What a Baby Needs to Eat

The first thing your baby needs to eat is calories. Calories provide energy and allow your baby to gain weight. Because of their need for weight gain, babies need a rela- tively higher number of calories when compared to adults. For babies under six months, they need about 50-55 calories per pound of body weight. Bear in mind that formula, recommended before the age of six months is 20 calories per ounce. Babies from six months to a year will need about 45 calories per pound of body weight. Babies will double their birth weight at 6 months and triple their birth weight at a year of age. The National Academy of Sciences recommends to parents and doctors that babies under six months of age receive half of their calories from fat. Between seven and 12 months of age, the baby should receive 35 to 40 percent of their calories from fat.

 Truly, babies are growing all the time. In order to triple their body weight at the time of their third birthday, they need to eat a lot of food and they need to eat often. Feeding helps babies grow physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Food and eating are social behaviors and children learn a lot by watching others eat and mimicking the behaviors of others

Nutritional Needs for Babies 

From birth to four months the baby only needs breast milk or formula. Some ba- bies get a combination of the two. Babies at this stage are fed on demand. It in- volves the mother figuring out which of the babies several cries means “I’m hun- gry” and feeding the baby until he or she is full. Breastfeeding mothers sometimes wonder if their baby is getting enough. In such cases, she needs to look at how comfortable the child is after feeding, how far apart the feedings are and, most importantly, how much weight the baby is gaining. If the baby is gaining an appro- priate amount of weight at his or her well baby visits, there is no need to be concerned.

 At this stage, some babies eat a couple of ounces every two hours while other ba- bies will get four ounces in every four hours. It just depends on the baby and his or her habits of eating. Feeding your baby on demand builds trust and teaches the baby that someone is always there for him. Babies tend to take in between 16 and 32 ounces of breast milk or formula during the first four months. If you feed your baby formula, try to stick to the same one as long as it appears the baby has no allergies or intolerance to the formula.

 At between four to six months, it will be apparent that your infant is interested in food. He or she may grab at your spoon or “taste” some food off the end of your 
utensil. It may also seem like you are breastfeeding more frequently than before and that your baby just isn’t getting enough. Your baby may wake up more fre- quently during the night than before because of hunger. He will be able to sit up and hold his head on his own so that the process of feeding solids will be easier. He will develop a palmar grasp, meaning that he can hold things and bring them to his mouth. Your baby will show he or she is hungry by leaning toward the spoon or may push away foods he doesn’t like or when he is full. There is a solid communi- cation around eating and you and your baby will be part of that communication. 

Your baby will receive about half of his nutrients from formula or breast milk and about half from solid foods. Ideally, your baby should eat organic foods that are free of pesticides, hormones, and other chemicals. A good first choice is rice cereal fortified with iron. The reason you need to give your baby supplemental iron is be- cause his or her iron stores are dropping to lower levels than in the newborn stage and the rice cereal fortified with iron will help build up the iron stores. Rice cereal is mixed with formula or breast milk so it will have a nice balance of protein, calo- ries, carbohydrates and fat. 

When you advance the babies diet, consider the following things: 
• What nutrients the baby needs 
• The readiness of the baby to eat the food in question 
• Whether or not your baby has allergies to the food or a related food Right after introducing rice cereal successfully, you’ll want to enrich your baby’s diet with vitamins C and A. This means foods like applesauce, dark green veg- etable, deep orange vegetable (pureed carrots or squash). Foods are added one at a time, not mixing foods until about three days have passed so you know there is no allergy going on. 

Actual Nutrient Requirements from Birth to Six Months