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Infant nutrition needs

​How you choose to feed your infant has implications for his or her entire life.

Good nutrition is an important part of your child's development.

The right nutrition that is age-appropriate benefits your child now and will help them throughout their life.

Good nutrition decisions begin right after birth and continue through adolescence.

Your Marshfield Clinic Pediatrician can help you make the best nutrition decisions for your child.

Infant Nutrition Guidelines

Choosing how to feed your baby has life-long effects for your baby and for you. What you have seen and learned about infant feeding from your family, friends, and teachers is likely to influence your attitude and perceptions.

Whether you definitely plan to breastfeed or you are still unsure, consider the fact that your milk is the best milk for your baby. It is the ideal first food for your baby's first several months.

  • Breastfeeding. Nature designed human milk especially for human babies. It has several advantages over any substitute ever developed. Your milk has just the right balance of nutrients, and it has them in a form most easily used by the human baby's immature body systems. Because it was made for your human baby, your milk is also the most gentle on your baby's systems.

  • Bottle-feeding. If you decide not to breastfeed, or are unable to breastfeed, commercial iron-fortified formulas can provide adequate nutrition for your infant. Infant formulas have enough protein, calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals for growth. However, formula doesn't have the immune factors that are in breast milk. The immune factors in breast milk can help prevent infections.


Infants who take enough iron-fortified infant formula (over 1 liter a day) usually don't need vitamin and mineral supplements. Fluoride is sometimes needed after 6 months of age, if the water supply doesn't have enough fluoride.

Talk with your infant's healthcare provider about the need for fluoride supplements. If your baby is breastfed or still too small to drink enough formula, ask your infant's healthcare provider about vitamin D supplements.

Helpful hints for feeding your baby

These are some helpful hints for feeding your baby:

  • Breast milk is best for your baby and is beneficial even if you only breastfeed for a short amount of time, or part-time.

  • Offer cow's milk-based formula with iron as first choice of formula, if you do not breastfeed.

  • Keep your baby on breast milk or baby formula until he or she is 1-year-old.

  • Start solid foods when your baby can hold up his or her head, sit-up with support, and no longer has tongue thrusting (4 to 6 months).

  • When starting solids, start with rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula on a spoon. Do not give solids in the bottle or with an infant feeder.

  • Once your baby is tolerating cereal, offer vegetables, then add fruits, and then meats.

  • Ask your child's healthcare provider about the best way to add new foods to your baby's diet.

  • Progress in texture of foods so that your baby is eating table foods by his or her first birthday.

  • Do not give these to your child during his or her first year of life:

    • Honey

    • Foods that can be easily choked on (like hot dogs, peanuts, grapes, raisins, or popcorn)

  • Unless your child is known to have or has severe allergies (for instance, breaking out in hives, vomiting, or having trouble breathing), recent reports and studies have shown that introducing whole eggs and peanut butter at a young age — even at 4 to 6 months — reduces the chance of your child developing allergies to these foods. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about whether these foods are appropriate for your child.

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Take the Breastfeeding Quiz

Breastfeeding offers a range of benefits for your and your child. Do you know what they are?

1. Breastfed children are less likely to have:
2. Besides protecting your child against disease, what is another advantage of breastfeeding?
3. How does breastfeeding help the mother?
4. Although breastfeeding is natural, you may need help at first. Who can help you learn what to do?
5. Which is the most important hormone your body uses to make breastmilk?
6. The milk made by the body in the first days after birth has a certain name. What is it?
7. How often does a breastfed baby eat?
8. How can you tell if your baby is getting enough milk when breastfeeding?
9. How many extra calories a day should you eat when breastfeeding?
10. Which of these medicine should you avoid while breastfeeding?
11. Breastfeeding is not recommended for mothers who have: