Baby Feeding: Breasts, Bottles, & Beyond (cont.)

However, don't be surprised if your baby goes through a growth spurt and the number suddenly increases for a one- to two-week time period. Sometimes this happens. This is Mother Nature's way of building up your milk supply to meet your baby's new increased demands for food.

MODERATOR:
While breastfeeding is best, for some families, for a variety of reasons, breastfeeding isn't an option. How do you choose a formula?

DOUGLAS:
What you want to do is talk to your baby's pediatrician to get his or her specific recommendations. There are far more formulas on the market today than there were even five to 10 years ago. For the most part, unless there is a reason to recommend an alternative your baby's pediatrician will probably recommend a cow's milk-based formula as opposed to soy or other alternative, but if your baby is unable to tolerate cow's milk, your pediatrician will help you find an appropriate substitute.

What you don't want is to start switching formulas from week to week because your baby is fussy or experiencing constipation, diarrhea, or some other physical concerns. If you start switching your baby's diet around dramatically you can make your baby even more uncomfortable and make it very difficult for your baby's doctor to pinpoint any underlying physical problems.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I've made a commitment to nurse for one year. Does that mean that I introduce formula at one year when I stop? If so, how long does a baby need breast milk or formula to supplement regular food and drink?

DOUGLAS:
Babies who are weaned from breastfeeding before 12 months of age should receive iron-fortified infant formula. If you are weaning your baby after that point you can switch directly to cow's milk. At this point your baby is likely to be eating a variety of foods, including iron-rich meats and egg yolks, so iron deficiency if less a concern, and iron fortification is one of the reasons for offering a baby formula.

MEMBER QUESTION:
How long do you keep giving the baby rice cereal? Once they take to other foods do you cut that back or keep mixing it in?

DOUGLAS:
If your baby totally loves rice cereal, you can keep this food in your baby's diet as long as you'd like. There's really no reason to stop offering rice cereal, but you will probably find that once your baby discovers the exciting world of other foods that have a lot more flavor, the rice cereal simply isn't going to have the same appeal that it did initially. So continue offering other foods and see where that takes your little culinary explorer. Good luck!

MEMBER QUESTION:
My 7-month-old is eating rice cereal. When is oatmeal OK to introduce? Because I eat that myself for breakfast, it would be a convenient thing to share with my baby but I heard that 9 months to 1 year for oatmeal is more appropriate.

DOUGLAS:
You would probably want to initially offer an infant-quality oatmeal cereal, rather than the oatmeal you have in your kitchen cupboard, simply because it may be milled a little more finely, and therefore will be able to blend to a smoother, finer consistency. With young babies we always have to be conscious of the risk of choking, and adult-quality oatmeal might be a bit too paste-like for babies, unless you ran it through the blender while it was still dry and then really watered it down after it was cooked.

But in terms of timing, my sources indicate that you're fine to introduce all the single-grain cereals relatively early on, along with all of the various fruits and vegetables. The most important thing to remember is to allow a three-day interval in between each new food so that you can quickly determine if a new food is responsible for triggering any allergic reaction that your baby may experience. You would want to be on the lookout for such symptoms as hives, acute diarrhea, projective vomiting, difficulty breathing, and so on.

One mum I know kept a food log and she noted in this food log every time she introduced a new food to her baby. That way if her baby did appear to be reacting to a particular food, she could quickly pinpoint what that food might be.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I've been told not to feed my baby homemade solids (strained sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.) unless the vegetables are organic . Do you agree? I'd like not to have to worry about it.

DOUGLAS:
In a perfect world we would only offer our children the purest foods, including organic foods, but not every parent's budget is able to afford this. So I don't necessarily think that we have to limit ourselves to organic foods only.

That's the answer to the first part of your question, but I should also talk for a moment about the joys and advantages of making your own baby food. Contrary to what a lot of parents believe, it does not require a lot of work or cleanup or planning. I know when you have a young baby you don't have an abundance of spare time, so anything that sounds like a huge chore you aren't going to want to take on, but making baby food is actually a lot of fun, especially the simple kinds, like bananas. All you have to do is peel the bananas, whip them in the blender, and freeze the pureed bananas in ice cube trays. Voila, you have a whole tray of banana cubes that can be individually defrosted whenever your baby wants some bananas for lunch or dinner.

Turning cooked veggies into baby food is only one step more complicated; you have to cook the vegetables first. So in the case of carrots, you would either peel the carrots or use frozen carrots and then cook them fully, then put them in the blender along with a little bit of water, and puree. You would then repeat the same process of turning them into carrot cubes and defrosting them as needed.

When you consider how little a bunch of bananas cost compared with a tiny jar of baby banana food, you can see the cost savings. You also get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from making the baby food. Plus, nothing at your dinner table that can be eaten by baby needs to go to waste -- the extra cup of carrots can be turned into tomorrow's lunch. So I would strongly encourage parents to consider making baby food rather than spending a small fortune on the commercial variety.