Quick-Start Infant Feeding Guide

0-4 Months

When it comes to feeding infants, every new mom has questions: What should I feed my newborn? What should I not feed him? What about giving him water?

Take a deep breath and relax. We have new-parent experience you can count on for your own peace of mind…and the answers you need to give your baby the best nutrition, right from the start.

What should I feed my baby?

What’s the best food for infants? The answer is simple: Your newborn will get all the nutrition she needs from breastmilk or formula for about the first 6 months. If your baby is breastfed, talk to her doctor about vitamin D supplements for her.

While breastmilk is best, experts agree that commercially prepared, iron-fortified infant formula is the next best thing. We don’t recommend other milk beverages (like cow’s milk or homemade formulas) because they don’t have all the nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop. Plus, they have too much of some nutrients that your baby’s body isn’t ready to handle. Bottom line: Cow's milk and homemade formulas are not safe for your baby.

What shouldn't I feed my baby?

For the first 4 to 6 months, all your baby needs is breastmilk or formula. Giving other things, including cereal, too early can hurt baby’s digestive system because it’s not done developing. Starting solids too early can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, gas, constipation—not fun for baby or you. It can also cause more serious future problems, like food allergies, diabetes, eczema and obesity.

It’s tempting to give your baby a few sips of water on a hot day, but he’ll get all the hydration he needs from breastmilk or formula. Giving your new baby water can be harmful because his kidneys aren’t mature enough to process it.

Juice and other sugary drinks will fill his tummy, but not with what he really needs: nutrient-rich breastmilk or formula. His body can’t process extra sugar, so juice can cause diarrhea. Also, too much sugar from juice and sugary drinks can cause future tooth decay.

What about cereal in the bottle?

Research shows that putting cereal in your baby’s bottle will not help him sleep any longer, and it may actually be harmful. Cereal in the bottle can make your baby gag or inhale cereal into his lungs. It can also lead to unhealthy weight gain. It helps to keep in mind that at this age, many babies still wake at night to eat. It’s normal, healthy and helpful, especially in keeping up your breastmilk supply.

Giving other foods earlier than 4 to 6 months can also hurt your baby’s digestive system, making him more likely to develop future food allergies and increasing his risk of choking.

Your life is complicated enough right now. By keeping it simple with just breastmilk or formula for the first 4 to 6 months, you’re doing the right thing for baby—and for your sanity!