Essential Guide to Feeding your Baby | Age by Age | Direct4Baby

Becoming a parent can be one of the most rewarding, yet challenging experiences you may ever experience. And, more often that not, many parents-to-be are faced with a growing number of questions around what to expect when your little one arrives. One of the more popular topics we regularly see crop up amongst new parents is feeding - including the hows, whats, whens and whys of all things relating to feeding a little one. If you find yourself often having similar thoughts and are looking for useful information on how best to feed your child, then keep reading our essential baby feeding guide.

At Direct4Baby, we want to help expectant mothers feel as confident as possible and having your questions answered and outlining exactly what to expect should help you feel as prepared as possible, whichever way you decide to feed your little one. Keeping both parents and babies happy and healthy, our essential guide to feeding your baby covers breast milk, formula, regular feeding times and everything in-between.

Breast milk or formula?

Whilst many health experts believe that breast milk is the most nutritional choice for infants, this may not be possible for many women based on their medical history, or lifestyle. For those who aren’t able to breastfeed, or who simply decide not to do so, formula feed is a healthy alternative to provide babies with all the essential nutrients they need to grow a healthy, happy baby. Another common concern many parents worry about that if they don’t breastfeed, they won’t form a lasting bond with their little one.

But, the truth is, loving parents will always create a special bond with their children, regardless of the type of feed they choose and feeding time will always remain an essential part of strengthening that bond! Whilst there are countless articles online and in the media weighing up both the pros and cons of feeding with formula or breastfeeding, ultimately the decision to choose either remains a personal decision only you and your little one can determine. You may find that when your baby arrives, you have issues with breastfeeding and revert to formula, or formula isn’t sitting well with your little one’s digestive system so you opt to breastfeed instead, however you choose to feed, let the decision be guided by what is best for you and your baby. feeding your baby from birth

Feeding your baby: From birth to 4 months

With the arrival of your little one comes an around-the-clock commitment to feeding, and whilst newborns feeding patterns can be unpredictable, this feeding period is an excellent time to start forming a special connection between you and your bundle of joy. Typically newborns will need to be fed at least eight to twelve times in a day with around one feeding every two to three hours. These feeds will consist of a single bottle of breastmilk, or formula, however, you choose to feed your little one depending on what is best for both your needs and your little one's needs. But knowing when to feed your little one can be one of the biggest challenges and so, parents should keep an eye out to look for early developing signs of hunger.

Small, tiny movements such as hands to the mouth, sucking on their fingers or lip-smacking are ways your little one may indicate they are ready for another feed. Learning how to recognise your babies small signs of hunger and responding to them sooner minimises the likelihood of needing to soothe a restless baby. Whilst this can be one of the most frustrating feeding periods for little ones, it’s important to remember to simply trust your parental instincts.

Many parents worry that their little ones aren’t eating enough or are eating too much day-to-day, but most newborns don’t stick to eating the same amount of food on a regular basis. During growth spurts your newborn may want to be fed more than often and after those spurts, this may settle again to a lower frequency, so it’s important to not dwell on how much, or often your newborn eats, instead, look for signs that they are developing as usual. These signs are key developments such as a steady weight gain, happiness between feedings and documenting regular bowel movements which can be anywhere between three or more bowel movements a day. If your little one isn’t gaining weight or is making fewer bowel movements than usual, contact a doctor for further feeding advice.

Newborn feeding essentials

If you’re soon approaching this vital feeding stage in your little one’s life - there are a number of products designed to make the process a lot more enjoyable for both parent and baby, allowing you to bond freely with your newborn. The Direct4Baby breastfeeding starter kit is an excellent example of this. Complete with a range of best-selling products, the breastfeeding kit features an award-winning nursing pillow from Ergobaby, manual breast pumps, muslins and much more. Whether you’re treating yourself to a complete breastfeeding kit ahead of your little one’s arrival, or you’re thinking of purchasing a kit as a thoughtful babyshower present they’ll likely get plenty of use out of, this kit is tailored exclusively to feeding and supplies parents with essentials they’ll lean on in those vital feeding stages.

Feeding your baby: From 4 to 6 months

Now it’s time to begin introducing little mouthfuls your baby will grow to love! As your growing baby reaches the four-to-six-months mark and becomes more active, you’re likely to be thinking about preparing for weaning. Whilst milk will still make up the majority of your little one’s diet for quite some time yet, as they start to move around and use lots more energy than before, solid foods will start to become an increasingly important part of their healthy diet. Your little one will usually find ways to show you that they’re ready to start the weaning process and be introduced to solid foods.

These tell-tale signs to look out for could be that your little one is now fully able to swallow food and are getting more in their mouth by closing their mouth around a spoon - goodbye messy bibs! They could also be starting to sit up and hold their head steady, or they’re directing objects towards their mouth. However, your little one chooses to let you know they’re ready for solid foods, try to wait for a combination of these signs, rather than just the one, to be absolutely sure your little one is ready.

When you do start to wean, smooth fruit and vegetable purées in mild flavours are perfect for introducing your baby to solid food. Another popular option to consider is baby rice, as this can be made with their usual milk to give them a familiar taste with a different texture. Whilst this process is unfamiliar, start by offering your little one a teaspoon or two a day to ease them into this new phase gently. If they take to it, you can then gradually build up the weaning process with more feeds a day, to eventually introduce new flavours. Try to introduce your little one to vegetables that are naturally sweet, such as baby carrots or sweet potato, as this is an excellent way to get them to enjoy vegetables at such a young age!

Introducing your baby to new foods

Each child is unique in their own little way and there’s no right or wrong way to start introducing your little one to solid foods. The most traditional way to start solids is to begin spoon-feeding your little one with purees, or infant cereal. However, some parents decide to opt for baby-led weaning, which is quickly becoming a more popular feeding method. Baby-led weaning involves placing chunks of soft food, either on a highchair tray or on a soft-tipped spoon in front of your little one, to encourage your baby to grasp the food and feed themselves. Not only is this method a simple way to encourage early development, but it also allows your little one to eat at their own pace and makes for a less stressful experience for parents.

Whether you opt for spoon-feeding, or baby-led weaning, begin with one daily feeding whenever your baby isn’t too tired or hungry. Your little one may take a few attempts to get into this new routine and may not eat much at first, but it’s important to allow them time to absorb the experience and become more familiar with the process, the more practice - the better! If you’ve got a fussy baby on your hands, don’t be disheartened, simply try again in a few days. It’s important to give new foods time, if your baby turns away from a particular food, try again in a couple of weeks. They may never like carrots, or they could end up absolutely loving them in a couple of weeks time!

However, it’s important to note that most doctors will recommend introducing new foods one at a time, which also makes it easier to spot any potential food allergies. Making a simple note of what foods you have given to your little one can make it easier to keep track of what they love, what they didn’t love so much and to note any potential allergies you can raise with your doctor. baby feeding essentials

Baby Feeding Essentials at Direct4Baby

Whilst feeding can be quite a challenging task for new parents, being fully prepared for feeding time with all the necessary equipment can alleviate some of the stress.

At Direct4Baby, we’re one of the UK’s largest baby retailers, supplying everything parents could possibly need for the early development stages of feeding. From robust, reliable baby highchairs from trusted baby brands such as Maxi Cosi and Mima, to essential milk storage bags and feeding equipment, our extensive collection is designed to offer parents complete peace of mind. Whether you’re gifting an expectant parent, or you’re preparing for the arrival of your own little baby, our online collection has everything you need to help make feeding time fuss-free.

Shop baby feeding essentials online at Direct4Baby.