Nutrition - Early Childhood

Good nutrition for an infant's first year of life is crucial for proper development and good health. Laying a good foundation for lifelong health and well-being begins at an early age. Healthy eating behaviors are a large part of the foundation. Good nutrition practices can be challenging to families and caregivers.

Nutrition Counseling Basics - Birth to 1 Year:

  • Breast milk is the best food for a baby.
  • Babies double their birth weight in the first 4-6 months of life.
  • In the first four months of life babies only need breast milk or formula.
  • No honey should be given to a baby until after the age of one.
  • Do not put baby cereal into a baby's bottle.
  • Choose an iron-fortified infant formula.
  • Until four months of age, babies are unable to push the food to the back of their mouth for swallowing.
  • A baby can learn to drink from a cup at an age of six months.

Nutrition Counseling Basics - 1 Year to 4 Years:

  • Babies should not have cow's milk until they are one year old
  • Offer new foods at the beginning of a meal when a child is hungry.
  • Encourage "just one bite" of a new food if they are hesitant.
  • Do not give up on a new food; try it again another day.
  • Food "jags" are common among toddlers. They will get tired of the same food eventually.
  • Toddlers do not usually like casseroles. Keep it simple. They do not like their foods mixed.
  • Do not watch television during meal time.
  • Let a young child help with food and meal preparation.
  • Allow enough time for children to feed themselves.

Meal Time

  • Let children interact with each other during meal times.
  • Keep meals simple.
  • Children do not usually like casseroles and are hesitant to try new foods.
  • Consider having a "One Bite Club" and offer rewards to those who try new foods.
  • Avoid the "Clean Plate Club." Children eat when they are hungry.
  • Take advantage of meal time to talk about nutrition and how it helps their bodies.

How Much Formula Does a Baby Need?

The amount of formula a baby needs depends on the baby's stage of development. Newborn babies eat more frequently. During the first few weeks they may require formula every two to three hours. As their growth slows they might be hungry every three to four hours.

  • From birth to one month a baby needs 2 - 4 oz. of formula every 2 - 4 hours or 16 - 24 oz. per day.
  • From one month to two months a baby needs 4 - 6 oz. every 3 - 4 hours or 21 - 24 oz. daily.
  • From 2 - 6 months the amount may vary depending on when solid food is introduced into the diet. During this period, a baby needs at least 24 - 32 oz. of formula daily.
  • A baby should have 5 - 6 wet diapers a day.

How Will You Know When a Baby Has Had Enough?

  • A baby will turn away from the bottle.
  • A baby will fall asleep.
  • A baby will bite the nipple or fuss when you try to offer the bottle.

A Rule of Thumb for Portion Sizes

  • One tablespoon of every food served for each year of age. For example, an 18 month-old toddler can eat one and one-half tablespoons of a meat, starch, two vegetables and a fruit.
  • Never feed a baby from the jar.
  • It takes several baby spoons full to equal one tablespoon.

Other Thoughts

  • Do not put a baby to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, formula, or other sweet drinks.
  • Avoid letting a baby suck on a bottle for long periods of time.
  • Serve water to quench a child's thirst.
  • No more than three snacks per day.
  • Serve healthy snacks, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit the sticky foods like raisins, candies, and cookies.
  • Offer water with snacks.