A Guide to Feeding: 0-12 Months
It is an exciting time in the lives of so many of my close friends, and they have each come to me with their most pressing and daunting questions before they become parents for the first time. This month, I will be focusing on the speech, language, and feeding development of children through the first year of life.
People are always shocked when I tell them I specialize in speech therapy with babies. “But they don’t speak yet! How can they get speech therapy?” These first months are some of the most important in your child’s life and will set the stage for future development. Even if your child is typically developing, these tips will help you ensure your child is on the right track. In today’s post, I am going to talk about the most vital of all behaviors—feeding.
1.To Breastfeed or Bottle Feed?
The most logical first question you will have when presented with your new bundle of joy is “How am I going to feed this thing?” Likely, you have put some thought into this before you’ve given birth. You’ve done your research, read articles, and interviewed your mommy friends. Of course, this is a personal decision and based on many factors, but I always suggest that new moms breastfeed. During these first few months of life, breastfeeding is an incredibly special way to create a bond between mother and child. Breastfeeding allows a mother to pass immunity against illness and disease to her child, fills the nursing mother’s body with helpful oxytocin to heal the body post-delivery, and creates a “conversation” between mother and child as you begin to learn your child’s unique hunger cries and develop joint attention.
If you have opted to bottle feed your newborn, I would still recommend using breast milk to take advantage of all the health benefits listed above. There are many bottle options to choose from, but my personal favorite is the Dr. Brown Bottle. There is also a wide range of nipples to choose from. Unless your child is having feeding difficulties, I recommend to stick with a standard nipple, rather than a slow flow or preemie nipple.
For those moms who have to return to work, it is important to trial bottles for your infant before your return. It is going to be a big transition for the whole family, so it is important to be prepared.
2. I Want to Give Up!
Breastfeeding can be difficult, especially for first time moms. In those first few days when you and your baby are learning this new dance, it can be very easy to give up. During this time, it is helpful to have the support of your partner, but also the support of moms going through something similar. Check for local La Leche League meetings or join a parenting support group, such as Nurture.
It is important to contact a lactation consultant and/or speech language pathologist if you are experiencing any of the following problems during breastfeeding.
- difficulty latching
- inefficient seal
- decrease in milk supply
- pain during breastfeeding
- sores around the nipple
- infant weight loss
Read Kristi’s story about her own breastfeeding journey.
3. Transitioning to the Spoon
Parents can begin to safely introduce solid foods to their child around 6-7 months. Some pediatricians may urge you to introduce cereals early, but this is not necessarily developmentally appropriate. If introduced sooner than your child is ready, spoon feeding can lead to gagging and later food aversions.
Because your child has only had experience with nipple/breast feeding up until this point, it is important to introduce the concept of spoon feeding—just as you would introduce any new behavior. To do this, start with a spoon that has a small bowl and a long handle such as the one made by Spuni or Oxo.
- Make sure you child is positioned appropriately in a high chair and facing you.
- Make plenty of eye contact and say “ahhh” as you bring the spoon close to the child’s mouth.
- Always present the spoon towards the front of the child’s mouth, and have the tip touch the bottom lip so that your baby will automatically close his mouth.
- Stop the spoon when it is just past the lips and model “Ma” sound so that your child can clear the spoon.
- Pull the spoon out while continuing to say “ma”, allowing the child to get all food off the spoon.
- Repeat as needed.
4. What’s the deal with “Baby-Led Weaning”?
Likely in your research, you have stumbled upon the term “baby-led weaning”. This means that you will bypass spoon feeding and will allow your child to feed himself using suitably sized pieces of food. Using this method, there is no need for purees, rice cereals, or baby foods. Your child will be eating the same foods that you and your family enjoy (with some limitations—of course you are not giving your 6 month old a piece of steak!). Many parents begin with softer fruits and vegetables (i.e. banana, avocado, strawberries) before transitioning to foods that are more difficult to gum and swallow. If you are thinking of introducing baby-led weaning with your child, I urge you to read the book for a step-by-step guide.
5. Babies Can’t Use a Cup!
It is hard to believe, but the easiest time to transition your child away from a bottle is when they are 6-7 months old. At this time, your child does not yet have any teeth, and he can quickly learn to modify his suckle reflex for cup drinking. Even better, your 6-7 month child is only just developing cause and effect relationships, so he will not be purposefully dumping the cup over to get your attention. I recommend starting with an Oxo training cup or the Munchkin Tumbler which both have a small insert that prevents all the water from spilling out of the cup. By using this set-up, your child can learn to modify the flow of liquid so that you can soon take the insert out and amaze your friends by showing them that your 7 month old can drink independently from an open cup. As an added bonus, you never have to go through the torture of cleaning those tiny holes in a sippy cup.