Your infant feeding questions, answered

It sounds so simple: Baby’s hungry, baby eats. But as any new parent knows, the road from that first “I’m hungry” cry to a full, happy baby is paved with spit-up and sleepless nights. Dr. Alanna Levine was one of three doctors on an infant-feeding expert roundtable hosted this summer by Playtex, and she took some questions from Chicago Parent readers last week.

Dr. Alanna Levine answers your questions


Dr. Alanna Levine is a
pediatrician and working mother of two. She regularly
appears on television translating complicated medical topics into
easy to understand useful information for parents, and she agreed
to take some questions from Chicago Parent readers earlier this


Dr. Levine partnered with Playtex this summer to address common
infant feeding concerns among first-time moms. Watch the roundtable here.


Q: Is colic genetic? Our first child was vey colicky and our newborn (5 wks old) is pretty fussy.

Veronica M.

A: Dear Veronica,

At this point in time, it is not yet clear what causes colic so it’s hard to answer whether or not it runs in families. Anecdotally, I have had many parents tell me that they had one child who was colicky and others who were not, so there is certainly hope that your newborn will not have the same colicky symptoms your first born did. In general, some simple advice for anyone hoping to reduce or prevent ‘colicky type symptoms’ include feeding your baby in a more upright position; burping frequently to reduce any gas discomfort; and for a baby who spits up, try offering smaller, more frequent feedings.

Q: My 9-month-old son will not drink his formula. He is getting an average of about 10 oz a day or so. That includes what is mixed into his cereal in the morning. He eats a Stage 3 jar and fruit for lunch and the same or Gerber Graduates meal for dinner. But will not drink anything throughout the day. Any suggestions? He seems to turn away when I put the bottle in his mouth.

-Kelly S.

A: Dear Kelly: How frustrating! First of all, it’s helpful to give babies who are disinterested in drinking additional formula mixed with cereal. You can be liberal about it as it’s okay if the cereal is runny. I also typically suggest giving babies yogurt as an additional source of calcium during the day. And lastly, trying a sippy cup, a straw cup, or ever a regular cup may increase a baby’s interest in drinking. As you have already figured out, it is always important to keep an eye on infants to make sure they are getting enough nutrients and fluid so they stay well hydrated (moist mouth and tongue, active, and urinating well) and continue to gain weight as expected at each routine doctor visit (or at additional weight checks if needed).

Q: My 6-month-old eats cereal and a fruit or veggie morning and evening- when should I start a mid day meal? He seems to be waking for milk more at night lately.

-Nancy J.

A: Dear Nancy: Everyone wants to know the magic secret to getting their kids to sleep through the night! While it’s perfectly fine for you to add a mid-day meal to a six month old’s diet, I don’t always find that it helps them sleep longer at night. That lunchtime (and evening food for that matter) will be pretty well digested by the middle of the night. Healthy sleep routines and consistency are the best ways to get your 6 month old sleeping.

Q: My 9 mo son has been refusing to eat baby food since we introduced it to him a few months ago. No cereal, nothing from a jar, nothing on a spoon. He closes his mouth and turns his head when he sees the spoon coming. He’sbeen living on formula, cheerios and the occasional yogurt (with cereal mixed in) Just on Monday I gave him some of my acorn squash and chicken and he loved it! But it was full adult flavor, squash with butter& brown sugar, chicken from the grill, is that OK? He has tooth #8 coming in, what other foods would be good for him? I want to make sure what he eats is nutritious and not an allergy risk. Articles I’ve read say not to start a lot of foods until he’s 1 year old.

-Dina B.

A: Dear Dina: It’s perfectly natural for a 9 month old to want to eat what others around him are eating, so when it comes to sharing table food with 9-12 month old infants, I say, “Go for it!” just as long as parents and caregivers always keep safety (and choking hazards) in mind and make sure to still offer a well balanced diet of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. The most current allergy research has found that delaying the introduction of solid foods does not prevent allergies in children. However, if there is a family history of food allergies or you have any questions about specific foods, talk to your pediatrician first.

Q: How will I know if my child is allergic to a food?

A: When first introducing solid foods to infants and young children, introduce one new food at a time and wait a few days before introducing another new one. This way, if a child has an allergic reaction, it makes it much easier to identify the cause. Signs of an allergy include a rash (usually hives which are red and splotchy and itch); vomiting; bloody diarrhea; and difficulty breathing or swallowing. Reactions can vary from mild to severe. For mild reactions, it’s okay to call and discuss with your pediatrician, but for any severe reaction that involves significant symptoms such as swelling or difficulty breathing, always call 911.

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