As childcare providers, you may get asked questions about infant feeding from parents.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding (breastmilk only) in the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding with adequate complementary foods for two years and beyond. Breastmilk contains antibodies that lower the chance of infections in babies. It’s also recommended that in the first six months babies are fed on demand (without schedule) day and night.
Here are some general tips you should know if asked by parents:
- All babies need vitamin D. Breastfed babies need a daily vitamin D supplement of 400IU (10 micrograms).
- Starting solids early does not help the baby sleep through the night. Wait until the baby is about six months old to start solid food.
- Feed more often when the baby shows signs of hunger or during growth spurts.
- Mom can continue to breastfed when she returns to work. She may choose to pump and have you offer breastmilk at daycare or offer other fluids and foods throughout the day. If you have questions about storing and using breastmilk in your facility, please call for more information.
- Encourage parents to consult with a lactation consultant or their healthcare provider if they have questions about infant feeding. The health unit offers Infant Feeding Clinics.
At six months when baby is showing signs that he/she is ready, solids can be offered. Signs of readiness include:
- holding head up
- sitting up in a high chair
- opening mouth wide when you offer food on a spoon
- turning his face away if he doesn’t want the food
- closing lips over the spoon, and swallowing food instead of pushing it out
It is normal for some babies to refuse new foods at first; try again another day. The baby may need to try a new food 10-15 times before he likes it. Each baby is different. Try not to compare one baby to another.
Some parents are care providers wants to offer foods before six months. We encourage following the baby’s signs of readiness for solid foods. If parents aren’t sure if their baby is ready for solid foods, suggest that they speak with a healthcare provider.
Nutritionally breastmilk continues to be an important part of babies diet. As baby moves into the second half of their first year of life they start to need more iron than they can get from breastmilk alone. It is recommended to start with iron-rich foods such as:
- Soft, well-cooked meat or meat alternatives – beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, fish, pork, egg, tofu, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
- Iron-fortified infant cereals (rice, oat, barley, or wheat) – homemade infant cereals are not a good source iron and not recommended as first foods
Tips for feeding baby
- Start a new food when the baby is happy and hungry (but not too hungry).
- Keep mealtimes pleasant. Never force the baby to eat.
- Parents may need to help the baby at first. Put a small amount of food on the tip of a small spoon. Hold the spoon so the baby can see it. Then put some food on his lips (put food in his mouth only if he opens it).
- Start with a variety of textures (pureed, minced or mashed foods). Parents can also offer sticks of food, shredded pieces, and other finger foods so the baby can pick to eat on his own. Providing different textures is important to help the baby learn to chew. Babies who stay on pureed texture too long or who start lumpy textures too late may have a hard time feeding later on.
When parents make their own baby food, babies learn to eat the same foods as the rest of the family.
Babies learn by watching others
- Always stay with the baby when she eats.
- Pay attention to the baby’s hunger and satiety cues.
- It is normal for babies to eat different amounts of food each day or refuse one or two meals.
- Never use food as a reward or a punishment.
- Be patient with new foods. You may need to try new foods many times on different days.
- Let the baby decide how much to eat. Never pressure the baby to eat more or less than she wants.
- Offer the baby foods so she can feed herself. Messy mealtimes are part of the learning process.
- It is best if there are no toys or television to distract the baby.
- Keep baby’s food safe
Trusting Children’s Hunger and Fullness Cues
For the first six months of life breastmilk is the best food that the baby needs to grow and be healthy. During this time, you are responsible for what to feed and the baby can decide when, where, and how much she is consumes.
When introducing solid foods at six months, you are responsible for what, when and where to feed the baby solid foods and the baby decides how much and whether to eat the foods offered.
Resources are also available for parents and caregivers for parents who use infant formula.