Feeding Guide: 0-5 Months

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Feeding your new baby is an important decision. Carefully consider breastfeeding versus formula feeding during pregnancy.

Please note: This information primarily focuses on nutrition for the healthy, full-term infant. Consult with a WIC Health Professional for more detailed and advanced information particularly for preterm, low-birth weight, or special needs infants or those with medical conditions.

Breastfed Baby

There are two types of breastfeeding:

  • Exclusive breastfeeding is when a mother only provides breastmilk to her infant. No formula or other liquids are offered. It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to exclusively (only) breastfeed for the first 6 months of life when complementary foods are added and to continue breastfeeding through 12 months of age and beyond as mutually desired by mom and baby. 
  • Partial breastfeeding is when a baby receives breast milk and formula. Mothers who partially breastfeed may have a hard time maintaining milk supply.

The longer a mother exclusively breastfeeds, the more benefits seen by mom and baby.

Supply & demand

Breastfeeding is a supply and demand way to feed. The more often a baby nurses, the more milk mom will produce. Supplementing with formula may reduce milk supply for this reason. If mom offers formula instead of the breast for a feeding, the body will assume the baby did not need to eat and will start to produce less milk because the baby is eating less.

It is always important to feed babies ‘on demand’. This means letting them eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full—not by the clock or how much is left in the bottle. 

It can be helpful to know what an average infant consumes each day:

  • Newborn will nurse about 8-12 times in 24 hours for about 20-30 minutes each feeding. Newborn babies have tiny stomachs, so they need to eat small amounts many time during the day
  • 5 week to 3 month olds will nurse less, about 6-10 times in 24 hours and length of time for feedings will continue to go down as baby gets older and becomes more efficient at removing milk from breast.
Suggested Feeding Guide: 0 – 12 months
Age Food Portion Size Feedings per Day Feeding Tips
0-6 months Breast Milk 8-12 feedings on demand. Gradual decline in feedings at 4-6 months. Feed on demand. Refrain from watching the clock.
  • Liquids are best because baby eats by sucking
  • Baby cannot swallow solid food
  • Watch for weight gain in the first weeks/months
  • Baby should have 6-8 wet diapers per day, after first week of life
  • Teething is starting at 4-6 months
  • Wait to start solids until close to 6 months old
Iron-Fortified Formula 2-3 oz
(increasing to consume around 32 oz at 6 months)
6-8 feedings
6-8 months Breast Milk Gradual decline in feedings. Continue feeding on demand. Feed on demand. Refrain from watching the clock.
  • Start baby food (purchased or homemade) about 6 months when showing signs of readiness
  • Use plain, strained meats one at a time
  • Offer one fruit or vegetable at a time, adding a new one every 3-5 days
  • Feed from spoon, start finger foods about 7 months
  • Start offering small amounts of water from an open cup after 6 months
  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 4-8 oz water for infants 6-12 months of age.
Iron-Fortified Formula 6-8 oz
(consuming 24-32 oz)
3-5 feedings
Grains
Infant cereal, bread, crackers
1-2 Tbsp 1-2 times per day
Vegetables
AND
Fruit

Plain, strained, pureed, mashed

1-2 Tbsp of vegetables

1-2 Tbsp of fruit

1-2 times per day for vegetables

1-2 times per day for fruit

Protein
Eggs, meat, poultry, fish, cheese/yogurt legumes; Plain, mashed, pureed
1-2 Tbsp 1-2 times per day
8-12 months Breast Milk Gradual decline in feedings. Continue feeding on demand. Feed on demand. Refrain from watching the clock.
  • Baby can chew, try new flavors and textures
  • Offer plain fruits and vegetables, no need to add sauces, fat, salt or sugar
  • Avoid fruit desserts and combo meat and vegetable dinners
  • Work in small/bite sized, well cooked/soft table foods around 9 months
  • Avoid foods that can cause choking such as hot dogs, grapes, raw fruits like apples etc.
  • Continue offering open cup, by 10 months offer cup more, bottle less with breast milk and formula
  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 4-8 oz water for infants 6-12 months of age.
  • Prepare to wean from the bottle at 12 months, whether you breastfeed or formula-feed.
  • Continue breastfeeding as long as desired by mom and baby!
  • If pumping or have frozen breast milk, offer by cup after 12 months
Iron-Fortified Formula 6-8 oz 3-4 feedings (6-8 oz each consuming 24 ounces)
Grains
(Infant cereal, bread, crackers)
2-4 Tbsp 1-2 times per day
Vegetables
AND
Fruit

(ground, finely chopped, diced)

2-3 Tbsp of vegetables

2-3 Tbsp of fruit

2-3 times per day for vegetables

2-3 times per day for fruit

Protein
(meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, legumes; ground, finely chopped, diced)
1-2 Tbsp 1-2 times per day

*Source: WIC Works Infant Nutrition and Feeding Manual.

