively for at least 3 months you have given your baby a 27% reduction in the risk of asthma if you have no family history of asthma and a 40% reduction if you have a family history of asthma.

  • If you have exclusively breastfed for 3 months, your baby will have enhanced development in key parts of the brain compared to other children who were fed formula or a combination of formula and breastmilk.

  • By the age of 3 months, you have also given your baby between a 19-27% reduction in incidence of childhood Type 1 Diabetes.

  • By giving nothing but your breastmilk for the first 4 months you have given your baby strong protection against ear infections and respiratory tract diseases for a whole year.

  • By breastfeeding for at least 4 months you have reduced your baby’s risk of crib death.

Oh, and this one’s my favorite…

  • Breastfeeding uses up the fat stores you laid down in pregnancy. The greatest weight loss for mom is seen in baby’s 3-6 month period.  So by hanging in there and breastfeeding exclusively beyond your child’s 3rd month, you’ve just hit the start of this uber fat-burning period!

For more amazing facts and figure, see this Timeline of a Breastfed Baby.

~

The facts go on and on, and the benefits do too.  Studies have repeatedly shown that the longer you breastfeed, the better off your child will be.  Along with the diseases and conditions named above, breastfeeding is also known to prevent ear infections, respiratory tract diseases, eczema, leukemia, heart disease, and so much more!

So if you are hanging in there with breastfeeding your infant, (especially if you are doing so despite discouragement from a culture that views nursing as something to be covered-up or embarrassed about), you deserve a gigantic pat on the back!  There are many obstacles you face, including engorgement, sore nipples, & low or overactive supply.  But you are a mighty woman who is independently supplying your child with his/her daily nourishment.  Way to freakin’ go!

~

My absolute favorite book on the subject of breastfeeding is The Everything Breastfeeding Book.  I buy this book for every pregnant woman I know.  It truly does tell you everything you might possibly need to know on the subject of breastfeeding.  And it encourages you not to give up!

Feeding Your Baby: Part 1 >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

A few outdated bits of info you should know about:

1) Many pediatricians are still recommending that moms begin introducing rice cereal around the 5 month mark.  On the contrary, you do not need to begin spoon-feeding your baby rice or any other type of cereal during this first year.  Grains of any kind do very little to nourish your baby, since babies lack the enzymes to break down carbohydrates other than lactose.  The primary nutrients your baby needs are FAT and PROTEIN (two things breastmilk is very high in.)  So skip the cereal until your baby is much, much older.

2) “Practice using a spoon”- It is common for pediatricians to advise that you begin spoon-foods around 5-6 months.  However, your baby’s digestive system is unlikely to be sufficiently developed to cope with solids by then.   (As you will quickly see when they begin struggling with bowel movements after the introduction of solids at this early age.)  Nor are they getting “more calories” just from the addition of solids.  Breastmilk has a higher concentration of fat and other essential nutrients than any solid food.  And furthermore, adding solid foods in an attempt to increase your child’s calorie intake could decrease a mother’s previously plentiful milk supply.  Be careful about that, because milk supply, once lost, is very difficult to get back.

3) Also contrary to what some friends and peers will tell you, even though your baby may be reaching for food, it does not mean they are asking for it.  Babies are naturally curious and seek to learn about their surroundings (food or not!) by putting things in their mouths.  You know more than your baby does about the nutrition they need… so don’t worry that you are “withholding” something good from them.  You are providing them with proper nutrition for the proper time, and solid food will come soon enough.

Feeding Your Baby: Part 1 >>Pretty/Hungry Blog

4) “I can’t keep up with my baby’s demand.”-  The body is a surprisingly capable machine.  God has designed your mammary tissue and your milk supply to increase when your baby’s demand increases.  It won’t happen overnight, and you can’t always tell by pumping whether you’ve actually begun to make more milk (because it is difficult for a pump to induce the same prolactin response that your baby brings about with her little noises and her scent.)  But if your baby is growing and gaining weight,  and continues to produce dirty and wet diapers, you’re good.  Don’t give up!  Even if you sometimes feel like you’re chained to the rocking chair with a baby hanging off your boob, you are giving your baby an incredible gift.

~

A note about portions:

Generally, it is best to feed your infant (whether bottle or breast) according to their demand.  And don’t mistake my meaning, I don’t mean “on demand,” as in “you need to be a 24-hour buffet ready to whip your shirt off every time your baby makes a peep.”  In fact I have seen tremendous good come from getting my daughter on a reasonably regular feeding, playing, and sleeping schedule AND we managed to avoid any seasons of “cluster nursing” by making sure each of her feedings was complete and filling.  (Aka: we woke her back up if she fell asleep after eating for two minutes.)  That said, however, I do believe there is a danger in adhering to a strict timetable of feedings and refusing to stray from it.  There are hundreds of well-documented cases in which mommies learned (too late!) that their hard-core “Babywise” feeding regimen was to blame for the loss of their milk supply before they were ready to wean.  Their babies were showing signs of needing more frequent feedings (or still needing middle-of-the-night feedings after Babywise’s magic 8-week “sleep through the night” number) but they were dead-set on keeping their 3-hour feeding schedule and eliminating night-feedings ASAP.  Sadly, this resulted in loss of milk supply.  It is hardly a surprise that blocking your baby’s demand signals will interfere with your body’s ability to meet them.

So, regarding schedules and portions, I say do your best to make sure your baby’s feedings are full feedings.  Tickle their little feet to keep them awake if you need to, so that they can eat enough to make it a few hours til the next feeding.  This will set a good rhythm for them and give you a little break in between suckle-sessions.  Rhythm is good.  A predictable schedule is good.  But, at the same time, be aware that growth spurts will happen.  Vaccinations will happen.  Sickness will happen.  The occasional need for extra feedings will arise, and that is ok.  Meet the demand without stressing about what the clock says, and watch your baby grow and thrive.

*And while we’re on the topic of Babywise, please don’t make your 8-week-old cry it out in their crib because “nap time isn’t over yet.”  That’s just mean and it breaks my heart.

Hope I didn’t lost any of you there with my obvious disdain for radical Babywisers.  (I say that to imply that there are plenty of non-radical Babywisers out there who are doing an excellent job.  I salute you for your good judgement!)

~

In “Feeding Your Baby: Part 2 (7-9 months)” we will discuss the fun of introducing solids.  And more Baby-Feeding-Myths de-bunked!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily permalink
    September 15, 2013 1:44 am

    My best suggestions for breast feeding: 1) Start your research while you’re pregnant and make breast feeding-promoting practices part of your birth plan. 2) Build a relationship with a Lactation Consultant with whom you feel comfortable, seek her (his?) advice often. 3) Make it as easy on yourself as possible. For example, cleaning pump parts is tedious so I bought four sets so I can pump four times without cleaning. 4) Build your support network. Most towns of any size have local support groups! When it gets tough, I remind myself that they don’t make support groups for the easy aspects of life.

    • September 15, 2013 2:23 am

      Great thoughts, Emily! I agree, set yourself up for success in every way possible. 🙂

Trackbacks

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