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Healthy Eating For Infants
In the first 4 - 6 moths of life, breast milk is the best food for babies. Where possible, babies should be breastfed exclusively till 4 months old. The reasons for breastfeeding is numerous.
Benefits for the Infant
  • The quantity and quality of protein in breast milk is best suited for the newborn infant in terms of whey protein which is more easily digested by the infant than casein, the predominant protein in cow's milk.
  • Breast milk provide protection for the baby against infections, allergic reactions, and juvenile diabetes.
  • The high lactose and vitamin C content of breast milk helps to increase the absorption of iron.
  • Breast milk contains lower amounts of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and protein than cow's milk. This is easier on the baby's kidneys and helps to prevent dehydration.
  • Essential fatty acids such as DHA in breast milk promote brain development and better eyesight.
  • Better fat absorption (85-90%) in breast milk as compared to absorption of fat from cow's milk of 70% or lower for many infants.
  • Lactase in breast milk increases the absorption of lactose. The large quantity of lactose in breast milk contributes to the development of the central nervous system and intestinal flora.
  • Breast milk amylase aids in the digestion of starch.
  • Reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Little risk of overfeeding.
  • Promotes good jaw and tooth development.
  • Fosters the development of a strong maternal-infant bond.
  • No risk of improper mixing of formula.
Benefits for the Mother
  • Convenient and easier than formula preparation. Breast milk is always at the right temperature and hygienic. This is a great advantage for travelling mothers.
  • Significantly cheaper than formula. Costs only the price of a few extra groceries for the mother.
  • Saves hours of formula buying and preparation. No worries about the correct dilution or a clean water supply.
  • Quicker and easier to return to pre-pregnancy weight and the normal shape of the uterus.
  • May increase the mother's sense of well-being due to higher levels of prolactin secreted while nursing.
  • May be protective against breast and ovarian cancer and "these benefits increase with increased exclusiveness of breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life, and thereafter with increased duration of breastfeeding" (WHO/UNICEF).
  • Helps to decrease postpartum bleeding.
  • Better for the environment.
Introducing Solid Foods
Between 4 and 6 months, infants will benefit from the extra nutrients such as iron in solid foods. Most infants are ready for solid foods at this time, however each child is individual and readiness will vary. An important concept to emphasize to parents is to let their infant take the lead and follow it. Parents are responsible for what food is offered and when it is offered. The child is responsible for how much of it is eaten, if at all (Satter, E. "How to Get Your Kid to Eat...But Not Too Much", California: Bull, 1987).
Parents should...
  • choose foods that the child is ready for to allow him/her to control it in the mouth and swallow it as well as possible
  • try holding the infant in their lap when introducing solid food (the infant may feel more secure)
  • hold the infant upright and facing the food so swallowing is easier and choking is less likely
  • use a baby-sized spoon, like a teaspoon; use a small amount of food on the spoon tip and gently place it on the infant's tongue
  • make meal time calm and casual; infants need time to get used to food
  • wait for the infant to pay attention to each spoonful before trying to feed
  • let infants touch the food so they can explore it
  • allow infants to feed at their own pace; infants may take only 2 or 3 bites at first; this is normal
  • allow the infants to feed themselves with their fingers as soon as they are interested
  • stop feeding when the infant indicates they have had enough to eat
Infants are ready for solid foods when they:
  • hold their head steady and sit with support
  • follow food with their eyes
  • open their mouth when they see food coming
  • row in their lower lip as a spoon is removed from their mouth
  • can move food from the front of their mouth to the back of their tongue to swallow.
Introducing Solid Foods Too Late
While some parents may start solid foods too soon, other parents may wait too long to introduce new foods and new textures. Around the 6 month mark is the beginning of a critical or sensitive period of development in relation to eating. Solid foods need to be introduced for infants to learn to accept and eat foods that require chewing.
Order of Introduction
Gradual introduction of solid foods gives an infant the opportunity to experience new tastes and textures. If introduction of solids is delayed until 6 months of age, the order for introduction of different foods is not as critical as it is before this time, however they can be used as a guideline.

