Infant nutrition

Choosing wisely for your baby

As a parent, you want to make sure your baby gets the nutrition he or she needs to grow up strong and healthy. Today, most women are breastfeeding their babies. Breast milk promotes healthy growth and development and is the best food for your baby. Breast milk has just the right amount of protein carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals, and, contains antibodies and other immune factors that help protect against infections and disease.

For a young infant

  • Breast milk is the best and only food or drink your baby needs for the first six months of life. After six months, gradually introduce solid foods -- and continue to breastfeed for two years or more.
  • Babies who are breastfed should receive a vitamin D supplement of 10µg (400 IU) per day.This will prevent vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to a bone disease called rickets. When your baby starts getting enough vitamin D from other foods, you can stop giving the supplement.

If your baby is not breastfed, or is partially breastfed, commercial formulas are the most acceptable alternative to breastmilk until nine to 12 months of age.

  • By about six months of age, while breast milk is still your baby's primary food, it's time to begin adding solid foods. These foods help babies meet their growing nutritional needs. Formula-fed babies should also be introduced to solid foods at this time.
  • Start with foods that contain iron, which babies need for their growth and development. Meat, poultry, cooked egg yolk and well cooked legumes (beans, lentils, chick peas) are good sources of iron. Single grain, iron-fortified infant cereal such as rice or barley are also common first foods.
  • Introduce new foods one at a time, waiting about 3 to 5 days before trying another. That way, if your baby develops a reaction, you'll have a better idea of what food might have caused it.

Did you know...

Boil water for safety

Any water used in feeding infants under four months of age should be brought to a rolling boil for two minutes and then cooled to make sure it is sterile and will not make your baby sick.

For older infants and toddlers

By the time your baby is one year old, his or her diet should contain a variety of foods from all the food groups in addition to breast milk or formula. You can learn more about food groups at Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide.

  • Offer your child small, frequent, and nutritious feedings made from a variety of foods from the different food groups to meet his or her nutrient and energy needs.
  • Introduce pasteurized whole cow's milk at nine to 12 months of age. You can offer lower fat milk when your child is two years of age.
  • Avoid solid foods that are hard, small and round, smooth and sticky. These foods are not recommended for young children as they can cause choking.
  • Cook all eggs well and do not use products with raw eggs to avoid salmonella poisoning.
  • To prevent infant botulism, do not offer honey to a child younger than one year of age.

Other feeding tips

  • Always supervise your child when he or she is eating. Never leave an infant with a 'propped' bottle to feed themselves.
  • Limit fruit juice as children tend to fill up on juice and then may refuse other nutritious foods.
  • Avoid herbal teas or other beverages such as soft drinks, sports drinks or other drinks with caffeine or artificial sweeteners.

Did you know...

Want more information?

If you have other questions about infant nutrition, speak to your healthcare provider. Practical infant feeding resources are available from your regional Public Health Unit or community health centre. You can check out these useful resources as well:

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