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      A baby's healthy start to life

      Dr. Valda Byrd knows the importance of giving babies a good start to a healthy life and a healthy weight. She says sometimes she'll have young overweight patients or even one-year-olds weighing 24 or 25 pounds.

      "Infant weight is so important because obesity is a national problem as we know," Byrd said.

      As a pediatrician at Mercy Hospital Grayling, Dr. Byrd is part of the Mercy Physician Network and has been working in pediatrics for almost 30 years. She believes the first months of life are critical to helping children develop good eating habits, and for babies- that starts with mom.

      "We start it bedside, especially the new moms this is my favorite favorite time to sit with them and talk with them and of course breastfeeding is the best feeding in the first 6 months of life," Byrd said.

      The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding until age 1. If breastfeeding is not an option, a formula with 20 calories an ounce is a good substitute for the first year and in that time not only what the baby is eating is important, but also how much.

      A newborn baby's stomach is only about the size of a small marble, and only grows to the size of a ping-pong ball by the time they are 3 days old. At 10 days old, a baby's stomach is about the size of an extra large egg so feeding a baby is very sensitive during the first months of life because their stomachs are just so small.

      Once a baby has gotten a little older and bigger, solid foods can begin to be introduced to their diet and doing it gradually will help determine if there are any food allergies present. New foods should be added one at a time and then the baby should be watched for a few days to gauge their reaction to the food.

      Foods high on the allergen list include soy, chocolate, and fruits with high acidity like strawberries and tomatoes. If there is knowledge of a family of food allergies it is a good idea to generally stay away from those foods, especially nuts and nut butters which should be avoided until a child is 2 or 3 years old.

      The Mercy Physician's Network can help guide an infant's eating and help parents monitor their child's weight through health charts, and they can also keep them on the right track.

      "I'm an optimist so I will always say that the glass is half-full and I think that one step at a time, one baby at a time we are making a difference," Byrd said.

      For more information about the Mercy Physician Network, visit their website.