Visit Feeding on Demand for more information on the signs of hunger and satiety (fullness).

Is my breastfed baby getting enough milk?

Mothers who are breastfeeding can not see how much human milk their baby is getting and sometimes worry if they are getting enough.

These factors indicate a baby is likely getting enough milk:

  • Gaining weight consistently. This is the most important indicator. It is normal for a newborn to lose weight immediately after birth, but should be gained back by 2 weeks of age.
  • Frequent breastfeeding and is satisfied after each feeding
  • Waking to feed
  • Can be heard swallowing constantly while breastfeeding in a quiet room
  • Plenty of wet and dirty diapers with pale yellow or nearly colorless urine. The urine should not be deep yellow or orange. (Infant should not be given any extra fluids besides human milk.)

Breastfeeding mothers also have indicators that the baby is likely consuming enough:

  • Tingly feeling during milk let-down. This sensation needs to happen at each feeding.
  • Breasts feel less full after feeding
  • Feel cramping in the lower abdomen which indicates uterine contractions in the first few weeks after delivery. Hormones produced and released during breastfeeding also helps the uterus to contract and return to it pre-baby form.

Growth spurts

During growth spurts, baby may need to breastfeed more often. This does not mean that mom’s milk supply has decreased! The growth spurts may occur at 2 to 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months and may last one to two days.

Wet & dirty diapers

A breastfed baby should have 6 to 8 wet diapers in 24 hours. A breastfed baby may have a bowel movement once per day or once with each feeding. 

Each baby will have its own schedule. During times of growth, baby may go several days to a week without a bowel movement; this is not constipation if the stool is soft when the bowel movement is made.

Supplements

Breast milk contains the right amount of nutrients for your baby and the nutrients actually change as your baby grows and develops.

  • Vitamin D is the only nutrient not adequately supplied in breast milk. Supplement with 400 IU of Vitamin D per day starting soon after birth. 
  • Supplements can be purchased at most retailers and pharmacies without a prescription. Visit with a doctor about supplementing with Vitamin D.
  • Talk with your doctor about an iron supplement at 4 months of age until the baby is starting to eat foods with iron.

Get more great breastfeeding information here!

Formula-Fed Baby

Iron-fortified formula is the next best choice after breastfeeding. Formula is made to be as close to breast milk as possible, but cannot provide the anti-viruses, anti-allergies, anti-parasites, antibodies, hormones, enzymes, growth factors, and more that is naturally found in breastmilk. 

Formula is fortified with iron because it is very important for brain development and helps to prevent anemia. Anemia, or low iron levels, makes infants and children very tired and can lead to learning disabilities and behavior problems.

Please note: Low-iron formula is not recommended because it does not contain enough iron to prevent anemia and it is not the right treatment for constipation.

Supply & demand

It is always important to feed babies on demand—not by the clock or how much is left in the bottle. Let them eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. See Feeding On Demand for more information on the signs of hunger and satiety (fullness).

Growth spurts

During growth spurts, baby may need to eat more often. 

The growth spurts may occur at 2 to 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months and may last one to two days. Watch for signs of hunger and satiety (fullness) to decide if you should prepare more or less formula for feedings.

Wet & dirty diapers

Baby should have 6 to 8 wet diapers in 24 hours. Formula fed babies will develop their own pattern of soiled diapers. Watch for your baby’s pattern.

Cow’s Milk & Other Liquids

Never give cow’s milk before 12 months. Why?

  • Cow’s milk has too much protein, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, and potassium.
  • Cow’s milk lacks key nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, linoleic acid, iron, and copper.
  • Too much protein and minerals are hard on your baby’s kidneys, can cause dehydration, and it is hard for a baby to digest.
  • Cow’s milk can cause bleeding from the intestinal tract.
  • Bleeding caused by cow’s milk increases your baby’s chance of becoming anemic (or low in iron).

Water

Wait until after 6 months to introduce water from a cup. Before 6 months always give formula or breastmilk if baby seems hungry or thirsty. Baby needs the nutrients.

Other liquids

Never give honey, syrup, kool-aid, pop, juice, or any sweetened drink to an infant.

Solid Foods

Introduce baby food (solid foods) around 6 months of age when showing signs of readiness. Look for these signs to let you know the baby is ready:

  • Holds neck steady
  • Sits without support
  • Opens mouth when food is offered
  • Draws in lower lip when spoon is removed from mouth
  • Keeps food in mouth and swallows it
  • Reaches for food showing they want some

See Feeding Guide: 6-12 Months for information on starting baby food once showing these signs of readiness.

Please note: WIC does not provide baby food until 6 months. At this age most babies are developmentally ready to try solids.

This post was last updated on March 31st, 2021 at 1:07 PM

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