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New Baby: Nutritional Requirements

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 24 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Breastfeeding Breast Milk Baby Formula

Babies start out tiny and helpless, but they don't stay that way for very long. Most babies have doubled their birth weight by the time that they are four or five months old and tripled it when they celebrate their first birthdays. This type of rapid growth is dependent on adequate nutrition, of course, so many parents express concerns over the nutritional requirements of their new babies.

Meeting Baby's Needs

Calories needed for growth will vary depending on a baby's size, growth rate, and activity level. Most doctors recommend feeding new babies "on demand, "meaning that babies should be allowed to eat as often as they wish, for as long as they wish. Most babies will do well with this method. If you are worried that your child may not be eating the optimal amount for healthy growth, your GP can give you an idea, based on your baby's specifics, about how much breast milk or formula that you should be feeding daily. You can then compare the recommendation to your baby's current intake to see if you need to increase or decrease the feedings.

Breastfeeding Benefits Babies

From birth through about six months of age, all of a baby's nutritional requirements are met when a healthy and adequately nourished mother chooses to breastfeed. Most breastfed babies require no additional vitamin or mineral supplementation during that first six months, although some doctors recommend Vitamin D supplements for babies who live in areas with very little sunshine or for babies who are kept covered due to cultural or religious traditions.

In addition to meeting their babies' basic nutritional needs, breastfeeding mothers also supply valuable antibodies to their babies via their breast milk. While many new parents worry that their baby will not get all that they need for proper growth and development on an exclusive diet of breast milk, most are reassured as their babies mature and grow well.

Formula Requirements

While pediatric nutritionists overwhelmingly recommend breastfeeding, not all mothers are able or willing to breastfeed. Commercially prepared infant formula is a reasonable alternative and babies grow and develop well on such formulas. Nutritional guidelines for baby formulas ensure that they are as similar as possible to breast milk. Commercially manufactured baby formula can be derived from cow's milk or may be soy based. Both are nutrient rich and able to meet a growing baby's needs for nourishment. No matter which type of formula is chosen, most pediatricians recommend that the formula be iron enriched.

While some parents have tried to create baby formula at home using a base of evaporated milk, this is not recommended. Homemade formula does not contain nearly the nutrients of commercially prepared formulations. If the cost of baby formula is prohibitive, parents should check to see if they might qualify for assistance.

How Much Will Baby Eat?

While every baby is different, most newborns will feed eight to twelve times every day. As the baby matures and is able to take larger feedings, the time between feedings will increase. Most babies will help their parents to judge the amount that they need to be fed by wailing when they are hungry and turning their faces away when they are satisfied. Parents can further assure themselves that their babies are eating sufficiently by keeping an eye on the number of nappies that the baby uses each day. Six wet nappies is about average.

Additionally, pediatricians routinely chart babies growth patterns at their check ups, so any growth problems due to feeding issues can be quickly noted and corrected.

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