The importance of infant nutrition should not be underestimated. Providing your little bundle of joy with a well-balanced diet is actually the key to every child’s continued health and proper development.
Generally speaking, good nutrition starts even before birth when the fetus takes all necessary nutrients from the mother. But, when the baby is born, parents usually have trouble figuring out what type of nutrition is best for their little one. And while this may sound overwhelming for many, infant nutrition can actually be very easy to determine once you learn what nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop properly.
The most critical time for parents is the first year during which infants experience different food stages. That’s why it is important to have all the information beforehand in order to help your baby develop good eating habits from such a young age.
Proper nutrition is essential for a baby’s growth and development, especially during its first year. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and continue to receive breastmilk or formula in addition to solid foods until at least 12 months of age. But, when giving your baby solid food, you should choose carefully and rely on reputable companies that provide organic baby food free of harmful heavy metals. Serenity Kids explains in their post what heavy metal is and why it is present in food.
From breast milk to dairy and soy free formula and solid foods, here is a brief guide on what the proper nutrition for your baby should look like during their first twelve months of life.
The benefits of breastfeeding
The first type of food babies are introduced to when they are born is breast milk. They have their first taste within 1 hour of birth, which then should be provided every four hours amounting to eight to twelve feedings on a daily basis. As your baby gets older, they will be able to take in more milk in less time which will continue to reduce by the end of the first year.
In general, breastfeeding is considered the best type of nutrition your little one can be exposed to when they are born. The milk you are providing has numerous nutrients such as vitamins, proteins and fat that your infant needs to grow and develop. It is easily digested and readily available so you don’t have to worry about preparing anything in particular.
Besides its high nutritional value, breast milk also helps enhance your baby’s immune system and wards off infections and bacteria due to the presence of antibodies.
Breastfeeding has many benefits for both the mother and the baby. Aside from antibodies, breast milk also contains white blood cells called macrophages. These can help protect the baby from infection and disease. Furthermore, breastfed infants have a lower risk of ear and respiratory infections, diarrhea, and other illnesses because of these antibodies.
Close physical contact and bonding between mother and baby can stimulate the baby’s brain and help them feel secure and loved. As for the mother, breastfeeding can help them recover faster after birth, reduce the risk of postpartum depression and certain types of cancers, and may also decrease the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Lastly, it’s economical. Breastfeeding can save money on formula, bottles, and other feeding equipment.
Formulas as an alternative
Unfortunately, there are mothers who either are unable to breastfeed their newborn or simply don’t want to. So, they rely on another healthy alternative to provide their little one with all the necessary nutrients – baby formulas. There are two common types you can choose from – dairy and soy free formula.
Dairy-free formulas were originally created to match the chemical components and nutrients found in human breast milk. It is usually the first go-to choice for parents when they have troubles with actual breastfeeding. However, sometimes such formulas may not be an ideal choice for your baby if they are lactose intolerant, have milk protein allergy or they’re at higher risk for reflux.
If this happens, then you have the option of going for soy-free formulas which are made using soy protein. However, it is important that you first check that your baby isn’t allergic to the ingredients or if any added sugars are included in the formula.
Introduction to solid foods
Babies are usually ready for solid foods when they are six months old. At this time, they become more interested in what they are eating and want to experience new food types, flavors and textures. Besides providing them with many nutrients, this baby food stage is also about getting them used to chewing and swallowing.
In general, there are no particular rules for your baby’s first solid foods. The most important thing is to offer a variety of fruits, vegetables and meats in order for your little one to become familiarized with different tastes.
For example, pureed combinations such as bananas and carrots or broccoli and meat are among the most common solid food choices. They include various vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins that are essential in the proper growth and development of your infant. Once they get used to such combinations, you can slowly incorporate other food types to see how your baby will react to them.
At first, the introduction may be a little chaotic, considering all the fussy moods and the mess of foods all-around your baby. One way to avoid or at least to smooth the transition for your little one is investing in baby-friendly tableware. Opt for animal-shaped bamboo plates and bowls or colorful sippy cups in playful designs to make the experience as inviting and exciting as possible. After all, solid food and later the self-feeding process is unfamiliar territory for babies, and they need time to adjust, so be patient. That’s the way it works!
What to avoid
Although babies want to try everything, not all foods are safe for them during the first year of growth. It is important that you remember this rule in order to prevent any health issues such as allergies which may have bad consequences on their wellbeing.
For example, honey shouldn’t be given to infants under the age of one in any form. Consuming it can produce spores that secrete toxins which may lead to muscle weakness, constipation and even paralysis in young babies.
Another type of food that parents should not give their babies is cow’s milk. That is because they aren’t able to digest the enzymes, proteins and certain minerals that are found in it. Plus, this type of milk doesn’t provide all of the proper nutrients that are necessary for the growth of the baby.
Also, remember that all solid foods should be small in size to prevent choking.
How often should your baby eat?
Babies that are born prematurely or with certain medical conditions usually have to follow scheduled feedings advised by your pediatrician. But for healthy, full-term infants, parents look at their little ones to see whether they are showing signs of hunger. These usually include crying, licking lips, fussiness or simply sucking on their fingers.
When they are born, breastfeeding or bottle-feeding with formulas are more frequent during the first couple of months. These feedings reduce as the babies get bigger and their tummies are able to hold more milk. Once you get past this stage and reach six months, your child’s feedings should happen every four to five hours.
Some issues you may encounter include overfeeding or underfeeding. That’s why it is important to look at your baby’s reactions when you are giving them food in order to see whether they are eating excessively or not enough.
Even in the mother’s womb, infants must be well taken care of so they can grow and develop properly. Although some babies are born healthier than others, that doesn’t mean that proper nutrition should be ignored. Whether it is breastfeeding, bottle feeding with formulas or solid foods, it is important that your child is provided with all the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.
In case you need assistance along the way, you can use this post as a guide to create the best well-balanced diet for your newborn and help them develop healthy eating habits that will last for a lifetime.