Formulas, nutrition, and feeding--everything you need to know about filling your child's tummy. By Sarah Springer, M.D.
Feeding an infant or toddler is the most basic function a new parent performs. It's an eagerly anticipated moment, conjuring images of warmth and contentment. But when the time arrives, many parents are consumed with questions: Which formula should I use? When should I feed her? What if she doesn't want to eat?
By learning a few basics, you can confidently nourish your child, and make feeding time bonding time.
Standard cow's milk-based formulas meet the nutritional needs of most infants. Be sure to choose a formula that is iron-fortified, to prevent anemia. You'll also want to check the label for DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is important in vision development, and ARA (arachidonic acid), which promotes growth of the brain, nervous system, and retina. Most formulas are fortified with these important nutrients.
It's best to maintain your baby's current formula for at least a short period of time after you've adopted him. If you decide to change the formula, start with the brand your child has been using, then mix that with the intended formula to gradually change over. (However, due to the melamine contamination crisis, infants on Chinese-manufactured formulas should be switched to a U.S.-made formula right away.)
Most infants will easily digest cow's milk-based formulas. But infants who develop allergies or lactose intolerance may need soy-based or lactose-reduced formulas. Consult your child's doctor about starting a special formula.
Beside the question of what to feed a baby, parents often wonder how to feed him. Infants usually want to eat every three to five hours. Most children are fed two to three ounces of formula per pound of body weight for the first three months of life. Once they start solid food, at four to six months, they need less formula.
Take care when heating formula in a microwave. Liquids may heat more quickly than you'd expect, or develop hot spots. Always test the formula's temperature on your wrist before feeding.
Feed your baby in a secure position with her head raised. Make sure her head is higher than her hips, so it is easier for her to swallow. Hold the nipple steady, and tilt the bottle to ensure that your baby takes in less air as she drinks.
Never leave your child with a propped bottle; she will miss your comfort and warmth. This can also lead to underdevelopment of the muscles needed for sucking and swallowing. If you notice any problems or discomfort on your child's part during feeding, consult your doctor.
If you know what to expect, feeding time can be a relaxed, pleasant time, for parent and child.
Sarah Springer, M.D., is the director of International Adoption Health Services of Western Pennsylvania and is an adoptive mom.
Feeding offers parents the opportunity to connect with your baby. Here are some guidelines to help you make the most of your mealtimes:
1 While feeding, hold your baby close, and turn her toward you, so you can see each other.
2 Make frequent connections with your baby through your gaze, your smiles, and your praise. Talk to your baby: "Isn't that milk good? Is it warming your tummy?"
3 Respect your child's cues. Babies often turn their heads, pull away, or spit out their food when they have had enough. Don't force your baby to finish a bottle if he is no longer hungry.
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