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Your Baby's Liquid Diet: Feeding Issues in the First Six Months

Excerpted from

The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

By ,

In the first six months of your baby's life, the "E" in E.A.S. Y. refers to her liquid diet-breast milk, formula, or a combination of the two. It's kind of a no-brainer to say that food is important to your baby. We all know that every living creature needs to eat in order to survive. So it's not surprising that eating concerns are second only to sleep when I rifle through my call records, emails, and the postings on my website. And if you've read this far, you also know that sleep problems can be related to eating issues as well-and vice versa. A well-rested baby eats better; a properly fed baby sleeps better.

If you're one of the lucky ones, your child got off to a good start from the first few days of life. Babies are little eating machines at first, they're feeding all the time. Typically, most babies plateau out and start to take less liquid at around six months. Some parents will say to me, "She used to eat every three hours," or "My baby used to take thirty-six ounces and now takes only twenty-four or twenty-six." Well, luv, she's growing up! With growth also comes a change in routine. Remember, the 4/4 rule of thumb is that at four months the "E" in E A S Y, switches to every four hours during the day.

Both breast- and bottle-feeding mums voice similar concerns (especially at the beginning): How do I know if my baby is getting enough to eat? How often do I feed her? How can I tell if she's hungry? How much is enough? If she seems hungry an hour after she's eaten, what does that mean? Will I confuse her if I breast-feed and give her a bottle? Why does she cry after feeds? What's the difference between colic and gas and reflux-and how do I tell whether my baby has any of them? This chapter is the place to find the answers to these and other feeding questions. Here (and in the next four chapters), you'll see many of the same common complaints I introduced in chapter 1 But now I'll teach you how to troubleshoot and figure out what's wrong Then I'll give you lots of strategies and tips about what to do

Freedom of Choice

The way mothers feed is a matter of choice. Though I support any woman who wants to breast-feed and believe in the benefits of breast milk, I'm an even bigger believer in a mum making a careful, informed-and guilt-free-decision about how to feed rather than trying to do something that makes her unhappy or even frustrated. Some mums can't breast because of diabetes, antidepressant use, and other physical reasons. With others, it's a matter of not wanting to Breast-feeding doesn't fit with their temperament, or it's too stressful or a logistical nightmare given their particular situation. Still others have had a bad experience with their first baby and don't want to try' again Whatever their reason, that's fine. Formula nowadays has all the nutrients a baby needs

That said, breast-feeding is most assuredly in fashion. A 2001 survey done by Pediatrics magazine showed that 70 percent of all new mothers breast-feed when they leave the hospital. Around half stop by six months; others nurse for a year or more. (I also discuss why I think it's a good idea to do both-bottle- and breast-feeding.)

Is My Baby Eating Enough? What's Normal?

Everyone wants specifics-how much should a baby eat and for how long? See "Feeding 101", a chart that will take you through the first nine months, by which time your baby should be eating a variety of solid foods in addition to his liquid diet.

When you first bring your baby home, the "E" in E A S Y, often involves a lot of experimenting, sometimes two steps forward and one step back. If you're bottle-feeding, you might have to try a different-shaped nipple or a smaller one to see which is best suited to your baby's mouth. Or, if your baby is smaller and seems to be sputtering or choking at feeds, you might have to switch to a slow-release nipple-one in which he controls the flow, not gravity. If you're breast-feeding, you will have to make sure that your baby is latched-on properly and that your milk is coming in. Regardless of how you do it, though, feeding an infant can be a challenge.

The overriding concern of new mums is, "Is my baby getting enough to eat?" One surefire way to find out is to look at weight gain. In England, we send mums home with a scale and suggest that they weigh their baby every three days. A half to two ounces a day is the typical range of weight gain. But if your baby gains only a quarter of an ounce, she might still be fine - just a small baby. It's always a good idea to check with your pediatrician (and to look for the kinds of danger signals listed in the sidebar on this page).

With older babies, weight gain can be a tricky matter. If you consult a growth chart, or your pediatrician refers to one, remember that they're designed for average children. Some babies are just bigger, some smaller. The old growth charts, originally designed in the fifties, were based on formula-fed babies, so don't be alarmed if your breast-fed baby doesn't measure up. Breast-fed babies often don't gain as much as formula-fed babies, at least in the first six weeks. Depending on the mother's health and diet - say she doesn't eat enough carbs, which makes her breast milk higher in fat-her breast milk may not be as fattening as formula, which consistently delivers the same nutritional value. Also, if your baby starts out less than six pounds, he'll follow a lower-weight curve than a baby who weighs more.

As I explained in chapter 1, smaller babies naturally consume less and in the beginning have to eat more often. Review the "E A S Y, by the Pound" chart to make sure that you take birth weight into account and don't have unrealistic expectations about your baby's consumption.

Tags: Babies and Toddlers