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To make a baby meal plan, parents should keep in mind their child's age and nutritional needs and schedule foods accordingly. A baby's pediatrician can play a vital role in helping parents determine which foods are appropriate to offer at certain ages. Many babies eat according to schedules that suit their own bodies and growth rates, and their needs may not match another child's exactly.
Children have different nutritional needs depending on their age and stage of life. Most doctors recommend a baby meal plan that encourages a child to triple his birth weight by his first birthday. A more or less rapid weight gain than this by a few pounds is acceptable, however, a drastic increase or decrease from this standard can indicate health problems or an unbalanced diet.
Newborns must be fed every few hours to maintain their body temperature and rapid growth rate and can only drink breast milk or infant formula. Breastfed babies tend to eat less at each meal than bottle fed babies, and thus must eat more frequently. Mothers and newborns who are breastfeeding tend to discover their own personal patterns for meal time during the baby's first two weeks of life. Many mothers find it most convenient to nurse every two hours, beginning their countdown clock at the start of the nursing session, and nursing the baby for approximately 10 to 15 minutes on each side. Though it is difficult to discern exactly how much milk a nursing baby eats during each feeding, the mother can use a child's daily diaper count to make sure he is taking in enough nutrition.
A formula fed baby meal plan is often based on desire rather than a set routine. Mothers can learn to read a baby's hunger cues and feed him at those specific times, which may or may not be at the same time every day. A general rule of thumb when determining how much formula to offer the baby is to multiply his current weight by 2.5 ounces (70.9 grams) and spread that total number across 24 hours. Many newborns prefer to eat between six and eight times during the day, including an early morning feeding and nighttime feedings.
By a child's six month birthday, his baby meal plan should generally include one or two meals of solid food in addition to between six and eight breast milk or formula feedings. Baby cereal, whether rice, oatmeal, or wheat mixed with breast milk or formula, is a common choice for this first food. Other healthy options include pureed carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes. Doctors usually recommend that each new food item is introduced one at a time each week to allow the baby's body to exhibit any signs of allergy that may or may not be present. Breast milk and formula continue to provide the baby's primary source of nutrients and protein, so it is not necessary for parents to include proteins until around nine months of age.
The amount of solid food that a child eats will increase dramatically until his first birthday. Parents should consult with their child's pediatrician at each visit to determine which foods are appropriate for the next few months. Foods that commonly cause allergic reactions, such as honey, whole milk, eggs, and strawberries, are often postponed until a child has turned one year. As long as a child is continuing to gain weight at a healthy rate and is fed when he exhibits signs of hunger, his baby meal plan may be tailored specifically to him regarding how much milk or formula he eats and how many solid meals he takes in. His activity level and number of teeth may also play a role in determining how much solid food he eats because active babies tend to require the nutrition of solid food earlier, and can eat a wider variety of foods if they have several teeth present to break it apart.
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