A healthy diet for a newborn is easy. Most pediatricians say breastfeeding is best for baby. Commercial formulas also offer well-rounded nutrition if breastfeeding is not an option. But it’s when your newborn gets a little older that the question of healthy choices comes into play.
Fortunately, unlike most adults, babies don’t have to worry about eating to much fat. In fact, pediatricians say that low-fat diets can be harmful to a growing infant. Fat helps their brains grow, and helps their bodies manufacture certain nutrients.
But when it comes to sugar and sweets, that’s another story. Studies show that infants, while born with a sweet tooth, don’t grow up craving sugar and sweet foods unless they are fed those things at an early age. So hold off on the cookies, juices and corn syrup-filled treats. What your baby doesn’t know, she won’t miss.
Some parents, in the quest to keep their babies healthy, make their own baby food. If you want to do that, find a pediatrician that supports the practice. Making your own baby food sounds simple, but if it’s not done right, you expose your baby to the risk of food poisoning and malnutrition.
As your baby branches out from breastmilk and formula, you may be tempted to go overboard with fruit juice on the theory that it’s natural and healthy. Avoid that urge. While fruit juice is certainly more healthy than pre-sweetened, sugary beverages, whole fruit is better, nutritionally-speaking.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that older babies get no more than 4 ounches of 100% fruit juice a day – cut half-and-half with water to assure that it doesn’t cause stomach upset. And remember: under six months of age, the experts say a baby should get no juice at all.
Once baby gets older, and develops the ability to hold her own bottle, you may consider the various kinds of spill-proof “sippy” cups on the market. If your baby has the coordination to use one, they can be a useful way to wean them from the bottle. But it can be tempting to leave them filled with juice or formula all day, which can encourage tooth decay and stomach upset. Save sippy cups for meal and snack times.
Along the same lines, don’t put your older baby to bed with a bottle of juice or formula. Despite what you may think, your baby will not starve to death if he doesn’t have something to drink in bed. Pus, when they fall asleep with the nipple or cup still in their mouths, they can develop something called “baby bottle mouth” — a nasty form of tooth decay. Babies’ teeth are too few, and too cute, to risk rotting them out too early.