On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

Proper Nutrition for Oklahoma’s Babies

According to Zero to Three, a national nonprofit organization that provides parents, professionals and policymakers the knowledge to nurture early childhood development, a baby’s early nutrition can contribute to a strong (or fragile) health foundation that will affect the rest of his or her life. For the first year, transitioning from breastfeeding to solid food will take practice and patience, but the healthy rewards are worth it. Here are some tips for properly feeding your infant.

Breastfeeding

Evidence is well-established on the short and long-term positive health impact of breastfeeding and lactation on both infant and mother. Often, parents fear that breast milk isn’t enough for their babies, but breast milk is nature’s full-course meal. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, breastfeeding is one of the most important ways you can help your baby reach his or her full potential for health and growth. Need more convincing? The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests exclusive breastfeeding for the first year of your baby’s life. Babies who breastfeed for at least the first six months are less likely to be overweight, and their risk for type 2 diabetes is decreased by 40 percent. The OSDH fervently encourages Oklahoma women to breastfeed, and their efforts are succeeding. According to the OSDH, Oklahoma’s breastfeeding rate is actually one of the highest in the nation. Oklahoma women who participate in WIC, the government funded supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, are also setting records, with a breastfeeding rate of 82 percent in 2015. OSDH has partnered with the Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates and the Oklahoma BirthNetwork to recognize breastfeeding-friendly worksites. You can view the list on OK.gov. Another way the OSDH encourages breastfeeding is by creating a 24/7 Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline, 1-877-271-MILK (6455), so breastfeeding mothers can receive professional lactation support. In addition, INTEGRIS lactation consultants also provide free support via their breastfeeding hotline at 405-949-3405. INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center has been recognized as a Baby-Friendly Hospital, which focuses on breastfeeding education and support, safe infant feeding practices and bonding initiatives like skin-to-skin contact. There are more than 20,000 designated Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers worldwide. Currently there are 234 active Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers in the United States. The Baby-Friendly designation is given after a rigorous on-site survey is completed. The Baby-Friendly initiative is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund.

Formula Feeding

For mothers who can’t breastfeed, there are plenty of formula options to keep your baby healthy and full. According to HealthyChildren.org, infants need around 2 ounces of formula every 2 to 3 hours, which you should increase as your baby grows. Make sure you hold the bottle until your baby is old enough to hold it independently. Never use a pillow or other items to prop up the bottle, as this can prevent your baby from spitting out the bottle when he or she is done eating. Propping up the bottle is also a choking and overeating hazard. Formula is always a better choice than cow’s milk because babies cannot digest cow’s milk as easily. Cow’s milk also contains high protein and minerals, which can actually cause severe illnesses. To learn more about the benefits of formula feeding, read HealthyChildren.org’s blog: “Why Formula Instead of Cow’s Milk?”

Introducing Solid Food

The AAP suggests breast milk or formula in a bottle should be the only sources of food for infants 0 to 6 months old. After your baby hits the 6 month mark, solid food should be introduced, as this is important for your baby’s development. Don’t start too early, however, as babies who feed on solid food before 6 months have a higher rate of obesity in adulthood, according to the AAP. When first introducing your baby to solid food, start with 1 to 2 tablespoons and gradually increase to 3 to 4 tablespoons as he or she gets older. Try a variety of foods such as pureed carrots, peas, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables. It may take your baby 10 to 15 tries before she will accept a new food, but don’t give up! At the 9 month mark, start introducing finger foods that babies can feed themselves. Try small, healthy snacks 2 to 3 times per day, such as cereal and crackers. Avoid anything that can cause a choking hazard such as grapes or nuts, and tear larger breads into bite-size pieces. Try to avoid letting your children have juice until the child is a toddler, but if you do introduce it earlier, wait until the 6 to 9 month mark and limit consumption to 4 to 6 ounces (AAP). For more information about your infant’s nutritional needs, contact an INTEGRIS pediatrician near you.

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