Supporting Infant Nutrition Nutrition during the first year of life is really important. While babies who are breastfed for at least 6 months are more likely to have a healthy weight as they grow up, mothers often report that breastfeeding is harder than they thought. And mothers may be more likely to stop breastfeeding if they feel unsupported and have nowhere to turn for help. And families that choose not to or cannot breastfeed have questions and need support to feed their infants in a healthy and safe way, too. Babies should be ready to start eating simple solids around 6 months. Babies who start eating solid foods too early are more likely to have weight problems as children and adults.25 Early care and education programs can support infant nutrition with the following practices:
All food brought from home should be labeled with the child’s name and date.
Part of the care plan that families share with their program and that is updated regularly, should be instructions for feeding. Families should determine how and what their infant is fed (as long as it’s in compliance with licensing).
Support parents with materials on providing optimal nutrition for their infant (such as the tips just listed).
Be supportive of mothers who are breastfeeding. For mothers who can come to nurse, provide a space conducive to that. Ensure the breastmilk that is brought to the program is properly labeled, stored, and prepared.
For infants that are formula fed, ensure that formula is prepared according to the label (or doctor’s instructions).
Hold all infants during bottle feedings. Not only does this keep them safe, but it is also valuable one-on-one time (caregiving routines are the heart of infant/toddler curriculum).
Follow the cues of the infant you are feeding (when they are hungry and full).
When feeding pureed baby food, use a small spoon and make sure you transfer food from a jar into a dish and throw away any uneaten food.
Have appropriate seating available for infants that are beginning to self-feed (high chairs, booster seats, or enclosed small chairs at a low table)
Provide unbreakable dishes to serve food to self-feeding infants.