Doubling in length and tripling in weight
Infant feeding matters! During the first year, feeding supports a doubling in length and tripling in weight. Rapid growth needs regular milk feeds; at the breast every 1-2 hours in early infancy to every 3-4 hours before starting solids. Formula-fed babies feed less frequently, mainly due to longer digestion time. Despite advances in infant formula, breast milk continues to be the optimum food for babies. It confers many benefits to baby, including educating the immune system and the development of a healthy gut microbiome. For mum, the return to a normal weight and reduction in the risk of breast cancer are key benefits. Whether feeding milk by breast or formula; this will provide for all the nutritional needs until around 6 months of age, when solid food introduction can begin. First milks (whey-based) are more easily digested and preferable for all babies than second milks (casein-based) – marketed for the hungrier baby. Whey-based milks are linked with better absorption of key nutrients like calcium and iron. Infant formula milks have to comply with legislation which keeps their composition very very similar.
Rapid brain development
Daily increases in the activities babies can understand and do, perfectly demonstrates their rapid brain development. Important building blocks for this development are the essential fats Arachadonic Acid (AA) and Docosahexanaeoic Acid (DHA). These fatty acids have been accruing in the brain and nervous tissue of the baby before birth. This explains the “pregnancy brain” many women experience, with poor working memory and forgetfulness. These essential fats are also found naturally in breast milk and have been added to formula milk now for the past 20 years. For all mum’s, especially feeding mums, a good dietary supply of these fatty acids is really important. Eat oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds and eggs regularly as part of a well balanced diet. High quality proteins and essential fats continue to be needed to support brain development right throughout the early years.
When should my baby start solids?
Your baby is ready to start solids when sitting up unaided, with good head control and ability to swallow. There is no magic date! Your baby may start watching you intently when you’re eating or put toys/objects in her mouth. She is showing interest and getting ready to learn what to do with solids. 4 months or 17 weeks is the earliest solids should start. At this age they don’t have enough control to manage this for themselves and generally need smooth purees from a spoon. When weaning starts a bit later around 6 months, baby-led weaning – where infants hold foods in their fist and feed themselves – is great sensory learning experience. Mixing and matching of both methods – pureed foods from a spoon and self feeding – is likely to meet the needs of most babies. Parent confidence is something that comes with time, but babies can actually show you – it’s natural and necessary learning for them. Just be present, giving them your full attention, eye contact, smiles and praise and let them explore.