If you are overweight, gained excess weight during pregnancy, had gestational or pre-gestational diabetes, read this. If your baby weighed more than 9lbs or less than 5lbs at birth, read this. These are all risk factors that increase your baby’s risk of developing obesity, diabetes and cardiac risk factors earlier in life. But you can improve your child’s health now, when he’s newborn.
Here are 8 easy steps to help your baby have a healthier life:
1. Choose to Breastfeed
They say “Breast is Best” and it’s true. Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has the perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat — everything your infant needs to grow and stay healthy. Breastfeeding versus formula feeding is an important nutritional decision that may affect childhood obesity risk. In some studies breastfeeding was protective against childhood and adolescent obesity. Breastfeeding is beneficial in many other ways for both you and your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Healthy newborns don’t need water, juice or any other fluids.
2. Watch Your Baby Grow
Your doctor will measure your baby’s height and weight at every visit and will chart this on a standard growth chart. Pay attention to which percentile your child is in and if she is crossing percentile lines (Percentile tracks where your baby is compared to other babies of the same age). For example, if your baby is in the 50th percentile for weight at her 3-month visit, but jumps to the 80th percentile during her 4-month visit, talk to her doctor about it.
Rapid weight gain in the first few months of your baby’s life is a risk factor for poor health outcomes in childhood and adulthood, including obesity, insulin resistance and elevated blood pressure. Both small babies (SGA) and infants of diabetic mothers large babies (LGA) are at a greater risk for developing obesity later in life. Make sure small babies don’t gain too much weight too quickly.
3. Feed On Demand
Babies have tiny stomachs and eat often. Most newborns feed 8 to 12 times per day! Expect variations in your newborn’s eating patterns. Your newborn won’t necessarily eat the same amount each day, but feed him when he’s hungry, even if he ate recently. Pay attention to hunger cues like stretching, sucking motions and lip movements.
4. Know When Your Baby Is Full
Your baby is likely full if he slows or stops sucking, closes his mouth, or turns away from the nipple or bottle. It’s okay if he hasn’t finished the bottle. Allow for unfinished feedings when full.
5. Crying Means More than ‘I’m Hungry!’
Babies cry to communicate many different needs. If your baby recently had a feeding, consider other reasons for why she is crying. Check to see if her diaper is dirty. Does she need to be burped? Perhaps she has gas and feels uncomfortable. She could be tired and need help falling asleep. Or maybe she just needs to be held.
6. Start on Solids at the Right Time
Babies typically start eating solid food between four and six months of age. Breastfed babies start solids after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. Your baby will tell you when he’s ready to try solid food, so watch for signs of readiness. Some of the signs are: your baby can sit unsupported; he can hold his head up high; and he reaches for food at the table. Start with iron-fortified cereals and advance to pureed meats, then pureed vegetables and fruits.
7. Start Healthy Eating Habits Early
Babies copy their parents. Your job is to offer your baby a wide variety of foods. Your baby’s job is to decide what and how often to eat them. Be patient, if your your baby rejects a food the first time you offer it, try it again. Parents may need to introduce the same food 10 to 15 times before a baby will accept it! Babies prefer sweet and salty foods and reject bitter and sour foods, so foods that aren’t sweet or salty may take longer to accept.
8. No Regular Milk Until the First Birthday
Don’t introduce regular milk (cow’s milk) until your baby’s first birthday. Infants need breast milk or formula until they turn one.