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Why is nutrition important for young children?

Good nutrition is important for young children to help them grow healthy and strong.

Nutrition needs change during early childhood. For example, exclusive breast milk is the recommended source of nutrition for babies for about 6 months of life. As children grow older their nutrient needs increase and solid foods are added to the breast milk or infant formula feeding diet to meet these needs.

Will putting cereal in a bottle help my baby sleep longer?

No, putting infant cereal in your baby’s bottle will not make him or her sleep longer and could increase your baby’s risk of choking.

Is it safe for mothers to use medications while breastfeeding?

Although many medications do pass into breast milk, most have no effect on breast milk supply or on infant well-being.

You can search for more information about a specific medication at LactMed®. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have questions or concerns about taking medications while breastfeeding.

Visit CDC’s Breastfeeding Prescription Medication Use page to learn more.

Why does my child need vitamin D? Can he/she get enough vitamin D from sunlight?

Vitamin D is needed to support healthy bone development and to prevent rickets, a condition that causes weak bones. Vitamin D deficiency rickets is rare, but it can occur if your child does not receive additional vitamin D from his or her diet, a vitamin supplement, or from adequate exposure to sunlight.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping infants younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight and protecting them with clothing and hats to decrease their risk of skin cancer. Sunlight is not a consistent source of vitamin D and there are a number of factors that determine the amount of vitamin D a child will synthesize from sunlight.  Factors that interfere with vitamin D production include:

  • Living at high latitudes (closer to the Polar Regions), particularly during winter months.
  • Air quality conditions: high levels of air pollution.
  • Weather conditions: dense cloud covering.
  • The degree to which clothing covers the skin.
  • Use of sunscreen.
  • Skin pigmentation: darker skin types.

Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse if you would like help making sure your child is getting enough vitamin D.

How do I know my newborn is getting enough to eat?

There are several ways you can tell if your baby is getting enough to eat. Having regular wet and dirty diapers are signs your baby is eating enough. In addition, your child’s doctor or nurse can check his or her weight and length to make sure he or she is growing well. These measurements are usually done at the well-baby visits. If you have questions about your baby’s growth, talk to his or her doctor or nurse.

If I am breastfeeding, can I give my baby a pacifier?

If you are breastfeeding your baby, you may want to wait to use a pacifier until breastfeeding is well-established. At that time, using a pacifier for naps and at bedtime can help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Can toddlers be breastfed?

Yes. Breastfeeding is great for toddlers too. Women who choose to breastfeed are encouraged to continue breastfeeding until their babies are at least 12 months old, and then as long as mom and baby want to continue. For more information, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics Breastfeeding Recommendation [PDF-805KB].

How much do I feed my baby if he or she is getting both breast milk and infant formula?

Feeding either breast milk and/or infant formula may affect how often a baby eats. For babies who are receiving both breast milk and infant formula, how much and how often a baby eats may be different than for babies who receive only breast milk or only infant formula. If you have questions about your baby’s feeding patterns, talk with his or her doctor or nurse.

When can I introduce solid foods to my baby?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be introduced to complementary foodsaround 6 months of age or when the child is developmentally ready.

How do I know my baby is developmentally ready for solid foods?

Here are a few key signs to look for to help determine if your baby is ready for solid foods:

If you notice your baby:

  • Is able to sit in a high chair, feeding seat, or infant seat with good head control.
  • Reaches for food or seems eager to eat.
  • Can move objects toward his or her mouth.

What solid foods should my baby eat first?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that for most babies, you do not need to give foods in a certain order. Your baby can eat a variety of foods from different food groups by the time he or she is 7 or 8 months old. These foods include baby infant cereals, meat, fruits, vegetables, grains, and more.

Do I need to worry about arsenic in my infant cereal?

If your child is eating infant cereals, it is important to offer a variety of infant cereals such as oat, barley, and multi-grain instead of only rice cereal. Only providing infant rice cereal is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration because there is a risk for infants to be exposed to arsenic. Visit the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to learn more.

Are there any tips for picky eaters or helping my child try new foods?

It can be hard for your child to try new foods. Do not be discouraged if your child does not like a new food on the first try, or even the second or third. It may take time to get used to some foods. Babies may need to try some foods more than 10 times before they like them. We have some great tips to help you now.

How long do I wait between introducing new foods to my child?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you start by introducing one food at a time and waiting 3 to 5 days between each new food. This helps you see how your child reacts to a new food.