Infant nutrition can be as simple as putting a baby to breast every time they cue, or as complex as navigating the multitude of formulas that your child can tolerate. Either way it is critical for parents to understand their child’s nutritional needs to promote growth and development.
As we know from a previous post, 2 Simple Acts, breast milk is the ideal food for infants, however there are circumstances where a mother’s milk may not be appropriate for the child, such as in the case of a food allergy or intolerance. Or, some children do not have the enzymes- molecules that help to breakdown food- to digest and use breast milk and thus require formulas that are already broken down, or hydrolyzed.
Once the form of food (milk or formula) is selected, it is then important to configure how much the child needs. Registered dietitians use calculations that utilize a child’s weight to configure their energy needs. Then, the volume of the food is configured using the caloric content of the food (milk or formula). The following will depict the steps in this process:
1. Identify your infant’s current weight.
2. Using your child’s age, choose an appropriate energy calculation:
- < 6 months: 110-120 Calories per Kilogram (kcal/kg) body weight or 50-55 Calories per pound (kCal/lb) body weight
- 1 year: 95-100 kCal/kg or 45 kCal/lb
3. Multiply your child’s weight by the energy requirement.
For example: 9lbs * 55 kCal/lb = 495 Calories per day.
4. To identify the volume, first determine the product: Breast milk and most formulas are 20 Calories per ounce. Therefore, using our example above we divide 495 Calories per day y 20 Calories per ounce to get 24.75 ounces or 25 ounces.
5. Most infants eat every 2-3 hours. Using 3 hours, we determine that this child needs 3.1 ounces or 88ml every 3 hours.
Tada! Now you can be confident that your child is receiving adequate calories for growth!
If you do not feed your child by bottle, no worries. Simply weigh your child before and after breastfeeding to determine the amount consumed. Every gram gained equals one milliliter consumed. So, after breastfeeding for 15 minutes if your child gains 60g they consumed 60ml, or 2 ounces of breast milk.
It is best to continually adjust a child’s volume to insure that they are meeting their needs. This process is called “weight adjusting.” To do so, first confirm an ideal rate of weight gain with your child’s pediatrician. Typically, this is about 1 ounce per day or 20-30 grams. Then, one time per week repeat the calculation referenced above using your child’s new weight. Convert the weight in lbs by dividing by 2.2 (9lbs /2.2lb per kg = 4.1kg).
- Example: Previous weight (4.1kg) + Weight gained (25g/day * 7 days) = New weight (4.275 kg or 9.4lbs)