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Feeding Your Baby in the First Year: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Feeding a baby is an important concern for parents. Experts recommend breastfeeding your baby for up to 2 years or more, using only breast milk for the first 6 months.

If you are unable to or choose not to breastfeed, feed your baby iron-fortified infant formula. Babies younger than 6 months of age can get all the nutrition and fluid they need from breast milk or infant formula. Starting at 6 months of age, your baby needs solid foods along with breast milk or formula.

Weaning is the process of switching your baby from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding, or from a breast or bottle to a cup or solid foods. Weaning usually works best when it is done gradually over several weeks, months, or even longer. It depends on how ready you and your baby are to start.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

Babies ages 1 month to 5 months

  • Feed your baby breast milk or formula whenever your infant shows signs of hunger. By 2 months, most babies have a set feeding routine. But your baby's routine may change at times, such as during growth spurts when your baby may be hungry more often. At around 3 months of age, your baby may breastfeed less often. That's because your baby is able to drink more milk at one time. Your milk supply will naturally increase as your baby needs more milk.
  • Do not give any milk other than breast milk or infant formula until your baby is 9 to 12 months of age and eating a variety of iron-rich foods. Cow's milk, goat's milk, and soy beverage do not have the nutrients that very young babies need to grow and develop properly. Cow and goat milks are very hard for young babies to digest.
  • Your baby needs a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D every day to help meet their needs. Ask your doctor how long to keep giving your baby a vitamin D supplement.

Babies ages 6 months to 12 months

  • Around 6 months, you can begin to add other foods besides breast milk or infant formula to your baby's diet. See the Alberta Health Services resource Feeding Guide: Starting Solid Foods to learn more. Visit AHS.ca and enter "Feeding Guide: Starting Solid Foods" in the search box.
  • Offer your baby iron-rich foods first, such as iron-fortified infant cereal, finely minced meat or fish, mashed cooked egg yolk, mashed beans, or tofu. Then offer other foods from Canada's Food Guide. Your baby can eat many of the same foods the family eats.
  • Introduce one new food at a time. This can help you know if your baby has an allergy to a certain food. You can introduce a new food every 2 days.
  • Offer your baby a variety of soft textures. Make sure that there are no pieces that could cause your baby to choke.
  • When giving solid foods, look for signs that your baby is still hungry or is full. Don't persist if your baby isn't interested in or doesn't like the food.
  • Keep offering breast milk or infant formula as part of your baby's diet until they're at least 1 year old.
  • When your baby is 9 to 12 months old and eating a variety of iron-rich foods, they can start to drink pasteurized whole-fat cow's milk. Limit cow's milk to no more than 3 cups per day for children 9 to 24 months old. If you are not breastfeeding and do not want to give your child cow's milk, give your child soy infant formula until your child is 2 years of age. After age 2, you can serve low-fat milk or fortified milk alternatives.
  • Do not give your baby honey in the first year of life. Honey can make your baby sick.
  • Do not add salt or sugar to your baby's food.
  • If your doctor thinks your baby might be at risk for a peanut allergy, ask them about introducing peanut products. There may be a way to prevent peanut allergies.

Tips for weaning to a cup

  • Your baby can use an open cup with your help for water, breast milk or formula starting around 6 months of age. Work toward a goal of not using a bottle by 12 to 18 months of age.
  • Start with small amounts of liquid in the cup in case your baby spills. It will take time for your baby to learn to use a cup—help them until they can do it on their own. Using a cup will help your baby slowly give up their bottle, if they use one.
  • To learn more about feeding your baby, see the Alberta Health Services resource Starting Solid Foods: 6 to 12 Months.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have questions about feeding your baby.
  • You are concerned that your baby is not eating enough.
  • You have trouble feeding your baby.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter Q717 in the search box to learn more about "Feeding Your Baby in the First Year: Care Instructions".

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.