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Publication #FCS8545

Feeding Your Baby1

Linda B. Bobroff2


Feeding your baby is one of the first things you do as a parent. It's also one of the ways that you develop a relationship with this new family member. When feeding goes well, everyone in the family is happier.

The information in this publication can help you develop a close feeding relationship with your baby. The skills you learn will also help you and your child avoid food "fights" during the toddler and preschool years.

Figure 1. 

International Breastfeeding Symbol


Public domain image designed by Matt Daigle / Source:

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Getting Close to Baby

Your relationship with your baby begins as soon as he or she is born. You communicate with your little one when you hold him or her as you nurse or bottle-feed. Parents and caregivers let babies know that they love them by learning what their different cries mean and by responding to their needs. You can never “spoil” infants by holding them and answering their cries with your attention.

The way you handle feeding is an important part of communicating your love to your new baby. Feeding infants “on demand” helps them feel safe and loved.

Sharing Responsibility

Did you ever think about sharing the responsibility for feeding with your baby? It may sound strange, but both you and your baby have a role to play in feeding! Let's look at your role in feeding and see what your baby's role is. This will help you stay focused on only your part, and will make feeding a relaxing time for you and your baby.

Parent's Role

What is your role in feeding? Simply put, you are responsible for offering healthy foods that are appropriate for your child's age in a friendly and loving way.

Notice that the word we use is offering, not “getting him or her to eat.” Simply offer nutritious and easy-to-eat food, and let your baby take it from there. For infants under four to six months of age, the only food they need is breast milk, so your job is pretty easy! If you are not able to breast feed for any reason, then you can use iron-fortified infant formula. When your baby seems hungry, offer breast or bottle (with pumped breast milk or formula) and see what happens. Hungry babies are eager to latch on to the breast or suck on the bottle.

Figure 2. 

Breastfeeding / Emzirme #4


Ozgur Poyrazoglu / License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 / Source:

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Baby's Role

What is your baby's role in the feeding relationship? Give your baby the chance to decide how much he or she will eat, and even if he or she will eat at all. After all, who knows best when baby is hungry? Baby does, of course.

And babies also know when they have had enough and want to stop eating. If we pay attention, we can respond to their cue and end feeding time. Even if there is expressed breast milk or formula left in the bottle, stop feeding when baby is done. Always discard leftover milk.

Feeding is so simple when we let baby decide when to eat and when to stop. The perfect time to feed your baby is when he or she acts hungry. Your baby may turn his or her head toward your body (rooting) or start fussing. When he or she is very hungry you will hear that special “I'm hungry” cry. The perfect time to stop feeding is when baby turns his or her head away and seems uninterested. There's no need to worry—your baby will let you know when it's time to eat again.

Feeding your baby this way may sometimes be inconvenient, but it will not last forever. Feeding on demand is just for the first year. When your infant becomes a toddler you will start to plan meal and snack times. But for the first year, let baby's hunger be your guide.

Baby's Best Start


Baby's best first food is breast milk. Breast milk is the perfect food for babies because it's made just for them!

Some advantages of breastfeeding are that it

  • has proper nutrient composition;

  • is easy for baby to digest;

  • contains immune factors that help to keep your baby healthy;

  • is inexpensive;

  • is convenient;

  • will help mom lose weight; and

  • supports close mother-baby bond.


Infant formula is a good choice for some parents. Family members can feed baby (although expressed breast milk also can be put into a bottle). Some mothers may feel less “tied down” if they bottle-feed. If a mother's diet is not adequate, or if she uses alcohol or drugs, infant formula is recommended.

Figure 3. 

"Dad will feed you."


Ryan Grimm / License: CC BY-ND 2.0 / Source:

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Be sure to use only formula that is especially designed for infants, NOT evaporated milk or fortified soy beverages. Powdered formulas cost less than those that are ready-to-eat. Follow label directions on the package very carefully. NEVER dilute infant formula to make it last longer. This can slow your baby's growth and development and is VERY dangerous.

To help develop the closeness that is so natural when breastfeeding, do the following if you choose to bottle-feed your baby:

  • Hold your baby securely but not too tightly.

  • Look at him or her and smile.

  • Speak softly to your baby.

  • Stop feeding when baby turns his or her head away, cries or squirms.

  • Burp baby gently.

  • Offer the bottle again after soothing or burping your baby. Let baby decide whether or not to eat more.

  • DON'T leave baby with a bottle propped in his or her mouth. Babies need to be held as they feed to make them feel secure.

  • NEVER put anything but infant formula, breast milk, or water in a bottle.

Whether you nurse your baby or use infant formula, you can have a close and happy relationship by following the suggestions above.

Keep in mind that difficult times don't last forever, but nor do the wonderful times. So most of all, enjoy every minute with your new baby—they do grow up so fast!

To get more information about infant feeding, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Educator (look in the blue pages of your telephone book). UF/IFAS Extension offices are listed at A WIC nutritionist can be contacted at your county Health Department (also in the blue pages of your telephone book). For referral to a registered dietitian (RD) in your area, you can call the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at (850) 386-8850, or check the yellow pages of your phone book.

Recommended Reading

Satter, E. Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense, Third Edition. Palo Alto: Bull Publishing Company, (2000). ISBN: 0-92352-151-8

Satter, E. How to Get Your Kid to Eat…But Not Too Much. Boulder: Bull Publishing Company, (1987) ISBN: 0-915959-83-9

Denver Health WIC. Human Milk, Formula or Both…What's Best? Available at [Last accessed December 23, 2014.]

Recommended Websites

Baby Food and Infant Formula— A guide to keep baby food and infant formula safe for your baby. [Last accessed December 23, 2014.]

Daily Food Plan for Moms—US Department of Agriculture. This site allows pregnant or breastfeeding moms to develop an eating plan that is right for them and their babies. [Last accessed December 23, 2014.]

MedlinePlus—US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. Providing research-based information for consumers and professionals in all aspects of health, this website is devoted to basic nutrition and health issues as well as cutting edge research and news related to infant and toddler care. [Last accessed December 23, 2014.]

Food and Nutrition Information Center—US Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library. This site contains a wealth of nutrition and health information and also is a portal for a variety of other informative websites that focus on all aspects of nutrition and health. [December 23, 2014.]—US Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health. This site provides a wide range of reliable information related to women’s health, including pregnancy and breastfeeding. Materials are available in English and Spanish. [Last accessed December 23, 2014.]



This document is FCS8545, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date January 1998. Revised January 2015. Visit the EDIS website at


Linda B. Bobroff, PhD, RD, LD/N, professor; Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.