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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. There is no right or wrong time to wean. 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 call line 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 3 to 5 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 he or she is at least 1 year old.
  • When your baby is 9 to 12 months old and eating a variety of iron-rich foods, he or she 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 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.
  • Your baby can use an open cup with your help for liquids other than 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.
  • If you feel that you and your baby are ready, these tips may help you wean your baby from the breast to a cup or bottle.
    • Try letting your baby drink from a cup. If your baby is not ready, you can start by switching to a bottle.
    • Slowly reduce the number of times you breastfeed each day.
    • Each week, choose one more breastfeeding time to replace or shorten.
    • Offer the cup or bottle before you breastfeed or between breastfeedings. You can use breast milk pumped from your breast. Or you can use formula.
  • If your doctor thinks your baby might be at risk for a peanut allergy, ask him or her about introducing peanut products. There may be a way to prevent peanut allergies.

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?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.