Infants are delicate gifts that come from the mother’s womb. After delivering the baby, a new step in motherhood is taken. This next step is nourishing a baby outside the womb. An infant requires specific nutrition to ensure healthy growth, especially in his/her first few years. The first year of the baby is the prime time for growth and changes in the body. Proper nutrition is the best source for it. By following simple nutrition guidelines, you can ensure that the baby gets a healthy start.
The food eaten affects not only growth but is also a source of immunity. So starting at an early stage, during infancy, is the best opportunity to ensure the optimum outcome for baby’s health and growth. Inadequate nutrition during infancy can result in stunted growth, low body weight and delayed cognitive and physical development.
How To Start A Nutrition Guide
To start an infant nutritional guide (a term-wise list of nutritional needs and the corresponding nutrition that can be given to the baby), one must know what nutrients are needed by a baby at what age, where to get them from, and in what quantity they should be given. This is because an infant’s body is not yet fully developed and needs time for the digestive system to be prepared. For the first six months, exclusive breastfeeding is the safest and healthiest source of infant nutrition.
What Nutrients Are Needed By An Infant?
Infants have different nutrition needs compared to children and adults. They need nutrition that helps them grow strong and develops their minds.
Fats are a source of energy and are important for the brain and proper functioning of cell membranes. Remember that a baby’s stomach is small and that it can only take in tiny amounts of food at a time. Fats, being high in energy are required to be given in concentrated form and quantities that a baby’s stomach needs. Fats are of two types – essential fats (not produced in the body) and non-essential fats (produced in the body). Fats can be naturally found in breast milk and can be found in the diet.
Protein forms part of all cells in the body and is needed to make new cells. Protein is important for the baby’s growth because from the new cells being formed, tissues and organs are formed, leading to the growth of the baby’s body. The amount of protein in human milk is suited to the growth rate of human infants.
Nutrition From 0 To 6 Months
From ages 0 to 6 months, babies must be exclusively breastfed unless infant formula milk is advised by a doctor due to the inability of the mother to breastfeed adequately. All milk formulas are inferior to breastmilk and must not be used as a substitute for breastmilk. Breastmilk is best for your baby.
There are important components that can only be found in breastmilk and not found in infant formulas such as immune defense proteins (boosts an infant’s immune system), antimicrobial factors, enzymes, anti-inflammatory factors together with fatty acids that promote optimal brain development.
It is the gold standard for good nutrition from birth up to 6 months. The nutrients found in breast milk are in the right quantity and proportion needed by a baby to nurture growth and development. Because of this, breast milk is the ideal food for a normal, healthy infant. A baby can regulate the right amount of nutrition by taking more or less milk ensuring it gets the proper amount of fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins present in breast milk.
If there is trouble in breastfeeding, the doctor and dietitian can help. They will most likely advise using infant milk formulas so that the baby can still gain the nutrition needed. Although infant formulas do not contain all the nutrients gained from breast milk, babies still grow fine, so there is nothing to worry about. Different babies have different nutritional needs, so frequent check-ups with the doctor are needed to assess them and give them the appropriate milk formula.
When a mother is nursing, she needs to watch the food she eats ensuring that her body is healthy and that her diet can sustain both the baby and herself. A mother’s body is where a baby gets nourishment in its first months in life, so it is important for her to take care of her body. The food a mother eats is secreted in the breast milk. Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol etc. and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Eat a nutritious and adequate diet to ensure that the baby gets the right nourishment needed.
Some babies can get enough Vitamin D from breastmilk. For this, the mother’s Vitamin D levels must be normal which may not be so in all mothers. So pregnant or new mothers must check with the doctor about testing Vitamin D levels, and the best and safest options for the infant.
Babies start storing iron while in the womb and it is stored until about six months. Breast milk does not have enough iron but is well absorbed especially if supplemented together with Vitamin C. Because of this, iron supplementation is not required during the baby’s first 6 months.
Fluids & Hydration
Infants easily and quickly become dehydrated under certain conditions like fever, vomiting, or if the climate is very hot. Rehydration is also crucial if infants have diarrhea (in this case, add a little sugar and salt to water to make a simple electrolyte solution).
When less urine is passed – If the amount of urine your child excretes is less than normal, and the urine is dark and concentrated, this may be an early sign of fluid loss or lack. In infants and toddlers, persistently dry diapers are a sign of dehydration. If your baby is younger than 6 months and produces little to no urine in 4 to 6 hours, or if your toddler produces little to no urine in 6 to 8 hours, she may be dehydrated.
Below is a feeding plan showing the amount of food that most infants need from 0 to 12 months of age. This feeding plan provides 8 to 15% protein, 35 to 55% fat, and 30 to 50% carbohydrates. This also gives the right number of calories and protein that a baby needs.
|MONTHS||BREAST MILK OR INFANT FORMULA
0-4 months: None.
5-8 months: 1/4-1/2 cup.
9-12 months: 1/2 cup.
Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Fish, Cooked Dried Beans, Peanut Butter
0-5 months: None.
6-8 months: 1-2 Tbsp pureed.
9-12 months: 1/4-1/2 cup (include paneer and regular cheese, fish, eggs, small pieces of tender meats, or chopped meats).
0-5 months: None.
6-12 months: 1-2 Tbsp/day after 6 months of age.
Most infants get the water they need from breast milk, formula, or juices. In very hot climates though, they may need 1/2 to 1 cup a day to make up losses.
0-5 months: Not needed except during very hot weather, or if baby has diarrhea.
6-12 months: As often as the infant will drink.
Tip: When trying new foods that are dry or chewy, such as peanut butter, cheese, or dried beans, watch the infant closely to make sure the infant doesn’t choke.
Introducing Solid Food
Till about 4-6 months infants, are not ready for solid foods. Solid food can be introduced once they have doubled their birth weight, provided they can hold their heads up, sit in a high chair, open their mouths when food is presented, and swallow. This usually occurs around six months of age.
At first, offer solid foods in addition to breast milk, not as a replacement for it. The first ‘solid’ foods should also be liquid-like. Take your time introducing solid food and don’t rush the baby. Pay attention to how the baby accepts the food fed to it.
Solid Food Timeline
Rice cereal with breast milk or formula is a common first food. It’s generally well tolerated with low potential for allergy.
However, rice cereal is rooted in tradition rather than science. There’s no strong evidence that this is a better option than other single grain cereals (or grain in general). Try it and see how it goes.
Vegetables are full of nutrients and not as sweet as fruits. Cooked and Puréed vegetables such as sweet potatoes, beets, squashes, or carrots are easy to cook and mash.
Introduce fruit after vegetables. If a fruit is the first food, the baby might expect every food to taste sweet; an important factor considering that food tastes formed early in life can persist.
Tip: since babies do not yet have the ability to digest fructose (sugar present in fruits), effectively keep fruit intake moderate and avoid high fiber fruits like prunes for a while.
The following could be tried instead to avoid explosive diarrhea:
- Mashed banana with breast milk
- Cooked and puréed fruit (such as pears, peaches, or apples)
High Protein Foods
include well cooked and mashed beans/lentils/green peas, and finely chopped meats. You could even add a little, unflavored whey protein to pureed foods, formula, etc.
It can take a while for the infant’s stomach to adjust. Some undigested food might be found in the stool; this is okay and all part of the process so don’t panic.
You are now ready to fill your baby’s body with nutrition and prepare him/her for healthy growth and development. Remember, breastfeeding is always best during infancy and that infant milk formulas should not be used as a replacement unless a doctor has advised it. Do not rush to feed your baby because rushing will not speed up his/her growth, proper nutrition will.