Infant Care

By:  Aaliyah Ellison-McPeters

Photo Credit: www.depositphotos.com

Feeding

Adequate and nutritional feeding of a baby’s first 12 months of life is essential to her future development. Most of a child’s growth occurs in the first year of their lives than in the latter years. When feeding newborns, they only require breastmilk or formula for the first months to provide them with all their essential nutrients. The WHO recommends breastfeeding newborns exclusively breastmilk for the first six months when possible. Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants. It provides them with all essential nutrients, energy, and antibodies. There are benefits to the mother as well, such as a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. After six months, solids are encouraged to be introduced, and babies are typically on a diet of a mix of breastmilk and solids. This can be continued up to two years of age or longer. Comparatively, formula feeding is another adequate form of infant feeding that meets an infant’s nutritional and energy demands. When choosing formula feeding, it’s important not to treat all commercially sold infant formula as a one-size-fits-all. Not every brand or type of formula is best for all infants. The FDA recommends iron-fortified formulas, and most commercial formulas contain iron. It is helpful to bring any questions about which formulas to choose for your baby to your child’s doctor. It is not recommended to make infant formula from home. Homemade formula can cause health issues for your baby and may not meet their nutritional needs. There is also a concern for an increased risk of contamination, which can increase the likelihood of an infant developing an infection.

Safe Sleep

Apart from infants requiring proper nutrition, safe sleep practices are also essential. SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the leading cause of death in infants. Implicating safe sleep practices in one’s home can help to prevent SIDS. The most common recommendation for safe sleep is that infants be placed on their backs in their sleeping space, such as a crib, with no other people. A crib should have a firm mattress and a fitted sheet, and there shouldn’t be any loose bedding, unnecessary blankets, or toys within the crib or bassinet as the baby sleeps. It’s also important that an infant doesn’t become too hot during sleep. Avoid placing blankets over an infant; sleep sacks or other sleep clothing can be worn to prevent an infant from being too cold. Weighted sleep sacks or other articles of clothing are not safe for infants. Room-sharing, as opposed to bed-sharing, can decrease the risk of SIDS by up to 50%, according to the CDC, and it is recommended that an infant share a room with its parents for at least six months. Breastfeeding can also lower the rate of sleep-related deaths, along with the absence of vices such as smoking and over-consumption of alcohol.

Immunity

Newborns are at an increased risk of developing infections due to an underdeveloped immune system. An infant’s immune system doesn’t mature until they are approximately two to three months old. Newborns are initially protected from the antibodies shared maternally through the placenta and immediately after birth through breastfeeding. Newborn immunity is temporary, so it is encouraged to begin vaccinations around the two-month mark. To avoid or reduce the risk of an infant acquiring an infection, limiting their exposure to the outside by limiting their contact with other people, especially those who aren’t up to date on immunizations, is best. High fevers (any fever around 100.4 degrees or higher) are a sign of a bacterial or viral infection and require immediate attention, particularly for babies under three months of age. Overall, being aware, breastfeeding when possible, maintaining a balanced diet, and being up-to-date with vaccines are the best ways to boost a newborn’s immunity.

Resources:

Abrams, S.A. (2022). Is Homemade Baby Formula Safe? HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved from: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/formula-feeding/Pages/Is-Homemade-Baby-Formula-Safe.aspx

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Breastfeeding. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/index.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2023). Helping Babies Sleep Safely. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/features/baby-safe-sleep/index.html

Crofts, K.F., & Alexander-Miller, M.A. Challenges for the Newborn Immune Response to Respiratory Virus Infection and Vaccination. Vaccines. 2020;8(4):558. https://doi.org/10.3390/vaccines8040558

John Hopkins Medicine (n.d.). New Parents and Newborns: Are Visitors OK? John Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/new-parents-and-newborns-are-visitors-ok

Stanford Medicine Children’s Health (n.d.). Infant Feeding Guide. Stanford Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=infant-feeding-guide-90-P02694

World Health Organization (2023). Infant and young child feeding. World Health Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infant-and-young-child-feeding

World Health Organization (n.d.). Breastfeeding. World Health Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_1

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