One thing that many parents often wonder about is creating a feeding schedule for their baby, first time parents often wonder about this the most. The reason that so many parents wonder about creating a feeding schedule for their baby is that they want to make sure that their baby is getting enough food. Babies never come with instruction manuals and figuring out how much food your baby should be eating is an important decision that you will have to make. For the most part your baby will tell you how much food they need. To ensure that your child is on the right track with their food intake you can look at an average baby-feeding schedule.
Here is a closer look at a baby-feeding schedule
Birth to Four Months:
This is the easiest time to determine what your baby should be eating. The reason for this is that during the first four months of your baby's life they should only be given breast milk or formula. Some pediatricians used to recommend mixing baby cereal with formula or breast milk to give to infants as young as two to three weeks. The reason that they recommended this was they thought it would help infants sleep for a longer period. This practice is no longer used because doctors have discovered that giving infants some type of solid food before they are four months of age can increase the chance of food allergies, but it is also harder on a baby's immature digestive system.
Knowing what to feed your infant at this age is only one step towards creating a feeding schedule, you also need to know how often to feed your baby and how much to feed your baby. During the first couple of months, most babies need to be fed every two to three hours. However, breastfeed babies might need to eat more often than that. Eventually, you will be able to feed your baby every three to four hours because they will be able to go longer between feedings as they grow. Your best guide to how often they need to be fed is your baby itself. Your baby will let you know when they are hungry and they should be fed on demand. There is no need to create a strict feeding schedule at this age, much less enforce one.
Four to Six Months:
Your baby should still be receiving breast milk or formula as their main source of food. However, somewhere between the ages of four to six months your pediatrician will have instructed you to begin introducing solid foods. At this point you can safely begin feeding your baby solid foods a couple of times a day.
When you first begin to introduce your baby to solid foods all that you are really doing is giving them enough food to help them become comfortable with taking food from a spoon, and you are helping them learn how to swallow. During the first few weeks, you will want to give your baby only baby cereal, such as rice, oatmeal, or barley. When giving your baby cereal you will want to mix the cereal with formula or breast milk. In the beginning your baby will only eat a few bites, so do not get discouraged. When feeding your baby cereal it is best to feed them when they are a little hungry rather than starving. The reason for this is that feeding them solid food does not satisfy their hunger because they want milk instead of cereal.
Six to Eight Months:
Now that your baby is used to eating cereal, you can start introducing other solid foods into their diet. Talk to your doctor about adding fruits or vegetables first because some doctors think that fruits should be introduced first, because other doctors think vegetables should be introduced first. There are also doctors out there who do not think that it matters which is introduced first.
Rather than worrying about which foods you should be introducing you want to think about how you are introducing these new foods. You will want to introduce one new food at a time and then wait for at least three days before you introduce the next new food. You want to wait a period before introducing new food because you want to make sure your child has no food allergies. This also lets you narrow down the food that is causing an allergic reaction if your child does have one.
By eight months old, your baby should be eating three meals a day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition, your baby should be receiving plenty of breast milk or formula too. You can give your baby breast milk or formula with their meals in a cup, but they should also be offered breast milk or formula throughout the day. You can also begin giving your baby juice when they are six months old, just not citrus juice. The most common juice to give your baby at this stage is pear or apple juice.
Eight to Twelve Months:
As your baby continues to grow, you are going to need to add more foods to their diets. When you first start feeding your baby, you will want to give them foods that are labeled "first foods". The reason for this is that these foods are more like liquid, not much texture to them, so they are easy for baby to swallow. By the time that your baby is ten months old, they should be on foods that are labeled "second foods". This is important so that your baby can get used to the different textures of foods.
At this stage you can begin feeding your baby food dinners, which is a huge plus because they mix meats with vegetables and/or pasta or rice. These dinners are an easy way to ensure that your child is getting a well-balanced meal that they can easily eat. Also at the age of ten months, you can begin feeding your baby food from your own plate. When feeding them food off your plate you want to make sure that you can mash the food up, since babies at this stage do not have very many teeth. You also want to avoid foods that are considered choking hazards. For example, nuts, peanut butter, grapes, hard candies, hot dogs, etc.
Twelve to Eighteen Months:
Once your baby has reached their first birthday they should be eating all solid food. You just need to make sure that it is something that is easy for them to chew and swallow. You can feed them pretty much anything you are eating as long as you cut it into bite size pieces first. By their first birthday, they should also be on regular milk instead of formula or breast milk, although some moms do continue to nurse their toddlers.
After your child has reached one year old, you can also begin introducing foods that you could not before due to them being highly allergic foods. For example, after they turn one you can give them citrus, papaya, melons, strawberries, fish, and smooth peanut butter. You will still want to wait a few days between introducing new foods so that you can spot an allergic reaction in your child. You can also introduce honey once they have reached a year because the risk of botulism is no longer there.
Eighteen to Twenty-four Months:
By now, your baby should be eating everything that you are eating as long as it is cut into pieces or slices. You can start cutting into slices because your child will have learned how to take bites out of things by now. At this stage, they should be eating more than they were previously, but not by a lot. Your child should also be more independent by this age; they should be interested in feeding themselves, whether it is with their fingers or with a fork or spoon. While choking hazards are still a concern, your child can eat things like hot dogs or grapes as long as they are cut up properly, meaning quarter them do not leave them in a circle.
Twenty-four to Thirty-six Months:
At this age, a serving size for your child is going to be about ¼ the size of an adult serving. In addition, to being able to tell you that they want more and that they are done your child will also start to show a preference in what they want to eat. With this in mind, it is important to let your child make their own choices, but the choices you give them should be well thought out. You can still ensure that your child makes health choices by offering them healthy snacks.
At this point, you can begin to give your child dried fruit, but remember it can still be a choking hazard. To reduce the risk of choking you want to soak the dried fruit until it is soft. Another concern that parents have at this stage is that their children are eating less than before, which is actually normal for children. A guideline that you can use to make sure that your child is getting enough calories each day is forty calories each day per an inch of height. This guideline was constructed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Once your baby has reached six months of age they will no longer need to have nighttime feedings. Some babies will start sleeping through the night before six months, while others will continue to wake up well into their toddler years. However, all the experts agree that once your child reaches six months of age they no longer need to have that nighttime feeding and they should be eliminated from your baby's food schedule.