Feeding: the first 12 months

Big changes ... from breast to bottle to weaning and solids, there's a lot of changes in your child's diet in the first ...
Big changes ... from breast to bottle to weaning and solids, there's a lot of changes in your child's diet in the first year of life. 

Eating and sleeping. Who would think two such pleasurable and seemingly easy functions could cause so much stress and anxiety? Well, ask any parent of a newborn and they’ll tell you! In a recent post we talked about the sleeping habits of babies in the first 12 months, so now we’ll look at feeding.

From birth, breast is undeniably best. That fact is heavily promoted throughout hospitals and infant support services, and currently 92 percent of Australian babies are exclusively breastfed at birth. However, after one month only 71 percent are still fully breastfed, with the rates dropping to 46 percent by four months.

This is a declining rate health organisations are trying to reverse, with the benefits of breastfeeding overwhelmingly positive for both babies and mothers. Breastfeeding can protect against infection and some chronic diseases, and is linked with optimal development in early years. Breastmilk contains all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months of life.

However, successful breastfeeding doesn’t always come easily, and mothers need support and information to continue breastfeeding for as long as they’re comfortable. If you’re breastfeeding and have concerns, talk to your child health nurse or GP, contact a lactation consultant, or call the Australian Breastfeeding Association hotline on 1800 686 268.

When breastfeeding new mothers can often be concerned their baby isn’t getting enough milk. There are ways to tell if your child is getting sufficient amounts of milk, but as a general rule, newborns babies need at least eight breastfeeds in 24 hours – although many young babies may need more than this number, with an average of 11.

If you’re breastfeeding and have concerns, talk to your child health nurse, GP, lactation consultant or the Australian Breastfeeding Association

At some stage within the first 12 months of life most babies will move to formula feeding, either as a supplement or exclusively. Cows milk or soy milk isn’t suitable for babies until 12 months of age.

Always follow the directions on the formula tin when preparing it for your baby. It’s also important that you sterilise the bottle properly, or you’ll risk making your baby sick.

When it comes to how much your baby needs, a full term healthy infant should get, on average, 150ml of formula per kilogram of body weight per day from when they’re five days to three months old. From three to six months, this reduces to 120ml per kilo of body weight per day, then 90-120ml per kilo of body weight per day from six to 12 months.

When your baby is between four and six months it’s time to start introducing solids. You can begin by slowly introducing one food at a time, starting with a little bit of baby cereal (mixed with breastmilk or formula), and moving on to cooked pureed fruit (apple, pear) or vegetables (potato, pumpkin, carrot). Read our article on starting solids for more information on this topic, including recipe ideas.

By 12 months of age your baby is ready to eat a little of what the rest of the family is eating – as long as you cut food into small pieces. By that age, your baby can also move to plain pasteurized full-fat milk.

And then – congratulations, you’ve made it through your baby’s first 12 months of feeding. From now on your life won’t be quite as revolved around this topic. Well, until they turn into a fussy toddler that is … but that’s a worry for another day!