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What to feed 0-6 months baby?

Nutritious diet is important for the overall well being of mankind. When it comes to an infant, it is very vital for its healthy growth and development. For the initial 6 months, doctors recommend to completely breast feed babies. 

Babies grow three times their birth weight before celebrating their first birthday. Mother's milk is highly nutritional and takes care of all the caloric needs of the infant required for the proper development of their tiny bodies and brain. 

Breast feed or formula feed?

Breastfeeding is highly recommended by experts worldwide, as it is not only beneficial to the child but is equally good to the mother's well being. Breast milk is pure, safe and contains antibodies and essential nutrients to protect babies from many illness. Comparatively, breast fed babies have low risks of having respiratory diseases, ear infections, gastrointestinal infections, obesity, type 1 diabetes etc. Breast feeding helps mothers to lower the risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Many research states that mothers who breast feed tend to lose the pregnancy weight better when compared to those who don't.

If a mother is unable to breast feed due to medical conditions of self or baby, or if she is on any medications which can potentially harm the baby or due to a lifestyle choice, then the next good alternative is formula feed. Formula is made from cow's milk and fortified with nutrients (like iron, vitamins, fatty acids, probiotics etc.) to make them similar to breast milk. 

There are various brands and types of formula available in the market. Lactose free formulas are specially made for babies who are lactose intolerant. Premature babies have additional nutritional requirements in contrast to full term babies and doctors might suggest to include fortified milk along with mother's milk. Preterm babies who can't breast feed (due to medical, latching issues etc.), will be advised to consume a special formula. So always check with the pediatrician to pick the right formula for your baby. 

You can check out the post to know in detail about the essential items required for feeding (breast or formula milk) babies.

Can we offer other sources of milk to baby instead of formula?

Other alternatives to milk which we generally consume are cow milk, soy milk, almond milk, oats milk etc. But these shouldn't be fed to babies under 1 year due to their nutritional composition. They have high amounts of sodium, protein, potassium which are harmful and lack other important vitamins required for babies healthy development.  

How to tell if baby is hungry?

Babies are very vulnerable and cannot voice out their needs like us. But they are smart enough to convey they are hungry through sounds and motions. Mothers will learn to pick these subtle signs with experience. For example, a hungry baby will suck on his hands/ clothes, stick his tongue out, suck on his lips and tongue, make sucking sounds, turn head to the side with his mouth open looking for food, run against your breasts, become more active and wiggle a lot, clench their hands into fists etc. If he doesn't get his feed even after trying out these, he will start crying. 

Babies cry when hungry?

We should not relate crying to hunger always. It could be due to any discomfort like colic, bloating, insect bites, feeling cold or hot etc. If a baby who has been put to sleep after a good feed starts to wail within an hour or two, check his legs/ hands to know if he is feeling cold/ hot, try to comfort him by giving him a burp. If he goes back to sleep, it is not due to hunger. Generally babies cry as a last attempt to grab your attention for food. 

How much milk to offer?

As a hungry baby gives cues that he is hungry, he will indicate when he is full. When he has had enough food, he will stop feeding, close his mouth and turn away from milk, reluctant to latch anymore, releases his closed fist, concentrates on the surroundings and becomes playful, drowses off to sleep etc. Usually newborns would need to be fed once in 2-3 hrs, as there tummies are very tiny. As days progress, along with their growing bodies, their tummies grow in size too. They will tend to feed more and gradually the number of times they need milk, comes down. There could be cases when babies don't latch properly, seem disinterested to feed, don't soil enough diapers, appear very weak or tired, sleep unusually long hours without waking for milk in between. These indicate that they are not getting enough food and it's time to consult your pediatrician.

Until when to breastfeed?

WHO and UNICEF and doctors across the globe recommend exclusive breast feeding from birth until the baby is at least 6 months old and continue breast feeding, supplemented with nutritious solid foods from 6 months to 2 years and beyond. 

When to introduce solids? 

Generally, it is recommended to introduce solids when the baby is 6 months old. By this time, the baby is expected to have good head control, sit with minimal assistance and grasp nearby objects. These indicate the readiness to intake solids. However, each baby and its development is different. Do check out with your pediatrician before offering solid foods to your little one.

Recovering from baby's birth, overcoming latching issues and nursing a baby at odd hours defying sleep can be very challenging and physically draining. However painful and uncomfortable it is, consider feeding as an opportunity to nurture and develop a beautiful and everlasting bond with your child.

Note: I am not a professional and all the views shared here are completely from my personal experience and understanding; and should not be considered as professional advise.

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