Feeding a baby can range from almost free to pretty darn expensive. Babies need to be fed exclusively breastmilk or formula until they are about four months old, at which stage some solid foods can start to be added in slowly. Although all babies are different, this guide will help you understand about how much your child should be eating so that you can be prepared.
Birth to 2 Weeks
Babies need to be fed exclusively breastmilk or formula at this stage, and will nurse 8 to 12 times a day or consume 18 to 24 ounces of formula. The baby will drink 2 or 3 ounces at a time.
Before breast milk comes in, usually within a couple of days of giving birth, babies will nurse colostrum. It can be hard for a first time mom not to worry about whether or not her baby is getting anything to eat, but the colostrum is plenty for a happy baby. Babies who are bottle fed will start to develop a routine and have slightly fewer “meals” than breastfed babies. All babies, bottle or breast, tend to fall into a peaceful nap after eating.
2 Weeks to 4 Months
From 2 weeks to about 2 months, babies will be nursing 6 to 10 times a day or consuming 20 to 32 ounces of formula, drinking 3 to 4 ounces at a sitting. Then from about 2 months to 4 months, babies will reduce nursing sessions to about 6 to 8 times a day or drink 30 to 36 ounces of formula. At this point, your baby might be drinking 5 ounces in every bottle.
The experts agree that breastfeeding for as long as possible is the best way to feed your baby. However, there are lots of reasons that moms and dads choose to or need to use formula. Formula is a perfectly good way to feed your baby and there’s no reason to feel bad about making this decision. But if you have the ability to continue breastfeeding, you should do so. Never substitute cow’s milk for breast milk or formula until the baby is at least a year old.
4 to 6 Months
In this stage, most babies will be ready to start eating solid food. Solid is a relative term here, because the pureed baby food or cereal that you feed your baby doesn’t look solid at all by our standards. He or she will continue to nurse 5 or 6 times a day or drink 32 to 40 ounces of formula in 6 ounce bottles. You can add one feeding per day of about 3 tablespoons of baby cereal or food.
Start with very watery foods, one food at a time. If you are making your own baby food, there is no reason to add salt, sugar, or anything other than water to the foods you are pureeing. When you’ve never tasted anything but breastmilk or formula, the unadulterated flavor of peas, or apples, or squash, or bananas, is plenty thrilling on it’s own. You want to focus on giving your baby one food at a time so that if he or she has an allergic reaction, you can quickly identify which food was the problem.
6 to 9 Months
At the six month mark, most babies are ready to start eating up to three meals a day that feature solid foods. Nursing drops again to 4 or 5 sessions, and babies will drink less formula at 24 to 32 ounces in 7 ounce bottles. Serving size for your 6 to 9 month baby is around 6 tablespoons, or about one whole jar of stage 2 baby food.
There are certain foods that you should never feed a baby before they are at least a year old. Honey should never be fed to a baby because very rarely, honey will contain spores of botulism. Babies cannot handle even trace amounts of botulism. If a baby were to consume honey with spores of botulism, they could become fatally ill. It’s very rare, but deadly enough to avoid honey altogether until 12 months. This goes for any baked good that contains honey as well.
Corn syrup and molasses should be avoided for the same reason, although maple syrup would be safe. The process to make maple syrup involves a prolonged period of boiling. But really, your baby doesn’t need any sugar additions to their food. If you want to feed your baby something sweet, give them some fruit.
9 to 12 Months
From 9 months, babies will only nurse 3 to 4 times a day and drink about 20 to 32 ounces of formula. Bottles might be 8 ounces at this stage. Solid meals should be at least three a day, about 9 tablespoons altogether or 3 tablespoons of 3 different foods.
Your baby will probably be more involved in the feeding process by now, and you can encourage their attempts at self-feeding by eating meals at the same time as them. When a family sits down and has a meal together, your baby will be able to observe you and figure out what all these strange objects on the table are for. The food you feed your baby can gradually become less watery and more formed, although you want to be vigilant not to serve anything that could be a choking hazard.
12 to 15 Months
After a year, your baby will be following a diet that looks a lot more like a toddler’s. Nursing sessions will fall to 2 or 3 a day or only about 16 to 20 ounces of formula in 8 ounces bottles. You can estimate that your baby will be eating about a quarter of the food that you would eat, and he or she will need three meals a day and about two snacks.
You can begin transitioning your baby to cow’s milk at one year old. Sometimes nursing moms want to continue to nurse, even up to age 5. If it works for you and your family, feel free to continue to nurse. But if you’re also ready to move past nursing, you can safely do so now.
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