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NEW 2020 USDA FEEDING GUIDELINES FOR INFANTS WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW IN THE FIRST 12 MONTHS OF LIFE

Infants consume small quantities of foods, so it’s important to make sure that parents pay attention to what they feed their babies. THE KEY TAKEAWAY: MAKE EVERY BITE COUNT! We go over this in detail during your 4 and 6 month old well baby check. You will receive our detailed guide.

1. AIM TO BREASTFEED UNTIL YOUR BABY IS READY TO EAT, IDEALLY UNTIL AROUND 6 MONTHS (OR LONGER, IF DESIRED). • Your baby is ready when she has good head control AND does not have a tongue thrust reflex. Never force feeding. 

Breast milk is considered the best food for your growing baby, but babies will still need a daily vitamin D supplement beginning soon after birth. • If breastfeeding is not possible, infants should be fed an iron fortified infant formula. 

TIP You can easily find vitamin D drops for your baby at any grocery store or online. Look for brands with 400 IU of vitamin D3 per drop. 


2. FEED ALLERGENIC FOODS EARLY AND OFTEN. • When you introduce foods at 6 months, introduce allergenic foods such as peanut butter, egg, cow’s milk products (not fresh milk), tree nuts, wheat, shellfish, fish, and soy. • Waiting to introduce allergenic foods may increase the risk of your baby developing a food allergy to that particular food, so don’t delay! We will discuss this at your 4 months well appointment. 

 TIP It’s important that once allergenic foods are introduced, they stay in your baby’s every day diet. Parents can buy products that are a blend of these foods to make daily feeding easy. Make sure to look for products that cover a wide range of allergens, especially difficult to feed foods like shellfish or fish. 


3. DIET DIVERSITY IS CRITICAL. • This is the time to expose your infant to many different foods. Your baby may need to try a new food a number of times before they accept it. Don’t be discouraged, this is totally normal! • For breastfed infants: Make sure foods are rich in nutrients, such as iron (e.g., meats and seafood) and zinc (e.g., meats, beans, zinc fortified infant cereals). HELPFUL TIP Feed your baby a diversity of nutrient dense foods in infant-safe formats their first year of life. However, make sure to stay away from honey, unpasteurized foods and beverages, and limit foods with added sodium and sugars. 


4. MAKE EVERY BITE COUNT. • Infants consume small quantities of foods, so it’s important to make sure that parents are really paying attention to what they feed their babies. • Portion sizes are helpful to ensure adequate nutrient intake, but all babies are different. Listen to your baby’s cues of being hungry and satisfied. Let them be your guide on how much they should eat! 

 TIP More information on establishing healthy eating patterns in infants are available from: Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). 


5. BE MINDFUL OF BEVERAGES. • In general, infants should not consume beverages outside of breast milk, formula and small amounts of water. • Cow’s milk or any plant-based beverages should not be offered as a drink in the first year of life. • Fruit juice should not be fed, even 100% fruit juice. 

TIP Parents often wonder whether infants need to drink water. In fact, breast milk or formula should provide the hydration a baby needs in the first 6 months of life! Half a cup to one cup of water may be given when babies start solids.  Offer the infant formula, breast milk or water interchangeably from a cup. That way, infants learn that cups are not only meant for drinking water. If breastfeeding, go straight to a cup and not a bottle. 


Source: SpoonfulONE.com/USDAGuidelines 

Schroer B, Groetch M, Mack DP, Venter C. Practical challenges and considerations for early introduction of potential food allergens for prevention of food allergy. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. 2021;9(1):44-56.e1.

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