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Infant Nutrition: What To Feed Babies From 0 To 12 Months

It’s best when infants feed on their mother’s milk especially during the initial 6 months. In special cases when the baby might need extra supplements or when the mother is unable to produce enough breast milk for whatever reason, the baby needs to be given other foods – under medical supervision of course. This article will run you through all important information about infant nutrition: when and what can you feed your baby! Keep reading….

Why is nutrition important for infants?

Infants are in a stage of rapid growth and development at all levels – physical, mental and cognitive. Thus it is very important to follow and ensure a proper infant nutrition and feeding regime during this age. The right infant nutrition will ensure a holistic development of the baby and act as a great foundation for her health in the later years. Although every child is different; the overall requirement remains more or less the same. Let’s read more on this as we go on…

What are the nutritional needs for an infant?

An ideal list of complete nutrition for infants includes the below. The list also explains how each of these essential nutrient benefits the baby.

  • Calcium – calcium helps build strong bones and teeth.
  • Fat – fat gets converted intoenergy; so it’s basically the energy-house. Fat also helps the brain develop, keeps skin and hair healthy, and protects against infections.
  • Folate – folate helps in cell division.
  • Iron – iron builds blood cells, and helps the brain develop.
  • Protein– protein functions as building blocksof muscles, and also helps grow and repair tissues of the eyes, skin, heart, lungs, brain, and other
  • Zinc – zinc helps cell growth and helps in repairing them.
  • Sodium – sodium helps maintain the balance of water in the body, regulates blood volume, as well as ensures the function of cells and cell membranes.
  • Carbohydrates – carbohydrates are energy powerhouses. They act as a primary evergy provider thus is very important to ensure carbohydrate supply to the children.
  • Water – It helps regulate kidney function, metabolism, as well as the transportation of nutrients around the body. It also helps with regulating body temperature.
  • Vitamin A – keeps skin, hair, vision, and the immune system healthy.
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) -helps the body turn food into energy.
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – helpsbody turn food to energy; protects cells from damage.
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – helps the body turn food into energy and use fats and protein.
  • Vitamin B6 – keeps the brain and immune system healthy.
  • Vitamin B12 -keeps nerve and blood cells healthy, and makes DNA, the genetic material in every cell.
  • Vitamin C – helps protect against infections, builds bones and muscles, and helps wounds heal.
  • Vitamin D –helps the body absorb calcium from food, and keeps bones and teeth healthy. Breast-fed babies may need a D supplement.
  • Vitamin E – protects cells from damage, and strengthens the immune system.
  • Vitamin K – helps the blood to clot.

Similar read: here’s your guide to vaccination for babies upto 10 months age

Infants who may not have access to breast milk may have to depend on supplements in the form of formulas, which are mostly made from cow milk.  Some nutrients are added to such supplements to make them more similar to breast milk such as:

  • Essential fatty acids like ARA or DHA – They help improve the baby’s brain and vision abilities.
  • Nucleotides – These are building blocks for the RNA and DNA, and help in boosting the infant’s immunity.
  • Prebiotics and probiotics – These when supplemented through formulas can help prevent skin problems like eczema.
What are the nutritional guidelines for babies between 0-12 months?

Infant nutrition guidelines may vary, depending upon the pre-existing health conditions, but it is ideally recommended to breastfeed newborns till 4 months, although infants above that age can also breastfeed, along with some solid food. Below are answers to few frequently asked questions about feeding your infant baby:

When to introduce solid food to infants?

During the age of 4 to 6 months, solid food can be introduced into the diet. However, this should be done only when the infant is capable of sitting up (with support), turning his head away and making chewing motions. He should no more have the reflex of spitting out anything other than liquids. Even then, solid food should not be a complete replacement for breast milk or formula, but rather an addition to the existing diet.

What solid food should I start my baby on?

Also, if you are trying to start solid food, there is no hard and fast rule to start with cereals, but if you do, try a single-grain, iron-fortified infant cereal  with a neutral to no flavour. It will also be a bit easier to notice any food allergies than with a cereal made from several grains. You may want to mix it with formula or breast milk to get a runny consistency at first so it’s not a drastic change for your baby. Gradually thicken it more until your baby gets used to the new texture.

When to give cow milk to your baby?

Paediatricians often suggest you to wait until the baby’s first birthday to include cow’s milk. Nutritionally, cow milk is not equal to mother’s milk and also does not consist all of the nutritional values of specially developed formulas. Hence, the mother’s milk should never be replaced with cow milk under regular circumstances.

A general nutrition chart for infants is as follows:

Carbohydrate

  • 0-6 months: 60 grams per day
  • 6-12 months: 90 grams per day

 

Protein

  • 0-6 months: 9.1 grams per day
  • 6-12 months: 11grams per day

 

 Fat

  • 0-6 months: 31 grams per day
  • 6-12 months: 30 grams per day

Vitamins A, D, E, C

 

0-6 months:

  • 400 µg vitamin A
  • 5 µg vitamin A
  • 4 mg vitamin E
  • 40 mg vitamin C per day

 

6-12 months

  • 500 µg vitamin A
  • 25 µg vitamin D
  • 5 mg vitamin E
  • 50 mg vitamin Cper day

 

B Vitamins

  • 0-6 months: 0.1 to 0.3 mg per day
  • 6-12 months: 0.3 to 0.4 mg per day

 

Folate

  • 0-6 months: 65 µg per day
  • 6-12 months: 80 µg per day

 

Niacin

  • 0-6 months: 2 mg per day
  • 6-12 months: 4 mg per day

 

Calcium

  • 0-6 months: 210 mg per day
  • 6-12 months: 270 mg per day

 

Iron

  • 0-6 months: 0.27 mg per day
  • 6-12 months: 11 mg per day

 

Zinc

  • 0-6 months: 4 mg per day
  • 6-12 months: 5 mg per day

 

Sodium

  • 0-6 months: 100 to 200 mg per day
  • 6-12 months: 100 to 200 mg per day

 

Water

  • 0-6 months: Only water from breast milk
  • 6-12 months: 4-8 ounces of water
Feeding your baby fruits and vegetables

According to most infant nutrition and feeding guides, fruits and vegetables can be started, but only one at a time. They can be introduced to one at a time to see how the infant reacts to the flavour and texture and to make sure no allergies develop. If your baby won’t eat them at first, try again later. Babies may need to reject food at least 5-10 times on different occasions before you can truly say they don’t like the food.

Feeding your baby with a spoon

Eating with a spoon will be a very new experience for your baby. Since she would have had only liquid foods so far. So please be aware that the baby will take adequate time to get used to eating solid foods with spoon. Continue to practice and eventually the baby will learn to eat comfortably. Instead of feeding an entire meal with spoon, start with 1 or 2 teaspoons and gradually increase the number of attempts with every passing meal. After the practice bites with spoon, continue feeding with the hand.

Important Notices: 
  1. Give honey to babies younger than 1 year, as that can cause a botulism risk that a baby’s developing immune system can’t fend off.
  2. When choosing formula milk to replace breast milk, it is better to consult the doctor so that the right infant nutrition information is received. This helps in choosing the best alternative

Overall, it can be an enjoyable bonding experience to feed an infant. Please keep in mind, that the nutrition regime of the infants in the first 12 months can affect the relationship that they develop with food and can be critical for their health and development, with long term consequences.

Written by Bhadraiah P