Baby Care Today: Old Advice You Can Safely Ignore

Feeding

Breast or Bottle

bottle feeding baby

Old Advice: Formula is just as healthy for babies as breast milk. In the '60s, mothers and doctors saw ready-to-use formula as a modern convenience. Pediatricians didn't encourage mothers to breast-feed, because the health advantages hadn't yet been discovered.

New Advice: The AAP strongly advocates breast-feeding because it's now known that the antibodies in breast milk boost a baby's immune system. Extensive research has established the benefits of nursing: It reduces the risk of illnesses, including allergies, asthma, ear infections, diarrhea, bronchitis, pneumonia, Crohn's disease, juvenile diabetes, and childhood lymphomas.

Feeding Time

Old Advice: Babies should be put on a strict four-hour feeding schedule as soon as they leave the hospital. If you feed them whenever they seem hungry, you might spoil them or increase their risk of intestinal infections.

New Advice: Most doctors advise against imposing a feeding schedule on infants. "For the first three months, follow the baby's lead and feed on demand," says Parents adviser Katherine Karlsrud, M.D., an assistant clinical instructor in pediatrics at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, in New York City. "If you have a newborn who fusses for a snack every hour, you can try to extend the time between feedings gradually as long as your baby is gaining weight." By the time he's 4 months old, he'll probably have established his own schedule.

Solid Suggestions

Old Advice: Start giving your baby some cereal at about 6 weeks to help her sleep through the night.

New Advice: There's no evidence that babies sleep better with a fuller belly, but studies have shown that those who start solid food too early may be more likely to develop food allergies, says Laura Grunbaum, M.D., of Bancroft Pediatrics, in San Leandro, California. Pediatricians now recommend starting solids between 4 and 6 months and introducing one food at a time.

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