Physical Activity Guidelines for Infants

Physical activity is important from the beginning of life! Activity can encourage rolling over, crawling, and walking as well as cognitive development, and can lead to a preference for active play. Conversely, inactivity may set the stage for childhood obesity. Rather than confine your baby to a stroller or playpen too much, start a habit of active living now. During this first year of life:

  • Spend part of each day with active baby games such as peekaboo and pat-a-cake.
  • Find ways to help your infant safely and actively explore his or her surroundings. Floor play is great!
  • Avoid restricting your infant's movements for prolonged periods of time.
  • Choose activities that encourage your infant to move large muscles (arms, legs, hands, and feet).
  • Play when your baby's awake; don't interrupt sleep to play.

is sucking actively, make sure the holes aren't clogged. Or try a nipple with more holes.

As with a breast-fed baby, plan to bottle-feed on demand—when a baby signals hunger. Trying to impose a feeding routine will frustrate you both. You can't spoil your baby by feeding on demand. A formula-fed baby may not eat as often; formula digests more slowly than breast milk.

Should formula be warm, cool, or at room temperature? That's up to you. Your baby will become accustomed to whatever temperature you usually provide. If you warm it, just be careful so your baby doesn't get burned. For tips, see "Play It Safe: Warming Baby's Bottle and Food" later in this chapter.

Let your baby decide how much to drink. Pay attention to his or her appetite; your baby doesn't need to finish a bottle. In fact, forcing your baby to finish it focuses too much on eating—which may lead to over- or underfeeding. To learn good eating habits, babies need to learn hunger and fullness cues.

If your baby has six or more wet diapers a day, seems content between feedings, and if his or her weight increases steadily, your baby's probably getting enough. If not, check with your doctor or pediatric nurse. For more hunger and fullness cues, see "Knowing When Your Baby's Had Enough" earlier in this chapter.

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