By Shaista Tariq
Infant nutrition means making sure your baby is getting enough nutrients during her first year. Feeding your baby is one of the most important things you do as a parent. Making sure your baby has good nutrition can protect her against diseases. It also helps her stay healthy as she grows older.
Breast milk or infant formula are the only nourishment needed by most healthy babies until they are 4-6 months old. Cow’s milk or other dairy products should not be given until at least one year of age. Your baby’s kidneys cannot handle the high protein and mineral content well until that age.
Daily servings of milk for an infant diet are as follows: 0-3 months: 18-32 ounces/2-4 cups 4-6 months: 28-40 ounces/3.5-5 cups 7-9 months: 24-36 ounces/3-4.5 cups 10-12 months: 18-30 ounces/2-3.75 cups
Starting on solids
It’s worth noting that a growth spurt commonly occurs between three and four months , which may cause the baby to be awake at night and perhaps feed more frequently, so don’t assume at this age that the baby is ready for solids just yet. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends gradually introducing solid foods when a baby is between 4 and 6 months old, depending on your baby’s readiness and nutritional needs.
Babies are born with a tongue thrust reflex, because of this reflex, the young infant will push her tongue against a spoon or anything else inserted into her mouth, including food. Most babies lose this reflex at about four months, enabling them to begin taking solid food. Talk with your pediatrician at the four month check up to see when she feels your infant should begin eating solid food.
From around six months, your baby’s regular milk will no longer provide her with all the nutrients she needs—in particular, vitamin D and iron–and her reserves of these start becoming depleted by this stage. The best time to start solid foods depends not only on your child’s age, but also on your child’s ability to sit up, support her head, and meet other developmental milestones. Signs that she is ready, include:
- Holding her head up; controlling movements
- Attempting to put things into her mouth
- Making chewing motions
- Chewing on her fingers or fist
If your baby is drinking formula, the best time to feed him is 1 or 2 hours after a bottle. If you baby is breastfeeding, you want to start solids after breastfeeding. Also, you want to avoid times when your baby is cranky or hungry.
Introducing new foods
To prevent food allergies, introduce solids in the following order :
- Rice cereal : Rice infant cereal is the only grain suggested before six months of age
- Yellow vegetables
- Green vegetables
- Wheat products: Wheat, barley, and oats can be given after 6 months of age
Once you begin feeding baby solids, offer her only one new item at a time. When introducing new foods to your baby, understand that it can take 2 to 3 days up to 1 week before she may accept it. Starting your baby on solid food can be fun, playful, and messy. Some days may be better than others, too, and there will also be times when she wants only her usual milk.
Here are the solid foods you can introduce to your baby’s diet at each stage of development.
Milestone 4-6 months
Single-grain cereals. (Fortified cereals give your baby iron, an important nutrient he needs now). Mix with baby formula or breast milk, or water on occasion.
Milestone 6-8 months
Pureed or strained fruits (bananas, pears, apples, apricots, prunes): How to prepare : Wash all fresh fruits, then bake, boil, or steam until soft. You can puree in either a blender or a food processor, or use a small hand food mill; add a little liquid like breast milk, baby formula, or water at first. Make it watery at first, then use less liquid as your baby gets used to solid foods.
Pureed or strained vegetables (avocados, carrots, peas, potatoes, squash):How to prepare : Wash all fresh vegetables; then bake, boil, or steam until soft. You can puree in either a blender or a food processor, or use a small hand food mill; add a little liquid like breast milk, baby formula, or water at first. You can use less water for a thicker puree as your baby gets used to the new foods.
Protein:Pea-sized pieces of cooked chicken, or other meats, or boneless fish; beans such as lentils, black, red, or pinto beans.(Doctors used to recommend waiting a bit to introduce meats, but now they note these are a good source of iron, particularly for breastfed babies, who may not be getting enough. How to prepare : Cut meat or fish into very small pieces; cook and mash or cut up beans.
Milestone 8-10 months
Mashed fruits and vegetables How to prepare : No need to puree; just cook foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes until soft, or mash up soft foods like bananas and avocados.
Finger foods like small o-shaped cereals, teething crackers, or small pieces of cooked pasta. How to prepare : Cut up to make sure the pieces are small enough for your baby to swallow without choking.
Dairy: small amounts of yogurt, cottage cheese, or any pasteurized cheese How to prepare Cut cheese into small pieces.
Eggs How to prepare: Scramble, or hard-boil and cut into small pieces.
Milestone 10-12 months
Your baby can try eating most of the foods you eat now, if they are cut up or mashed properly so that he can safely chew and swallow. As your baby gets more teeth and learns to chew more effectively, he will begin to be able to eat larger pieces of food. Continue to monitor his chewing carefully, and when in doubt, cut pieces smaller than you think necessary. Be especially careful with round, firm foods like grapes which pose a particular choking hazard to babies. Chop them into very small pieces.
Once your baby is happy with a variety of foods and textures , she’ll become used to the idea of mealtimes and work toward eating three meals a day.References: 1 Annabel Karmel.2010. Starting Solids. Great Britain. Darling Kindersley. 2 Glade B. Curtis, M.D. and Judith Schuler, M.S.,2010. Your Baby’s First Year week by week. Cambridge Center, Canbridge, MA. Da Capo Press. 3 Steven P. Shelov, M.D., M.S., F.A.A.P. Editor-In-Chief. 2010. Your Baby’s First Year. New York . Random House, Inc. 4 Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau. 2005. The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. New York. Simon & Schuster Inc. 5 www. webmd .com /parenting/baby 6 www.babycenter.com/introducing-solid-food
About the Author:
Shaista Tariq is an M.Sc., B.Sc. in Applied Science in Nutrition and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.