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Breastfeeding & Infant Nutrition

For the best possible start in life, the Public Health Agency of Canada supports and promotes breastfeeding as the normal and unequalled way to provide optimal nutritional, immunological and emotional nurturing of infants.

Additional resources and links are provided below.

Revised Breastfeeding Publications

10 Valuable Tips for Successful Breastfeeding |10 Great Reasons to Breastfeed your Baby

10 Valuable Tips for Successful Breastfeeding    10 Great Reasons to Breastfeed your Baby 

What should I know about feeding my newborn baby?

Today, most women are breastfeeding their babies. Breast milk is the best food you can offer your baby. Health Canada and the World Health Organization recommend that it should be the only food or drink for the first 6 months of life and after that breastfeeding should continue - with the gradual introduction of solid foods - for 2 years and more.

Breast milk is the best food for your baby to grow and develop. It is naturally and uniquely produced by each mother for her own baby. As your baby grows your milk will change to meet your baby's needs and is the easiest milk of all for your baby to digest. Breast milk has just the right amount of protein carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals, and, contains antibodies and other immune factors that help protect against infections and disease - benefits that last a lifetime. Breastfeeding is important for mothers' health too and nurtures a special relationship between mother and baby.

Babies who are breastfed should receive a daily vitamin D supplementExternal Link of 10ug (400 IU), from birth until one year of age. This will prevent vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to a bone disease called rickets.

There are rarely reasons not to breastfeed. If you smoke, you can still breastfeed, but you should consider cutting back or quitting smoking External link altogether. You should also avoid drinking alcohol. If you are very sick or taking prescription medication, talk to your doctor.

Breastfeeding is natural, but it may take time for you and your baby to learn to breastfeed. It can take up to six weeks or longer to establish breastfeeding, so don't give up - it is important for your baby. If you need some advice or support there are many groups and individuals available to help you, including:

mother breastfeeding

They have experience with the challenges you might face, and understand how you feel.

Whether or not you are breastfeeding, feeding a baby is an opportunity to bond. Mothers and fathers can make the most of the feeding experience by holding the baby close, talking softly and looking into the baby's eyes.

What other liquids are appropriate for babies?

For the first six months breast milk is all the food and drink your baby needs for optimal growth and development. Exclusively breastfed babies don't need any other liquids (except their vitamin D supplements). If your doctor recommends you give water to an infant under six months, it should be boiled for at least 2 minutes. Babies should not be given herbal teas or other drinks.

When should I introduce solids?

By six months of age, although breast milk or formula is still your baby's primary food, it's time to begin adding solid foods. These foods help babies meet their growing nutritional needs. By about 6 months, most babies cannot get everything they need from breast milk alone.

There are many ways to introduce solid food. The first foods usually vary from culture to culture and from family to family. Start with foods that contain iron, which babies need for their healthy growth and brain development. Meat, meat alternatives (e.g., eggs, tofu, legumes (beans, lentils, chick peas)) and iron-fortified infant cereals are good sources of iron. Offer your baby iron-rich foods two or more times each day. The iron in meat, fish and poultry is the easiest for our bodies to absorb and use, so try to include them every day.

Introduce new foods one at a time. That way, if your baby develops a reaction, you'll have a better idea of what food might have caused it.

Healthy foods that your family eats are good to start with as long as they are plain, with no added salt, sugar, or spices. You can also use commercial baby foods, as long as you check the label to ensure there is no added salt or sugar. By the time your baby is one year old, her diet should contain a variety of foods from the different food groups. You can learn more about food groups from the Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide External link.

Related links

Breastfeeding LogoBreastfeeding Friendly Logo

The Breastfeeding Friendly Logo was developed in collaboration with La Leche League Canada. It can be printed and posted in areas to indicate that breastfeeding is welcome and encouraged on the premises. To view the logo, simply click on it. To save the logo to your computer, right click the image and select "Save image as..."

Related Breastfeeding & Infant Feeding Resources