Quick-Start Infant Feeding Guide

When it comes to feeding infants, every new parent has questions: What should I feed my newborn? What should I not feed them? Do they need 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.

Mom breastfeeding infant

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

While breastmilk is best, experts agree that commercially prepared, infant formula is the next best thing. We don’t recommend other milk beverages (such as 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.

Fruit juice in baby bottle

For the first 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, such as food allergies, diabetes, eczema and obesity.

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

Juice and other sugary drinks will fill your baby's tummy, but not with what they really need: nutrient-rich breastmilk or formula. Your baby's 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.

bottle next to baby cereal

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

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

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