Baby Feeding Schedule
New parents are often overwhelmed with all the decisions that are involved in taking care of a baby. After all, babies don't exactly come with instructions! Your baby depends on you to make all of the right decisions for him, and that is a huge responsibility. Don't worry, though. Most of the decisions are fairly simple, and loving your baby will be the easiest thing you can do. There are a few points you should remember, however, as you begin putting your baby on a feeding schedule.
The First Four Months
Actually, the first four to six months are easy when it comes to deciding what your baby should eat. Most pediatricians recommend that you give your baby only breast milk or formula for the first four to six months of her life.
Years ago, many pediatricians told parents to mix baby cereal with formula or breast milk and give the mixture to infants as young as two or three weeks. They believed that this would help the infant sleep for longer periods. Today, however, pediatricians realize that giving some type of solid food before the ages of four to six months can actually increase the chances of food allergies, and solid food can also be hard on an infant's immature digestive system. So, until your pediatrician gives you the go-ahead, you should only give your baby breast milk or formula.
In the first couple of months, you may need to feed your baby every two to three hours, especially if you are breastfeeding. Eventually, the feeding schedule may be stretched out to three or four hours, and you will also notice that your baby is able to go longer between feedings at night. It is important, though, that you feed your infant when he is hungry. Now is not the time to try and force a strict feeding schedule.
Four to Six Months
At approximately four to six months, you have probably begun introducing your baby to solids under the guidance of your pediatrician. While breast milk or formula should still be her main source of nutrition, you can begin feeding her solids a couple of times a day.
In the beginning, you are really feeding her just enough to help her become familiar with taking food from a spoon and swallowing. Eventually, she'll look forward to the various foods that you give her.
For the first couple of weeks, you should stick to baby cereals, such as rice, oatmeal, or barley. These can be mixed with formula or breast milk. Do not force your baby to eat. She may only be interested in a few bites. It is better to feed her when she might be a little hungry but not ravenous. She'll only get angry if you try to satisfy her hunger with cereal when she really wants milk.
Six to Eight Months
Once your baby has become adept at eating baby cereal, you can begin expanding her diet. Some pediatricians recommend fruit before vegetables; others recommend vegetables before fruit; and still others really don't make a difference between the two.
What is more important is how you introduce these new foods to your baby. You should give one new food at a time and wait several days before introducing the next new food. By doing this, you can check for food allergies, and if your child does have an allergic reaction, you can quickly narrow down the offending food.
By the time your baby is around eight months old, you will probably be feeding her a schedule of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You will still need to give her plenty of breast milk or formula, too, though. You can give her milk with her meal, or you can give her juice if she is over six months old. Refrain from giving her citrus juice, however, until she is older.
Eight Months to Twelve Months
As your baby continues to grow, you can begin to add more food items, and these can include baby food dinners. Dinners are great because they mix meats with vegetables and/or pasta or rice. Because your baby still doesn't have many teeth, you will probably want to stick with foods that are labeled "first foods" or "second foods".
In fact, you may begin with first foods, but you should progress to second foods by the time your baby is at least ten months, so that he can become accustomed to the different textures of food.
By the time your baby is ten months old, you should be able to give him foods from your own plate as long as you can mash them up. You do need to avoid foods that are choking hazards, such as nuts, peanut butter, grapes, hard candies, hot dogs, etc.
Once your child reaches his first birthday, he should be eating almost anything that isn't hard for him to chew and swallow. You will have gradually dropped some of his bottle feedings or breast feedings, and many pediatricians tell parents that they can switch their children to whole milk at one year.
You may discover that certain months find your baby wanting to nibble all day long. Just when you think you are raising a little pig, she refuses to eat a meal or two. Babies have growth spurts when their bodies need more calories and nutrition. You should follow your baby's need. She'll let you know when she is hungry. Continue to offer her a variety of foods, but don't try to force her to eat more than she wants. Putting your baby on a feeding schedule can be trying at times, but you and your baby can also enjoy many mealtimes together.
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