Feeding Your Baby

Making an informed decision

There are many decisions to make when becoming new parents. How you will feed your baby is one of them. It is helpful to be well informed when making a decision about how you are going to feed your baby.

The World Health Organization (WHO), Health Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding with the introduction of solids for up to two years and beyond.

Exclusive breastfeeding means feeding only breast milk: no artificial baby milk (formula), no solid foods, no water or other liquids should be given.

Wait until your baby is six months old and showing signs of being ready before offering solids.

Signs that your baby is ready for solids include:

  • Controls head well
  • Sits up in a high chair
  • Shows interest in food when sees others eating
  • Opens mouth wide for food
  • Closes lips over spoon
  • Swallows food in mouth
  • Turns body or head away when full

Check here for more information about introducing solids to your baby.

Importance of breastfeeding

Studies show that breast milk provides many benefits for a baby as well as the mother and is the ideal source of nutrition for the growth and development of your child.

  • Helps with brain development
  • Helps protect against ear, chest, stomach and bowel infections
  • May help protect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • May help to protect against eczema, asthma and allergies

baby sitting up

  • Promotes closeness and bonding with baby
  • Helps recovery after childbirth
  • Helps with returning to pre-pregnancy weight
  • Saves money - It is free!
  • Environmentally friendly - No equipment is needed
  • Always fresh, always ready

smiling mom holding baby

Almost all mothers can breastfeed. However, in some situations there may be a medical reason for supplementation of a mother's breast milk. If this is the case, the World Health Organization recommends using:

  • Mother's expressed breast milk as a first choice
  • Donor milk if available
  • Artificial baby milk (formula) as a last choice

If temporary supplementation is needed, find out how you can increase and protect your breast milk supply. Check here to learn about expressing breast milk. Discuss any questions or concerns you have with your health care provider.

Risks of not breastfeeding your baby

Children who are not breastfed have a greater risk of:

  • Ear, lung, and bowel infections
  • Asthma and allergies
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Some childhood cancers
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Infections from contaminated artificial baby milk

Mothers who do not breastfeed have a greater risk of:

  • Breast and ovarian cancer
  • Chronic diseases
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Feeding your baby artificial baby milk (formula) is more expensive for families.

Keep in mind that a lot of information about artificial baby milk (formula) is from companies who make artificial baby milk (formula) and are trying to sell their product. Free artificial baby milk (formula) may be offered to you at a time when you are tired and still gaining confidence with breastfeeding.

If you choose to stop breastfeeding, it can be difficult to reverse your decision. Speak with a health care professional before you make your decision.

See the Artificial Baby Milk (Formula) page for information if you made an informed decision to feed your baby artificial baby milk (formula).

The Baby-Friendly Initiative

The Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) is a global campaign developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.

Being baby-friendly means creating a supportive environment for infant feeding, regardless of the feeding method, through consistent services and messages.

See the Baby-Friendly Initiative page and how Region of Waterloo Public Health supports this initiative.