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Expert Q&A: Meeting Your Baby's Nutrition Needs

An interview with pediatrician Stephen Parker, MD.

Does it matter if you give bottle or food first?

It doesn’t really matter. Many people give food first and then the milk as a chaser, especially before sleep, because the milk calms the baby down. Also, babies can regulate their milk intake based on what they’ve eaten. But it really doesn’t matter which comes first and which comes second.

What if your baby doesn’t like new foods?

That’s called “neophobia.” Many babies don’t like a food when it’s first introduced. It takes an average of three to four times trying a new food before they’ll take to it. That’s par for the course.

There are really picky babies, of course, but expect neophobia from most babies. Something they hate at 5 months, they may love at 8 months. Keep offering new foods gently and with good humor, and they’ll take to them eventually.

What if your baby is one of the really picky eaters?

The biggest rule is: Never to try to force them to eat. Make mealtime pleasant and fun -- they need to enjoy it or they’ll eat even less. Most babies, even if they’re very picky, will take enough of whatever it is they like to stay healthy. It’s very rare that a baby is so picky that they won’t grow if you let them eat what they want.

Perhaps give a supplemental vitamin if they’re sticking with one kind of food. Keep offering other foods regularly, put them away for a while if they don’t like it, and try again later. With a really picky eater, no games or tricks work except time. Parents make it worse by fighting with them and trying to force the things they don’t like.

What should parents do if their baby is overweight?

It’s certainly possible for babies to be overweight, and there definitely is a genetic component to that. Some babies put on weight more easily even with taking in the same amount of calories.

Do we need to worry about it? That’s a hard one. It can be a marker that this baby is susceptible to being overweight as a child. You don’t want to put a baby on a diet, but with some babies you might want to restrict the more fattening things -- maybe offering a little less milk and more fruits and vegetables to keep their weight at a reasonable level for their height. Talk to your pediatrician about this.

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