Dallas, Madison, Polk and Warren Counties in Iowa

Nutrition & WIC Foods


We’re ready to help you when your baby arrives. We provide breastfeeding support and healthy tips on feeding your baby through the first year.

There’s a lot to learn when you have a baby. We’re here to help with some tips on feeding, crying, and more in the first six months of your baby’s life.

Feeding Cues

Your newborn needs to be fed frequently. Looking for early signs of hunger can help you feed her before she starts to cry.

Signs of hunger

  • Baby is moving her mouth, opening her mouth, licking her lips, moving her lips, sticking her tongue out, or making sucking sounds.
  • Baby has her fingers or hand in her mouth.
  • Baby is turning her head to look for the breast.


Signs of fullness

  • Baby stops sucking.
  • Baby turns away from the nipple.
  • Baby relaxes his body and opens his fist.


Why Do Babies Cry?

Your baby will cry for lots of reasons—not just because she is hungry or hurt. Here are some reasons why your baby may be crying:

  • Hunger Look for early hunger cues. Your baby may make mouth movements or put his hands in his mouth. Feed your baby then instead of waiting until he cries.
  • Needing to suck Sucking is calming for your baby, even if she isn’t hungry. Try giving her the breast for non-nutritive sucking or a pacifier or teething toy to play with.
  • Sleepiness Try to help your baby sleep when he is starting to get drowsy.
  • Overstimulation Sometimes your baby needs a break! She may turn her head, push her body away from the action, or tense her body before starting to fuss.
  • Needing stimulation/socialization Sometimes your baby may be bored! He may want to interact with people, listen to music, look at toys or books, or be rocked.
  • Needing to be held Sometimes your baby just wants to be held and hear your heartbeat, breathing, and voice!
  • Pain Watch for signs of pain. Try to do things like preventing gas bubbles by burping during feeding.
  • Feeling too hot or too cold Remember to think about your baby’s comfort and clothing.
  • Needing a diaper change Don’t forget to check your baby’s diaper. Some babies are sensitive to a wet or dirty diaper!


Understanding Colic

Colic is frequent, long lasting crying or fussiness in a healthy baby that occurs for no apparent reason. Colic usually begins in the first 2-6 weeks and ends by 3-4 months of age. Babies are often unable to be calmed during these episodes, which can cause stress on parents.

Signs of colic

  • Cries for more than 3 hours per day, and for more than 3 days per week, and for more than 3 weeks.
  • May stiffen arms or legs.
  • Passes a lot of gas.


Soothing a colicky baby

  • Swaddle.
  • Hold your baby and walk around, or rock her.
  • Rub baby’s tummy.
  • Give a warm bath.


Why Babies Spit Up

It is normal for healthy babies to spit up. It happens when air gets trapped in the belly, often from movement during eating or from overfeeding. Spitting up is not hurting your baby if he is eating every 2-4 hours, shows normal weight gain, and has 6-8 wet diapers per day and a bowel movement every other day.

Tips for helping to prevent spit up

  • Check to make sure the hole in the bottle nipple is not too big or small.
  • Try offering smaller, more frequent feedings so your baby doesn’t get overly hungry, which can lead to gulping.
  • Take breaks during feedings to burp your baby.
  • Always feed your baby in an upright position, and do not prop the bottle.
  • Never force your baby to finish a bottle.
  • Have your baby remain sitting up for 30 minutes after a feeding.

Between 6 and 12 months, your baby will start to eat solids, drink from a cup, and feed herself finger foods. Here are some tips to help her learn these new skills. 

Feeding Cues

Signs your baby is hungry

  • Reaches for or points to food.
  • Opens mouth when offered a spoon or food.
  • Gets excited when seeing food.
  • Uses hand motions or makes sounds to let you know she is hungry.

Signs your baby is full

  • Pushes food away.
  • Closes mouth when food is offered.
  • Turns head away from food.
  • Uses hand motions or makes sounds to let you know he is full.

Respecting your child’s hunger and fullness signs can help him be a good eater for life!

Starting Solids

When you start solid foods, keep feeding breastmilk, formula, or both. Your baby may be ready to start solid foods when:

  • She is around 6 months old.
  • She can sit up without support.
  • She holds her head straight and steady.
  • She shows interest in food.
  • She can close her lips around a spoon and keep the food in her mouth.

First bite tips

  • Offer breastmilk or formula before feedings. This will assure your baby won’t be too hungry.
  • It doesn’t matter what solid foods are introduced first.
  • Offer one single-ingredient food at time.
  • Increase the amount of food slowly so your baby can learn to swallow.
  • Offer baby cereal by spoon. Do not put baby cereal in the bottle.

Starting a Cup

When is my baby ready to start using a cup?

  • He can sit up in a highchair (usually around 6-7 months).
  • He is showing interest in what you are eating and drinking.
  • He is starting to feed himself.

What types of cups are good to use?

  • Small, open top cups are best for learning.
  • Look for a cup that is small enough for your baby’s hands.

What about sippy cups? Doesn’t my baby need one?

  • Actually, no! Most sippy cups require sucking to get the drink out. Your baby already has that skill. An open cup will help teach her new skills.

How do I start giving the cup?

  • Have your baby sit in a highchair or booster seat at the table at mealtime.
  • Give your baby a small cup with a little bit of water in it.
  • Do not expect your baby to get it right away. It will take lots of practice!
  • Expect spills. This is one of the reasons why water is such a great drink to give. It is easy to clean up.
  • As your baby gets better with the cup, you can put small amounts of breastmilk or formula in the cup.

Congratulations! You have helped your baby take a big step toward toddlerhood!

Finger Foods

When your baby can sit up and bring his hands to his mouth, you can give finger foods to help him learn to feed himself. Make sure the food is soft, easy to swallow, and cut into small pieces. If you want to give your baby fresh food, use a blender or mash softer foods with a fork.


  • Sit your baby in a safe, upright position.
  • Offer your baby food by putting it in front of him or let him take it out of your hand.
  • Include your baby in family meals.
  • Start with foods that are easy to pick up.
  • Offer a variety of foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and meats.
  • Offer plain foods. Your baby does not need salt, spices, sugar, sweeteners, or other added flavors.
  • Continue to offer breast or formula feedings.
  • Relax. Don’t hurry or distract your baby.
  • Expect that your baby won’t eat much at first.
  • Expect a mess!

Keep your baby safe

  • Make sure your baby is sitting upright.
  • Avoid nuts and seeds.
  • Cut small fruits in half and remove any pits.
  • Don’t put food in your baby’s mouth.
  • Never leave your baby alone.
  • Do not offer cow’s milk or honey before your child is 1 year old.

Weaning from the Bottle

Why is it important for my child to stop taking a bottle?

  • Healthier teeth. Longer use of bottles contributes to tooth decay.
  • Fewer ear infections. When babies and children drink bottles or sippy cups in bed, it can increase the likelihood of developing an ear infection.
  • More independence. Your child wants to do things by herself and using a cup is a great way to help!

When is a good age to stop giving my child a bottle?

  • Around the first birthday, most children are able to drink from a cup.
  • Fourteen months old is a good age for most children to “graduate” from the bottle.

How can I help my child to stop using a bottle?

  • Start practicing early! Begin by offering a small, open cup of water to your child when he is around 6 months old.
  • Give your child lots of opportunities to practice.
  • At a year, when most children are starting to drink whole milk, put the milk in a cup (not the bottle).
  • Give a small amount of milk, water, or juice, and refill as needed.

Are sippy cups a good replacement?

  • Not usually! Most sippy cups require sucking to get the drink out. Your child has been practicing that skill for the past year. An open cup will help teach her new skills.
  • A sippy cup can also contribute to cavities if your child carries it around with milk, juice, or any sweet drink.