How to Take Care of an Infant & Zero to Six Months Old Babies?
Taking Care of 0-6 Months Old Babies
For the first six months, feeding your baby is all about milk, milk and milk. For time-stretched new parents, it could come as a relief to find there's no cooking required. Read on for tips about bottle sterilization, breastfeeding, formula feeding and weaning.
Formula or Breast Milk?
Breast milk contains a complete balance of nutrients - just what nature intended for newborns. Combine this with the fact that it is stored in germ-free containers - always at the ready - at exactly the right temperature, and it would have to be any mother's first choice, wherever possible.
Once established, breastfeeding is often a tender, sharing experience for mothers and babies. But getting it right - or knowing that you are doing it correctly - can be hard, particularly in the early weeks. There are a number of places from which you can seek expert help: hospitals often employ a lactation consultant or midwife exclusively to help new mums with breastfeeding issues, or visit your local early childhood center or breastfeeding association. Reassurance and tips about technique can make a world of difference.
If circumstances have dictated that breastfeeding is not an option, however, don't despair. Today's infant formulas are a close match to breast milk, so bottle-feeding will meet all of your baby's nutritional needs. Focus on establishing the delightful bonds of intimacy between yourself and your child as you develop their feeding pattern. Get comfortable - settle into the same chair in the same room for each feed - then snuggle in and start to get to know your baby, whether the feed has come from bottle or breast.
Food for New Mothers
Often, in the first chaotic months of motherhood, new mums are inclined to pay far less attention to their own diet than they should. In their overwhelming desire to see that their baby is fed well, and that all of baby's other needs are met, women place themselves at the bottom of their own list of priorities.
But what new mums need to consider is that, while ever they are not eating an adequate amount of nutritionally sound food, they are operating at less than an optimum level. Hence, the best thing you can do for your baby is to look after yourself.
Consider the following diet for lactating mother:
- Birth may be a natural function, but it is still a physical trauma that your body will take many months to recover from. Your body needs appropriate nourishment to regenerate.
- If you are breastfeeding, you're likely to feel hungry all the time. Don't panic - breastfeeding uses up a lot of energy. If you're ravenous, eat more - with a focus on fruit, vegetables, bread and cereals, reduced-fat dairy products and lean meat, chicken or fish.
- Avoid actively dieting to lose the weight gained in pregnancy. Your body needs more energy, not less, to produce breast milk. Be reassured, breastfeeding will help get you back into shape faster.
- Breastfeeding mums will undoubtedly feel thirsty far more often than usual. Answer your body's call - drink some water every time you feed your baby, and have other fluids as you feel the need.
- If you don't eat animal products, make sure you take a vitamin B12 supplement when breastfeeding, so that your baby gets enough of this essential vitamin.
- Ignore the myths about a mother's diet affecting breast milk supply - sucking at the breast is the stimulus for milk supply. Some breastfeeding mothers report that after having certain foods - typically cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and onions, or large quantities of drink containing caffeine -their babies suffer from general upset. Cut these foods from your diet if you feel your child is reacting to their presence in your milk, and consume no more than three cups of cola or coffee a day. Despite what you may have heard, cutting milk from your diet is unlikely to improve colic symptoms in your baby, and dairy products are an important source of calcium for breastfeeding mums.
Sterilizing Feeding Equipment
Disinfecting your baby's bottle-feeding equipment (and dummies) is most important in the first 12 months of their life, while their immune system is still immature. A high standard of hygiene can also be achieved by washing your hands carefully before feeds (whether breast or bottle) and after every nappy change.
It's also important to note that all bottles, teats, dummies, etc., should be rinsed in cold water as soon as they are finished with, then washed in hot soapy water (whenever convenient) before being disinfected. Any method you use to disinfect bottles is unlikely to do much if dried old milk remains on bottles or teats.
Any of the following methods can be used to disinfect your baby's equipment. These include:
- Dummies bottles and teats should be boiled for 5 minutes in a large saucepan of water. Allow the equipment to cool in the water until it is able to be handled. Any equipment that's not being used immediately can be stored in a clean container in the fridge, but any unused clean equipment should be re-sterilized every 24 hours or so.
- Chemical sterilants come in tablet or liquid form; when added to water following the manufacturer's instructions, they form a solution that is dilute enough to be perfectly safe for babies and yet, at the same time, kill the bacteria on your baby's equipment. The bottles, etc., are merely left to soak in the solution for a specified time or until required; however, a new batch of solution needs to be made every 24 hours. One important thing to note when using these chemicals is that the solution will corrode metals, so be sure to only use it with equipment made from plastic or glass.
Steam or Microwave Sterilizers
- Steam and microwave sterilizers can be purchased from baby goods stores; both use steam to disinfect bottles, etc. Both forms of sterilizer should be used according to manufacturer's instructions; a microwave sterilizer (a lidded plastic container designed to hold bottles) is the less expensive option as a steam sterilizer is an electrical appliance.
