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Baby Feeding Guide: Baby Feeding to Begin Life Healthy

Updated on March 11, 2011

Baby feeding is one of the most important factors in determining the long-term health of a baby. Breastfeeding your baby can protect your infant from illnesses while also helping to build a strong and healthy immune system. Our baby's health is one of our main concerns given the vulnerability and the susceptibility of the baby to develop allergies or contract an illness because of an underdeveloped immune system. Breast milk is the most nourishing and natural.

In this baby feeding guide I will discuss breast milk versus formula (bottle feeding), when you should start feeding semi solid food to your baby and possible food allergies to watch for. I will also contrast the benefits of mother’s milk with the benefits and problems with cow’s milk.

Baby Feeding
Baby Feeding

Formula is an artificial substitute to mother’s milk. These baby formulas are commercial preparations based on soy milk or cow milk. Formula may be used for baby feeding if the mother is malnourished, extremely ill or has an HIV or tuberculosis infection. Conditions like the absence of a mother, difficulty breastfeeding, having to go back to a full time job, social discomfort, dietary concerns (mother’s diet having an allergen that can provoke allergic reaction to the baby) are some of the other reasons why formula may be an alternative to breast milk. In some cases families choose to feed both breast milk and baby formula due to convenience and/or need.

However, medical experts, statistics and the reports of WHO (World Health Organization) has shown that the health benefits of a mother’s milk far outweighs those of baby formula. WHO has recommended breast feeding for the first six to twelve months of a baby's life. Formula milk may make the infant prone to infections like gastroenteritis, ear infection, respiratory illnesses etc.

When Should I Start Feeding The Baby Semi Solid Food?

It is always better to have a physician guiding you through your parenting period, precisely your baby feeding behavior and your baby feeding schedule. Try to consult a physician as frequently as you can and rectify every possible issue with the doctor. However, it is recommended that you do not give semisolid material to to your baby until he or she is at least 4 to 6 months old. It may happen that your baby may become allergic to food. Newborn baby feeding can particularly delicate.

Another reason why solid food should be avoided is that these food items make it difficult for infants to have a sound sleep. Therefore, it is suggested that you do not start giving any other food apart from breast milk until your baby’s physician allows you to do so. It is important to continue including breast milk or formula in your baby’s diet even after your baby starts eating soft, solid food (depending on your doctor’s prescription). The chief reason why doctors advise to feed breast milk or even formula is that these food items contain all the necessary ingredients required for better health of your baby.

Baby Feeding
Baby Feeding

Find Out If Your Baby Is Allergic To Certain Food

There are certain factors you should remember as you go through the different stages of baby feeding. While you begin giving semi solid food to your child make sure that you gradually include new food items in your baby’s diet. For example you may try giving a paste made out of any fruit for a week. While you do this try to notice whether your baby is okay with that particular food item.

Then you may change the food item for the next week. This way you will be able to find out whether your child is allergic to any food or not. However, it is again essential to take your doctor’s advice. The quantity of food should be increased gradually.

Most people consider feeding baby products like cereals and formula to their baby, which is okay if prepared appropriately according to instructions. Cereals mixed with fruits and vegetables are considered as one of the nutritious food items for baby feeding. It is also important to follow basic hygiene rules such as washing vegetables and fruits and peeling them before offering them to your baby.

Baby Feeding Cow’s Milk Vs. Mother’s Milk

Never rely on just cow's milk to offer a complete nourishment to your child in the first year of his or her life.  The cow's milk must be mixed with formula in order to give your baby the proper nutrients for growth and development. Remember though, that studies indicate mother’s milk provides the most complete nutrition for your baby, as well as antibodies your baby can't get from formula.

Some babies are allergic to cow's milk so watch for any signs that your baby isn't digesting or processing the food correctly.  Always talk to your doctor about any concerns.  In some cases mothers need to move from cow's milk to soy milk because of allergies.  But remember, some babies are allergic to soy as well.  Once again work closely with your doctor if you have any concerns about allergies.

When feeding your baby formula and semi soft foods it's best to avoid sugar and salt in any food given to your infant. Iron-fortified cereals are highly recommended for feeding babies under 18 months of age.

Baby Feeding Mother's Milk
Baby Feeding Mother's Milk

Mother’s Milk Is The Best For Baby Feeding

Compared to formula food, which is the second best option, mother’s milk is always readily available, convenient and has the right baby feeding temperature. It has all the right nutrients for your growing baby in proper proportions. Apart from saving on money, you also save on time because formula food involves mixing the formula, sterilizing and washing the bottles and other baby feeding supplies. Breastfeeding can benefit the mother too, because nursing the baby helps her burn calories faster. It is important that the woman eats healthy food, so that she can transfer the nutrients to the baby.

Bottle-feeding is still a good option, second only to breast milk. There have been some significant improvements to the formulas available today with added nutrients such as probiotics and omega 3.

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