Each baby has unique nutritional requirements to support the rapid growth and development of his or her brain and body. What your baby eats or drinks during the first year of life can have a major impact on your child’s current and future health.
Breastfeeding is by far the most natural and certainly the most ideal way to feed your baby. Aside from promoting maternal-infant bonding, breastmilk offers many other advantages. It contains all the essential nutrients and elements to nurture healthy growth for the first six months of life. It’s composition is perfectly suited for a baby’s delicate digestive system, so breastfed babies experience few of the digestive upsets, diarrhea or constipation that are often associated with the use of formulas. Breastmilk also adapts its composition to meet your baby’s changing needs over the course of lactation. Another major benefit of breastmilk is that it is rich in antibodies. Antibodies are substances created by the body’s immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses, and so help protect the body from illness.
When taken in combination with solid foods, breastmilk is also an excellent source of nutrition for infants older than six months. It is recommended that babies be breastfed for at least 6 to 12 months, or longer if both mother and baby desire. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, your doctor may recommend a Vitamin D supplement.
Although it is strongly recommended that women breastfeed their babies, for a variety of reasons some mothers may choose not to, or may be unable to breastfeed. When breastfeeding is not an option, the only acceptable alternative to breast milk is commercial iron-fortified infant formula. Babies should be fed either breastmilk or formula, or a combination of both, for at least 12 months according to American health guidelines, or for at least 9 to 12 months according to Canadian guidelines.
Today, commercial infant formulas are designed to imitate the content and performance of human milk, as much as scientifically possible. However, there are no formulas which are perfectly identical to breastmilk, nor as perfectly designed for your baby. But commercial formulas are a safe alternative to breastmilk when breastfeeding is not an option.
If you’re considering using formula to feed your baby, consult your doctor about the type of formula that is best suited for your baby’s particular needs. Formulas should be iron-fortified and contain the recommended levels of other vitamins and minerals. Additional vitamin supplements are generally not needed for formula-fed babies.
Despite popular belief, cow’s milk is not recommended for babies until they are at least 9 to 12 months of age. Cow’s milk is difficult for an infant’s immature digestive system to break down, and is not considered nutritionally adequate when compared with breastmilk or formula. This is true for all types of cow’s milk, regardless of whether it is skim, 2%, whole, evaporated, powdered, or in any other form.
Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.