Congratulations! You’re the proud (and nervous) parent of the world’s most beautiful baby! Giving your baby love and nurturing comes so naturally to you. So does showing him or her off to your family, friends, and even perfect strangers! But when it comes to feeding, you may feel a little unsure of what to do. Here are some guidelines from the South Dakota Department of Health.

What Foods are Best?

Breast milk or iron-fortified formula are the only foods recommended for the first four months of life. A breast-fed baby should be fed on demand. An average infant fed iron-fortified formula should drink about 2.5 ounces per pound of body weight. For example, a 10-pound baby should eat about 25 ounces of formula in 24 hours (10 pounds x 2.5 ounces = 25 ounces).

Growth Spurts

When babies go through growth spurts, they will eat more. A newborn baby may feed between 8-12 times a day, or even more. Growth spurts may occur at 2-4 weeks, three months, and six months, and may last 1-2 days.

AgeBreast milkFormula
1–2 months6–8 feedings or on demand6–10 feedings of 2–4 ounces each
3–4 months5–6 feedings or on demand5–6 feedings of 4–7 ounces each

Do not give solid foods until your baby is ready! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in the first six months, water, juice, and other foods are generally unnecessary for breast-fed infants. Formula-fed babies may be ready for solids between 4-6 months. Look for the following signs that your baby is ready:

  • Holds neck steady
  • Sits without support
  • Opens mouth when food is offered
  • Draws in lower lip when spoon is removed from mouth
  • Keeps food in mouth and swallows it
  • Reaches for food, showing he/she wants some

Do not give cow’s milk, honey, syrup, Kool-Aid, or soda (pop) to your baby! Breast milk or iron-fortified formula is best.

What Are My Choices?

Benefits of BreastfeedingBenefits of Iron-Fortified Formula
  • It is easy to digest.
  • It contains disease-fighting compounds.
  • It is less likely to cause allergies.
  • It helps mother and baby develop a special closeness.
  • It helps baby’s jaw develop.
  • It is always ready to go and cheaper than buying formula.
  • It has been found to help reduce infant obesity, respiratory infections, and diarrhea.
  • It provides adequate nutrition and is similar to breast milk.
  • It helps to prevent anemia (low iron in the blood).
Why not cow’s milk?Why not low-iron formula?
  • It has too much protein.
  • It is hard for baby to digest.
  • It has too many minerals and can be hard on baby’s kidneys.
  • It is low in vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and copper, which are important for your baby’s growth.
  • It does not contain enough iron to prevent anemia.
  • It is not a treatment for constipation.

What Can I Expect?

BreastfeedingIron-fortified formula
  • Breastfeeding is a supply and demand way to feed. The more often the baby nurses, the more milk your breasts will produce.
  • A newborn breast-fed baby will nurse an average of 8-12 times in 24 hours.
  • From five weeks to three months, your baby will nurse less, approximately 6-10 times in 24 hours.
  • A breast-fed baby will nurse an average of 20-30 minutes. The length of time will decrease as the baby gets older.
  • During growth spurts, your baby may need to breastfeed more often. This does not mean your milk supply has decreased.
  • A breast-fed baby should have 6-8 wet diapers in 24 hours.
  • A breast-fed baby may have a bowel movement once per day or once with each feeding. Each baby will have their own schedule. During times of growth, your baby may go several days to a week without having a bowel movement. This is not constipation if the stool is soft.
  • Breast milk should not be heated in the microwave, because it destroys nutrients and can cause hot spots that may burn your baby.
  • Everything must be kept clean. Wash the top of the formula container before opening. Wash bottles and nipples in hot, sudsy water. Rinse well with hot water.
  • Mix formula carefully, following the directions on the label.
  • Use one can of formula before opening another. An opened can of liquid formula is safe for up to 48 hours when tightly covered and refrigerated.
  • Formula prepared for feeding should be refrigerated and used within 24 hours.
  • Formula should not be heated in the microwave because it can cause hot spots that may burn your baby.
  • Formula should not be frozen.
  • If not able to keep formula cold, use powdered formula and mix when needed.
  • Your baby should have 6-8 wet diapers in 24 hours.
  • Formula-fed babies will develop their own pattern of soiled diapers. Watch for your baby’s pattern.
  • During growth spurts, your baby may need to eat more often.

Bottles and Storage

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in a many products, including plastic containers or bottles (with recycling number 7), as well as canned goods. While BPA's effects in humans is still being studied, some experts recommend that you limit your baby's exposure to this chemical. To learn more, read the article "BPA Raising Concerns."