Doctors and midwives agree that breast milk is the best form of nutrition for your child in the first few months of his or her life. The following advantages ensure that breastfed babies will prosper and thrive:
- Breast milk is readily digestible.
- Breast milk contains all of the nutrients necessary for a newborn child’s development.
- Breast milk provides newborn children with their mother’s antibodies.
- The newborn child finds comfort in the physical contact of breastfeeding.
In addition, breastfeeding gives mothers a practical advantage: breast milk is always available, in sufficient quantities and at the right temperature. Moreover, breastfeeding has a positive impact on the mother’s state of health – and it is free.
Experts recommend breastfeeding your child when required – in other words, when he or she is hungry. However, intervals of less than two hours between feeds are inadvisable, because they leave you unnecessarily exhausted and have a negative effect on milk production as the breast is never completely empty. Once milk production is functioning well, your baby requires an average of between 6 and 8 feeds every 24 hours. At an age of three to four months, your baby should be capable of having six or more hours of uninterrupted sleep at night.
It is up to you to decide for how long you wish to breastfeed your baby. However, it has been scientifically proven that exclusive breastfeeding during the first four to six months of your baby’s life reduces the risk of allergic illnesses by up to 50 %. At an age of six months or earlier, you baby will need supplementary food sources to meet his or her heightened energy intake requirements.
Several Hirslanden clinics have been designated as "baby-friendly" by UNICEF based on the breastfeeding support they provide to new mothers.
If you decide – for health or personal reasons – not to breastfeed your child, or if your child receives insufficient quantities of breast milk, there is an extensive range of commercially available milk substitutes that are both wholesome and readily digestible. In the case of heightened risk of allergies, a hypoallergenic HA milk is recommended during at least the first six months.
During your child’s first year, it is recommended that you avoid full-cream milk, which is difficult to digest.
At an age of between four and six months, you can begin to give your baby additional food, e.g. grated apple or banana puree, vegetable and potato mush, soon accompanied by pureed meat. However, you should endeavour to introduce your baby to each new type of food gradually and one at a time (with an interval of approximately two weeks), in order to determine if he or she shows an allergic reaction to any type of food.
The following represents an optimum schedule for introducing your baby to solid foods:
From the 4th until 6th month: Vegetable and potato mush (e.g. potato and carrot), 2 to 3 times per week, accompanied by meat.
From the 6th month: Milk/grain porridge
From the 7th month: Milk-free fruit/grain porridge.
In the case of a heightened risk of allergies, you should avoid certain foods, at least during the first year of your baby’s life: Dairy milk, eggs, nuts, soy, celery, fish, seafood, exotic fruits, cocoa and chocolate.
Particularly in the first few months, be sparing with sugar, salt and fats, placing emphasis instead on fresh sources of nutrition that are rich in vitamins. At each meal, provide your child with sufficient fluids in the form of unsweetened tea or water.
The daily menu plan should continue to include half a litre of milk per day to meet your child’s calcium requirements.