New foods should be offered as a single food (not mixed) every 4 to 5 days. If an infant has a sensitivity to a particular food, it is easy to identify and remove from the diet. Often, this food will be well tolerated in a month or two when the infant is a little older. The introduction of all the food groups may occur over a time-span of 3 to 5 months. It is important to point out that infants differ in their developmental readiness to eat and try new foods.
1. Grain Products
The first food to introduce is a single grain iron-fortified infant cereal. Rice cereal is a good first choice since it is easy to digest and least likely to cause allergies. Barley and oatmeal may be introduced next. Because wheat is the most likely to cause an allergy, it is best left to last to be introduced. If well accepted, iron-enriched infant cereals should be given to infants for the first 2 years of life to ensure an adequate iron intake. Mixed cereals should be used only after an infant has tried all the single cereal grains. Cereal may be mixed with breastmilk, formula (if it has been given previously) or water. At first, the cereal should be fairly liquid. As an infant learns to handle a more solid mixture, less liquid may be added to the cereal.

Always use a spoon to feed an infant. This is an important part of learning and growing. Never feed cereal from a baby bottle. Some brands of cereals contain other ingredients such as formula, fruit or vegetables. They are still considered a cereal servings. They do not contain enough of the other ingredients to be considered replacements for these food groups in an infant's diet.
2. Vegetables and Fruit
When an infant is about 6 months of age, pureed vegetables can be introduced. Often vegetables are given before fruit so infants will not expect all foods to taste sweet. Mild tasting vegetables such as pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, and green beans are often introduced first. Later, infants will enjoy the stronger flavours of vegetables like spinach, cabbage and broccoli.

Fruit juice may be given when the infant is drinking from a cup. This generally occurs during the latter half of the first year. Fruit juice should intake be limited to 125 ml (4 oz) per day. Parents believe they are offering their child a healthy drink when they use fruit juice; they are. However, excessive intake of fruit juice can decrease appetite for other nutrient and energy-rich foods. Over-consumption of fruit juice may lead to poor weight gain and diarrhea, abdominal pain or bloating. If parents choose to offer more than 125 ml of juice per day, then it should be mixed with an equal part of water to dilute its high sugar content. Plain water would be a better alternative.
3. Milk Products
Cottage cheese and plain yoghurt may be offered after vegetables and fruit have been introduced.
4. Meat and Alternatives
Infants may be introduced to soft egg yolk around 6 months; pureed meats & fish, well cooked legumes (beans, peas, lentils), and tofu should wait till 7 or 8 months of age, after cereals, vegetables and fruit have been introduced. Egg white may be offered after 9 months of age to avoid the possibility of an allergy.
Baby's Appetite
Babies differ in the amounts of food they eat. Expect your baby's appetite to vary from day to day.

Feeding 4-5 Months 5-7 Months 7-9 Months 9-12 Months
Early Morning - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula* - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula* - breastmilk or 180-240 ml formula*
- 60 ml infant cereal**
- 30-45 ml fruit
- breastmilk or 180-240 ml formula*
- 60-90ml infant cereal**
- 30-45 ml fruit
Breakfast - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula*
- 15-30 ml infant cereal** (optional)
- breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula*
- 45-60 ml infant cereal** (optional)
- breastmilk or 180-240 ml formula*
- 15-45 ml meat or meat alternative
- 30-45 ml vegetables
- 30-45 ml fruit
- breastmilk or 180-240 ml formula*
- 30-60ml infant cereal**
- 15-30 ml meat or meat alternative
- 45-75 ml vegetables
- 45-60 ml fruit
Lunch - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula* - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula*
- 15-30 ml vegetables
- breastmilk or 180-240 ml formula* - breastmilk or 180-240 ml formula*
Late Afternoon - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula* - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula* - breastmilk or 180-240 ml formula*
- 60 ml infant cereal**
- 3--45 ml vegetables
- 30-45 ml fruit
- breastmilk or 180-240 ml formula*
- 30-45 ml meat or meat alternative
- 45-75 ml vegetables
- 30-45 ml fruit
Supper - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula* - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula*
- 45-60 ml infant cereal**
- 15-30 ml vegetables
- breastmilk or 180-240 ml formula* (optional) - breastmilk or 180-240 ml formula* (optional)
Evening - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula* (optional) - breastmilk or 150-180 ml formula*    
* If baby is not breastfed, iron-fortified, commercial infant formula is recommended for the first 9 to 12 months.
** Iron-fortified infant cereal is recommended for babies during the first 2 years.

Between 9 and 12 months you can introduce whole cow's milk to your baby. When baby is 9 months old, offer healthy snacks between meals.

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