Infant nutrition requirements are quite specific, and meeting the nutritional needs of an infant is imperative for the proper health and growth of the child. This involves knowing what to feed the infant, at what time to feed the infant, and how to recognize the child’s hunger cues. Infant nutrition requirements also involve knowing when it is appropriate to introduce semi-solid and solid foods.
The First Twelve Months
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an infant should be fed formula or breast milk for the first six months. As solid foods are introduced into the infants diet later, breast milk or formula use should continue until the child is a year old. Breast milk is preferred over formula, because it is easier for the infant to digest, eases the passing of stools, and consists of antibodies that the infant requires for disease defense. Breast milk gives the child protein, casein, whey, and lactose that are easy on the infant’s immature digestive system. Breast milk also diminishes the infants risk of developing allergies. If offering breast milk to an infant, this nutritional source should not be heated; it ruins the immunizing power of the milk.
Timing the Infant’s Feedings
Whether you are breastfeeding or you are using formula to feed your infant, the infant should be receiving nourishment 8 to 12 times each day during the first 30 days of life. This is particularly important when breast feeding, because it helps to build up a supply of breast milk. After the first month, you can begin offering the infant breast milk or formula when the child demands it: this is typically in one to three hour intervals. Infants consuming formula are likely to consume 2 to 3 ounces in 3 to 4 hour intervals. To ensure your child gets enough formula or breast milk, you should not allow the child to go longer than 4 hours without a feeding.
Bodily Cues of Hunger
When your child is hungry, he or she cannot announce in words that they want to be fed, so you must be able to identify the common signs that indicate that your child wants to feed. Besides crying to indicate hunger, infants will often move their heads back and forth or from side to side; this suggests that they are looking to nurse. Your child may open his or her mouth, stick out his or her tongue, and he or she might place his or her fingers and/or fists in the mouth. If you stroke your child’s cheek, he or she may move his or her head in the direction where your hand is; this is called the rooting reflex and is also indicative of hunger.
Bodily Cues of Fullness
Just as your infant will reveal that they are hungry with bodily cues, they will also let you know when they have had enough to eat through bodily gestures. When your infant’s suckling slows, or when your infant turns his or her head away from the bottle or breast, he or she is telling you that they have had enough food for the time being. A disinterest in sucking on the breast or bottle is also a sign that the child is no longer hungry.
Other Liquids and Foods
Juice, water, and semi solid foods are not an immediate part of infant nutrition requirements. All of these are introduced after the child has turned six months old. Generally, the first soft foods you can offer your infant consist of single grain cereals at the age of six months. Soft baby foods like fruits, vegetables, and meats can then be introduced; you should introduce one new food source at a time to watch for any allergic reactions to the new food introduction. It is recommended that you wait two to three days before offering your infant new semi-solid and solid foods.
Wisconsin Child Care Improvement Project for information on feeding an infant at:
Kids Health.org for information on breast feeding infants at:
Kids Health.org for information about infants and dietary supplements at:
American Academy of Pediatrics on introducing solid foods at: