The foundation for healthful eating should be laid before the baby is born. Will you breastfeed or bottle-feed? How will you supplement and then replace breast milk or formula when the time comes?
Children can breastfeed through the first year of life, but it’s still a good idea to prepare a nutritional plan for infancy and toddlerhood. Today we cover brief information about what is the best nutrition for a newborn baby and how to promote nutrition in infants.
You can get good nutritional advice from the doctor’s office, clinic, hospital seminars, local health departments, or even some breastfeeding or childbirth groups.
In recent years, experts have learned a lot about nutrition, which has led to changes in some dietary recommendations.
Try to follow their guidelines, but know that you’ll be tailoring any diet to fulfill your own baby’s needs. Plus, your child’s needs will change as he grows. To make sure your child doesn’t get malnourished, your nutritional plan should be well balanced. The diet should be varied.
And, it should supply both nutrients and energy, to help ensure good growth and good health. Too little food will lead to slow growth.
Foods have to supply enough calories (energy) to keep the body working and bones and muscles growing, but don’t overdo it on the calories, either! When planning your child’s diet, remember that babies need lots of fluids (liquids), too.
Proteins for babies – What protein can I give my baby?
There’s a great deal of difference among the proteins found in breast milk, cow’s milk, and formula.
Mother’s milk is the only milk that contains human proteins, in the right amount for human babies. A major nutritional problem we have in the “industrialized” world is too much protein.
This is especially problematic for children. High protein intake can be a burden on a baby’s kidneys, especially if the baby isn’t getting enough fluids. Formulas and cow’s milk contain more proteins than mother’s milk.
Sugar for babies and children – What’s the deal?
It’s easy to forget that many foods contain “hidden sugars,” especially in juice drinks, jellies, sweetened cereals, and some milk products.
These sugars are “empty calories” that give a burst of energy but not much more. Eating a lot of sugar interferes with the absorption of iron and can damage the teeth.
Good fats for babies to eat
Polyunsaturated fats and fatty acids help the brain to develop and function. Using cod-liver oil (which also contains vitamins A and D) and vegetable oils will supply most of the crucial fatty acids.
The omega-3 fatty acids are especially important. They aren’t found in formulas but can be found in mother’s milk, oily fish (like tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel, salmon), and some oils. Ask the doctor’s office about vitamin D supplements.
Even after weaning, your baby will need more fats than you do, relatively speaking. Whole milk, some food oils, and vegetable margarine can help you give your baby nutrition without resorting to “junk food.”
Getting enough fiber is important for infants
Plants — such as raw vegetables and corn —are the most important source of dietary fiber. Fiber helps prevent and treat constipation, by “moving things through” the digestive system.
It’s good to include some fiber-rich foods in your baby’s diet, but not too much. If there’s too much fiber, the baby will get full before he has received enough nutrients. Balance and moderation are key.
What is the best vitamin for a baby?
Babies need a lot of vitamins during infancy to stay healthy, especially vitamins A, C, and D. Even mother’s milk doesn’t contain enough vitamin D for most babies. And, our bodies can store only small amounts of vitamin D.
Children need to get enough vitamin D during the first year of life, and all through childhood. This is especially important in the winter, in cold climates. Fortunately, most cow’s milk and many cereals have been “fortified” with extra vitamin D. This helps prevent vitamin D deficiency or rickets.
Vitamin A is found in most types of milk. Foods high in vitamin D probably also contain vitamin A. Carrots and tomatoes are important sources of vitamin A.
Getting enough vitamin A helps prevent eye problems. The B vitamins are a group of vitamins that are important for the body’s metabolism.
We receive vitamin B through milk, grain products, and fortified cereals. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from formula and grain products, among other things. Breast milk supplies enough vitamin C, if the mother maintains a healthful diet.
Adding extra vitamin C to your diet won’t add much vitamin C to your breast milk, but it won’t hurt, either. Citrus fruit juices (orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime) are good sources of vitamin C.
What can I give my baby for iron?
Iron is used in the making of red blood cells and in some metabolic processes. The red blood cells help oxygen get to all of the tissues in our bodies.
During the last part of pregnancy, your baby built up a “reserve” of iron from you. This stored iron is used until the baby starts receiving iron from other sources.
About half of the iron in breast milk is absorbed. When weaning has begun, the baby’s ability to absorb iron from the mother’s milk will decrease. This is one of the good reasons to wait to introduce solid foods until the baby is 6 months old.
Citrus fruits and baby cereal enriched with iron and vitamin C are important sources of iron from the second year of life. Iron from table food will provide only about 10% of a child’s daily need, but iron-enriched cereal will provide around 90%.
Fluoride – good for baby teeth
Fluoride is built into the enamel, or hard outer part, of the teeth when they are forming. So, children need to get fluoride to get strong teeth.
Fluorinated water (found in many water supply systems), fluoride toothpaste, or fluoride supplements reduce the danger of tooth decay, slow the development of cavities, and even help repair minor tooth damage.
Beware of giving your child too much fluoride in his diet, though.
Advice for good weight gain – How can I fatten up my baby?
Your baby’s diet has to be adjusted to the child’s age. During the early period, breast milk or formula provides all the nutrition.
During the second half of the first year, grain-based baby cereal becomes important. Then what should follow is a mixed balanced diet. Good, steady weight gain and a happy baby are the best indicators of healthful development and well-being.
Weight gain is largest during the first year of life.
How much weight should a newborn gain each week? See the chart below
0-3 months: 7 ounces a week (in the range of 5 to 8 ounces)
3-6 months: 5 ounces a week (3-1/2 to 6 ounces)
6-9 months: 3-1/2 ounces a week (2-1/2 to 4-1/2 ounces)
9-12 months: 1-1 /2 to 2-1/2 ounces a week
1-2 years: 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 pounds a year 2-5 years: 4-1/2 pounds a year
As the child grows and develops, there will be different demands and expectations about food. Learning healthful habits is important.
However, children have different personalities and tastes, just like grown-ups. Infants may have periods of slow weight gain, even if they are eating well and acting happy. Know that this is normal.
Can a breastfed baby be overweight?
Weight should always be measured relative to height. As long as a baby’s diet mainly consists of breast milk, he is not thought of as overweight, even if the weight is at the top of the weight charts. Infants who are being breastfed shouldn’t go on weight-reduction diets.
If your doctor says your child is overweight, it’s important to look at what’s being eaten. Try making a detailed “daily intake” list of exactly what your child is eating — the types of foods, quantities (by volume or weight), and times of the day or night when they are eaten.
Until you do that, it might seem as though your child is not eating enough. Then you can look at what can be changed.
How can I get my underweight baby to gain weight?
Remember that it’s important to measure weight compared to height. A child is considered underweight if his weight is less than the weight of three-quarters of the other children his age and height.
Sometimes, a breastfed or bottle-fed child is getting too little nutrition, even when he or seems satisfied.
If the child is being given additional food, do an accurate analysis of the diet, to see whether he is receiving enough nutrients. At the same time, you have to look at how often the child has bowel movements, and what they look and smell like.