Your New Baby's Feeding Schedule

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When your baby first arrives, it may seem like they are always hungry, and that is not too far from the truth.  When you start to consider the feeding schedule of a newborn, you need to keep in mind that every baby is an individual, with particular likes and dislikes.  It is not possible to exactly predict when each child will be hungry, or how much they are going to eat at any given time.  This article is essentially a consolidation of a general feeding cycle for a baby throughout the first twelve months of their life.  We will take into consideration babies that are being fed breast milk and babies that are formula fed, as formula fed babies tend to receive fewer feedings because breast milk is digested more efficiently.

As the babies get older, and progress to trying solid foods, it is also important to remember that their diets may be greatly influenced by the culture in which they are raised.  From a cultural perspective, babies who are breastfed have already received a sneak peek to the flavors of their culture through the exposure to the changing tastes of their mother’s milk.  For the purposes of this article, solid foods will be addressed only in the broad categories of grains; fruits and vegetables; and yogurt, meat, and poultry, rather than by specific descriptions.  Remember that it is strongly suggested that you introduce your baby to a variety of tastes when they are young, in an effort to help determine their likes and dislikes at an early age, and that you allow time enough between the foods that they are sampling to determine if they have any allergic reaction.

· Month 1:  During the first month of life, a baby should only receive breast milk or formula.  Breast fed babies eat on average every 2-3 hours, which translates to 8-10 feedings each day, and they usually eat between 2-3 fluid ounces every feeding.  Formula fed babies eat on average every 3-4 hours, which translates to 6-8 feedings each day, and they also typically eat between 2-3 ounces each feeding.  In both circumstances, the babies should be fed on demand, and they should clearly let you know when they are hungry.

· Months 2 – 4:  During this stage of the baby’s life, they should also only receive breast milk or formula.  The number of times that they eat each day will be largely impacted by the amount of sleep that they get each night.  Breast fed babies eat on average 6-8 times per day, while formula fed babies average 5-6 feedings.  When nursing, a baby will stop during each feeding when they are generally full, but the amount varies from child to child.  When it comes to preparing formula for bottle feeding, the average serving size during this stage of the baby’s life is 4-6 fluid ounces per feeding.

· Months 5 – 6:  During this stage of the baby’s life, solid foods will begin to be introduced.  He or she will still be receiving breast milk or formula, with breastfed babies eating approximately 6 times per day, and bottle fed babies receiving 4-5 feedings per day of 6-8 fluid ounces.  It is suggested that formula fed babies not receive more than 32 fluid ounces per day.  At this stage of their life, babies are typically introduced to grains, as well as strained fruits and vegetables.

The first grain that is introduced is often iron-fortified rice cereal (which also serves to give the baby the extra iron that they need), which is often followed by the introduction of oatmeal and other grains.  The suggested serving size starts at approximately one tablespoon mixed with either formula or breast milk each meal, and it should be mixed to a consistency that is easiest for the baby to swallow.  The serving size will most likely increase to about 4 tablespoons as time passes.  You should start with a single serving per day and increase to 2 servings each day as the baby’s appetite demands.

At the point that the baby starts to openly accept and eat the cereal, you should start to introduce fruits and vegetables that are strained.  It is suggested that you start with just individual examples of each, which are finely pureed, and that you work your way toward a 4 ounce jar per meal.  The purpose of trying just individual examples of fruits and vegetables is so that you can watch for any signs of allergic reaction, such as rash, diarrhea, or vomiting.  This will help you to eliminate foods from the baby’s diet that can have a potential for a negative reaction.

· Months 7 – 9:  During this stage of the baby’s life, the amount of breast milk or formula that they eat will be greatly influenced by how receptive they are to solid foods.  On average, a nursing baby will get 4-6 feedings per day, and a formula fed baby will receive approximately 24 – 30 fluid ounces each day.  This stage also represents a time where tastes and textures become a major consideration.  In the category of grains, it is suggested that at approximately 8 months you introduce foods that have more texture.  In regards to fruits and vegetables, the task of offering only single flavors can give way to various combinations, again focusing on texture and providing new tastes to the baby.  At the age of 7 months, you may want to try introducing yogurt into the baby’s diet, and at 8 months you can begin introducing meats and poultries that are finely milled.

· Months 10 – 12:  As with the previous two months, the intake of solid foods for the baby will greatly impact the amount of breast milk or formula that they eat each day.  On average, a nursing baby will get approximately 4 feedings per day, and a formula fed baby will typically receive approximately 24 fluid ounces each day.  In regards to grains, at this stage of the baby’s life, they will receive between ¼ and ½ of a cup each day.  You may also consider introducing the baby to simple finger foods, such as cooked pasta.

In regards to fruits and vegetables, a baby typically receives 2 servings of each per day, with a standard serving size being ¼ to ½ cup.  At this stage, as the baby will start to transition toward table foods, you can start to incorporate foods that are “chunkier” in texture.  You should try to choose foods that are easy to chew and which can be cut into small manageable pieces, such as pieces of banana.  At this stage, a single daily serving of yogurt is acceptable, with a serving being ¼ to ½ cup, along with a single serving of meat or poultry.  Should you want to add a little variety to the baby’s diet, you may want to try scrambled eggs or soft cheese as well.

In general, there is no harm in introducing your baby to a wide array of tastes and flavors, but you need to make a point of watching for any type of adverse reaction.  When you start to incorporate finger foods into his or her diet, just be sure that the foods can be easily chewed and that the sizes of the pieces are small enough to not represent a choking hazard.  When solid foods become a part of their diet, the overall experience of mealtimes can be quite enjoyable and oftentimes humorous, but you must never lose sight of the need for safety!


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By Jack Rambadt of Expecting Parents Alliance of America

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