By Angela Thomas
Author’s Note: Peyton is 4 months old now and her parents are beginning to think about introducing her to solid foods. One of the reasons to start solids is that the baby is waking up hungry during the night or has increased her appetite during the day. In Peyton’s case, she is still gaining weight on breast milk alone, and sleeps for 10 hours each night .
Most allergies to food come from introducing them too early, so the longer you delay solids if your baby doesn’t need them, the better chance your baby will be ready to eat from a spoon. This includes moving the food with her tongue from the front of her mouth to the back, to swallow a heavier substance than milk, and to digest the foods she is introduced to.
Infants Move Slowly from Milk to Meals
Parents worry about their new infant getting enough nourishment … Is he getting enough nutrition from my breast milk? Is he gaining enough weight? When should we begin to introduce solid foods and in what order? Which foods cause allergies?
These are all concerns of new parents. The first year of food introduction is usually wrought with anxiety about “doing it right.” Here are some milestones and guidelines to help you through as you answer those questions. Remember though, that if you aren’t sure when to introduce something, it’s always better to err on the conservative side. Rather than introducing something too soon and risking a food allergy or a digestive problem, wait until you are more comfortable or your doctor suggests it’s time.
Infant Growth averages
The average newborn weighs approximately six to eight pounds at birth and is approximately 20 inches in length. Although right after birth infants lose weight, original birth weight is usually regained by the seventh to tenth day after birth. Growth is rapid during the first year; an infant birth weight should double by the fifth month and triple around 12 months. For example, an infant weighing eight pounds at birth should weigh about 16 pounds at five months and about 24 pounds at one year.
Increases in length during the first year represent about 50 percent of the infant’s original birth length. An infant measuring 20 inches in length at birth should reach a length of about 30 inches at 12 months of age. A large percentage of this growth takes place in the first six months when an infant may grow as much as one inch per month.
Infant Feeding Schedule
Birth to 4 to 6 months:
Breast milk or formula and water provide all the nutrition your baby needs. While your newborn may only drink three or four ounces at each feeding, his needs will gradually increase. The recommended guideline for formula intake per day is about 32 ounces. When a baby reaches this intake point, you may want to consider introducing solid foods. Breast fed babies receive all the fluids they need in the breast milk, but it is still a good idea to give water to baby daily, especially to formula fed babies. Filtered or bottled water is best for at least the first few months.
4 to 6 months:
cereal and poi
You may begin to introduce iron-fortified, single grain cereal, one at a time. Most doctors recommend starting with rice, then moving to barley or oatmeal cereals. For generations, local families have given poi to their babies as a first food. It provides good nutritional value and has a low risk for an allergic reaction. Start with one tablespoon per feeding, increasing to three tablespoons per feeding. Mix poi or cereal with formula or breast milk to a comfortable consistency for the baby (usually a little runny).
You will notice when you start spoon feeding that baby has to learn to push the food to the back of his tongue to swallow it. This takes time and practice, so a thinner consistency is easier for the baby to learn to manage.
Next weeks’ column will review 7 to 12 month feeding tips as well as information on making baby food. Thomas can be reached at [email protected]