Selecting an Infant Formula
Despite what the baby milk manufacturers may claim, all infant formulas are basically similar and have to meet strict government standards. The differences between brands are mainly in the added "extras" and, in the main; the jury is still out as to whether these "extras" are of significant benefit. When choosing a formula for infant, you might prefer a specific brand or be influenced by cost or availability, or even how the infant formula is packaged — only some infants formulas are available in sachets (as well as the standard large can), making them most suitable for use when traveling or on the odd occasion as a top-up after breastfeeding.
Formulas labeled "from birth" are suitable for newborns up to the age of 12 months. "Follow on" infants formulas are designed for babies from six months of age and upwards, and should not be used for younger babies. Once you have chosen a formula, stick with it — different formulas may taste different, leading to rejection by your baby.
Is My Baby the Right Weight?
Unless you have a bonny baby that tips the scales, it's very common as a first-time parent to wonder if your child is eating enough and gaining height and weight as they should. If your baby is happy, healthy, and eating and sleeping well, you should feel reasonably secure in the knowledge that you're doing alright!
Babies vary in size and shape, just like adults. Some appear plump, but that's not to say that they are overweight. Others are small and lean, but that's not to say they are too thin.
Regular visits to your local Early Childhood Center or general practitioner (GP) are the ideal occasion to plot your child's growth on a percentile chart. Any excessive weight gains (or losses) can be measured this way, and your health professional can reassure you that your baby's weight is in proportion to his height.
Weaning from the Breast
Weaning your baby means that you stop breastfeeding and replace these feeds with other liquids (and solids), depending on your baby's age. The time to wean is when it feels right for you and your baby — or when circumstances make it necessary. If the decision to wean is made reluctantly (perhaps you need to return to work) or breastfeeding just hasn't worked for you, you may feel some sadness. Consider the possibility of combining breastfeeding and formula-feeding — perhaps this might allow you to continue breastfeeding for longer. If this doesn't work and weaning is necessary, don't dismiss your feelings — it's normal to have a bit of a cry. Talking about it with your partner, a friend or an early childhood nurse will help you come to grips with your emotions.
The how-to of weaning depends on the abundance of your milk supply; the aim is to reduce your supply gradually, to avoid the onset of mastitis (red swollen breasts and flu-like symptoms brought on by a bacterial infection). It can take only days to wean if your milk supply wasn't well established (or your older baby isn't a frequent feeder), but plan on it taking four to five weeks. To begin, skip one feed a day, instead giving your baby formula milk. Continue breastfeeding for the other feeds. Initially, after a missed breastfeed, your breasts will probably feel engorged (you may need to express a little milk for comfort), but this will abate as your body adjusts to the reduced demand. Once your breasts are feeling comfortable (this could take up to a week), drop another daily breastfeed, again replacing it with a formula feed, and so on until weaning is complete. Avoid dropping consecutive feeds, to prevent your breasts from becoming too engorged. As your milk supply shuts down, you may need to offer top-up formula feeds after your remaining breastfeeds, as you may not be producing enough milk for your baby.
How to Start Infant on Solids?
- Beginning Solids with Baby | Introducing Solid Foods to Babies
Practical information on introducing first solids for baby, when should babies start eating solid food, how to feed the baby first solids, what is weaning and how to wean.
When to Feed Solids?
Breast milk or formula for infants is all that a baby needs for sustenance and growth in the first six months or so of life. So, around six months of age is a good time to introduce other foods to their diet; any time before four months of age is too early. The decision to introduce your baby to solids is one that should only be made by you, dependent on your baby's readiness. You may find that well-meaning relatives make suggestions on the subject, that perhaps a baby as big as yours will only sleep through the night if you start him on solids, or maybe that offering solids will prevent your baby's reflux vomiting, or that the way your child chews his fists is a sure indication of his hunger for more than milk. Be assured — there is no accuracy to any of these assertions. Every baby is born with the "extrusion reflex", which means that if you put something to your baby's mouth, his tongue will poke out. This enables babies to effectively suck on the nipple or teat that supplies their milk. If a baby hasn't outgrown this reflex and you try to feed him solids, his tongue will push the food from his mouth, leading you to believe that he won't eat solid food when the case is more that he can't.
Summary: Trust Your Instincts
The most important thing to remember is to relax and enjoy parenthood, and the common sense approach to feeding babies in this Hub should act as reassurance. This also set your mind at ease, not to remind you of all the things you're not doing.
A select amount of reading is prudent, to ensure that your child is eating a nutritionally balanced diet, but it's important also to learn to listen to your inner voice when it comes to knowing what's right for your child. Gauge your child's well-being by their happy demeanor, regular sleeping patterns and overall good health (including weight gain), not necessarily by the quantity of food that passes their lips.
Each and every child is a unique individual, easy going in some ways and fussy in others and no child ever comes with a rulebook. Familiarize yourself with the views of the health professionals, but amend their tips and advice to suit your family circumstances and your child. So long as you are always acting out of love for your child, you should be confident that you are the best parent your child could hope for.
Solid Food Recipes for Infants, Weaning Babies and Toddlers
- Solid Food Recipes for Infants, Weaning Babies and Toddlers
Menu planners and a comprehensive collection of solid food recipes for infants, weaning babies and toddlers, aged 6 months to 3 years.