Doubling in length and tripling in weight
Infant feeding matters! During the first year, infant feeding supports a doubling in length and tripling in weight. This rapid growth need regular milk feeds; at the breast every 1-2 hours in early infancy to every 3-4 hours before starting solids. Formula-fed babies will feed less frequently, due to longer digestion time. Despite the many advances in infant formula, breast milk continues to be the optimum food for babies, conferring many benefits to baby and mum, including immune system maturation and development of a preferential microbiome in babies, return to normal weigh and reduced risk of breast cancer in mum. Whether feeding by breast or formula; milk feeding does provide for all the nutritional needs until around 6 months, when the introduce solid foods is recommended begin. First formula milks (whey-based) are more easily digested than second milks (casein-based) marketed for the “hungry baby” and facilitate better absorption of some key nutrients like calcium and iron. There are a growing variety of formula milks available, although European law dictates their composition, so that formula milks are broadly 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 cognitive development are the essential fatty acids Arachadonic Acid (AA) and Docosahexanaeoic Acid (DHA). These are needed in relatively high amounts, and are supplied through breast-milk from maternal stores. These fatty acids have been accruing in brain and nervous tissue throughout pregnancy, and may help explain the “pregnancy brain” many women experience, with poor working memory and forgetfulness. For all mum’s, especially feeding mums, a good dietary supply of these fatty acids is really important. Maternal deficiency is reflected in breast milk, with good evidence that deficiency is linked to post-natal depression and the development of atopic conditions like eczema, asthma and food allergy. Mum’s should aim to eat oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds and eggs regularly as part of a well balanced diet. High quality proteins and essential fats from animal and vegetable sources continue to be needed to support brain development throughout the toddler and early years.
When should my baby start solids?
Babies are considered to be ready to start solids when sitting up unaided, have good head control and be able to swallow. There is no magic date! Your baby may start watching you intently when you are eating or put toys and objects in her mouth. She is showing interest and is getting ready to learn what to do with solids. 4 months or 17 weeks is the earliest solids should be started; at this age they do not have enough control to manage this for themselves.