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Infant Nutrition

Dear Debi,
Iím about to take in a 9 month old whoís being breast fed. How do I make sure heís getting the proper nutrition while heís away from his mother and what do I do when he needs to transition to solids?
Vicki, Studio City, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Proper nutrition is necessary for healthy growth
  • Breast feeding is the best form of nutrition for infants
  • Communicate daily with parents
Expert Advice
Tanya Remer Altmann, MD
Tanya Remer Altmann, MD
Pediatrician and Author
Proper nutrition is necessary for an infantís healthy growth and development. Mother's milk offers an infant the best nutrition. That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests to mothers all over the world to breast feed their babies for as long as possible.

Proper nutrition for your baby also means feeding him or her the right food in the right quantities and at the right time. It is not advisable to begin with solid foods since the digestive system of a baby has yet to develop fully. Solid foods at a tender age can increase the risk of allergies or digestive problems in young ones. It is always best to seek a pediatrician's advice on this matter.

If mothers choose not to breast feed, they should start with a milk-based formula. If the baby has allergies to that formula, they should switch to a soy-based one. A true allergic reaction includes vomiting or diarrhea. Breast-fed babies feed every 2 to 3 hours, while formula-fed babies usually feed every 3 to 4 hours. We tell mothers to do it on demand.

For a breast-fed infant who is starting care with a provider, we recommend the mother to pump in order to continue to provide a child with motherís milk. A breast-fed baby usually is at home with his or her mother for the first month or two. At that point, mothers can feed the baby and pump extra. Mothers can store the milk in little baggies or bottles. The baggies go into the bottles. Baggies take up less space than bottles, and some bottles take the baggies. This way, the provider can feed the breast-fed baby pumped milk.

Wait until an infant is six months before introducing solid foods, or start with signs of a babyís readiness. Signs of readiness include the baby demonstrating they have good head control. If their head flops, thatís not a good sign. Another sign of readiness is when an infant loses their natural tongue reflex Ė the tongue will push things out. Babies who are formula fed and are getting 36 ounces, then itís time to switch to solids.

Start with rice cereal and mix it with formula or breast milk. We start with a rice cereal because babies arenít usually allergic to rice. Feed them once or twice a day and see how they react to it. Some do so well that a week later theyíre ready to try more solid foods. A mother can usually tell if the baby wants more. Most people next try introducing oatmeal or barley, then later, fruits and vegetables.

I usually introduce water to infants when they start with solids. Prune juice works well for constipated babies. I prefer infants donít drink juice, however, if they donít have to. I prefer infants drink water instead. Even if you dilute juice with water, youíre still giving infants sugar and calories they donít need and youíre getting them used to sweets. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not giving them juice unless theyíre constipated.

Finally, remember that as a child care provider, itís very important to communicate an infantís eating patterns with the childís parents. Daily communication with parents will ensure continuity in the infants and toddlers eating patterns.
Child Care provider Comments
Family child care provider for 2 years
I have a nine-month old who is breast-fed, so her mom brings the breast milk for her. I also have a 5 month old whose mother brings what she wants her baby to eat, which is formula and jar food. I talk to the parents about what the kids are eating at home, what their schedule is like, how much they consume and how often.

I also keep a chart of what the kids eat, when they eat it and how much. I keep individual charts for the infants that go in their folders so the parents can see it when they pick their babies up.
Family child care provider for 4 years
I introduce solid foods to toddlers very gradually. We start with noodles and soups, things that are boiled. I partner with the parents on this, so that we are all aware of the childís eating patterns.
Child care provider for 8 years
I write down what the kids eat every day, so at the end of the week you have a chart to look at. The chart helps the parents, and it sometimes relieves the mother to hear that her child doesnít like the same foods with me as he does at home. It gives her the chance to share his likes and dislikes. Itís one of the easier topics to communicate with parents.

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