From birth to her 1st birthday, a growing baby
needs good nutrition to flourish.
Birth to 6 months
From the day she is born, breastfeeding gives baby the very best start to life—and the benefits reach far into the future. Breastmilk is nature’s perfect first food, tailor-made for babies providing all the vitamins, proteins and fats that they need for the first six months—no other liquids or foods needed! Breastmilk also provides powerful antibodies that fight off illness and build babies’ immunity as well as probiotics that aid a baby’s digestion and help build a healthy digestive tract. And amazingly, the composition of mother’s milk changes and adapts as baby grows. Almost all mothers can breastfeed—if given the right support, advice and encouragement, as well as skilled assistance to resolve any problems.
Breastfeeding benefits both mom and baby in many ways. Breastfeeding protects babies against pneumonia, respiratory infections, diarrhea and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and it can even lower the risk of developing obesity later in life. Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding also offers extraordinary brain-building benefits for baby as several studies have linked breastfeeding to higher IQ later in a child’s life.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend babies are exclusively breastfed (meaning adding no other food, formula or water) for the first 6 months and then introduced solid foods at 6 months while continuing breastfeeding. At 6 months of age, babies need more than just breastmilk or formula to support their rapid growth and development, so it is essential that they begin to eat a diet of nutrient-rich foods. During this time, babies should be experimenting with a wide variety of flavors and whole foods, especially vegetables, fruits and animal-source foods such as egg yolks, beef, fish and poultry. Take care to avoid giving babies foods with added sugars or processed foods which tend to be high in sodium and unhealthy fats.
What You Need to Know
- Breastmilk has all the nutrition a baby needs in the first 6 months of life—no other food or liquid needed.Breastfeeding has powerful health benefits for both moms and babies.
- New evidence is emerging which shows that breastfeeding—especially for longer durations—is linked to higher IQ
- Babies should start solid foods at 6 months. Be sure to provide lots of variety, especially fruits, vegetables and meats.