In the first few months, the baby only needs mother's milk but as he grows he needs outside food also for the new tissue development. A balanced diet is to be given to cope up with the demands of baby's growth. Here is a guideline on baby's food. Read on.
Infancy is a period of rapid growth.
Plenty of energy and nutrients are needed for the new tissue development.
When it comes to feeding infants, parents universally agree that breast milk is the best. Not only is breast milk superior nutritionally, it also
contains all the immunological properties that formulas can never contain.
Breastfeeding ideally should continue for at least 12 months and thereafter
for as long as mutually desired. But for some reason if breastfeeding is
not possible for medical, psychological or practical reasons, it is of
paramount importance to ensure sufficient nourishment for your baby by
responding appropriately to the nutritional guidelines and also understanding
the trick of translating nutritional advice into infant foods on the table.
An appropriate diet for infants under the age of one should provide all
the essential energy and nutrients needed for normal growth and development,
whilst including a variety of foods and tastes.
During the early months, concern
about the well being of the child is acute, so the anxiety (specially for first time parents) reigns supreme. Confusion over what is suitable for children has been fuelled by a heightened awareness of the need for a healthy diet.
Following guidelines can be applied
while choosing infant foods -
Pediatricians recommend using prepared
infant formulae containing iron and vitamins for the first year. Infant
formulae are considered as nutritionally complete meals for babies until
about six months of age so it is recommended to wait till then to start
solid foods. If pureed foods are started earlier, a baby is likely to spit
it out, as they are not neurologically ready to accept solids by then.
0-6 months - Infant formula or
cow's milk or goat's milk.
6 months onwards - Dal water,
diluted rice water, mashed banana, fruit juice etc.
Home cooked foods can provide variety
of tastes and textures when started. Milk products, yoghurt and custard
can be introduced. Gluten containing cereals should be delayed till the
infant is six months of age. Single grain cereal is often the first one
added. New foods should be added one at a time to allow them to get used
to the flavour of the food and also get him to agree with it. The most
important thing to remember when starting solid foods is to use your common
A few children may have food intolerances
like milk intolerance. Alternative products like soy based infant formula
can be used for them.
Avoid These - Some foods like
nuts are unsuitable for children as they might lead to choking. Also it
would be wise not to include honey as it contains microorganisms to which
small infants are particularly sensitive.
Do Not Compare - Infant appetites
vary. No two babies would require to be fed the same amount of food. Their
feeding pattern would vary considerably so comparing your child's intake
with another will not give you any accurate indications. As long as your
child's growth is as per the schedule and he is not cranky, there is no
reason for you to worry about his intake even if small amounts are being
Reference body weights and heights of
infants according to National council of health statistics (NCHS) are as
Source - ICMR
Focus should be on food quality. Emphasis
should be on preparing infant foods with adequate calories, fat and other
nutrients. Because their digestive and excretory systems are immature,
easily accessible energy sources like fat and sugars are important. Fat
is necessary for proper cognitive and behavioural development and babies
need up to 50% of energy from fat because of their large energy requirements
and small stomach capacity. Sugars are also an easily digestible source
of calories so do not unnecessarily curb on these.
Following are the Energy and
Protein requirement of infants -
Avg. during 1st year
Source - ICMR
Give a highly varied diet to ensure
enough fibre in the diet. A diet excessively high in fibre may be too low
in calories and may also interfere with the absorption of minerals. Fruits and vegetables can be introduced gradually in the first year of life provided
they do not replace energy dense foods but compliment them.
Infants are born with enough stored
iron for four to six months. After that iron is more likely than any nutrient
to be lacking in the infant's diet. The early use of cows milk (Cow's milk
should not be used as a main drink before the age of one year because it
has low iron content), early weaning and weaning onto a diet low in iron
have all been implicated as causes of iron deficiency in children. Foods
that contain easily absorbed sources of iron and zinc (meat and poultry
and manufactured infant cereals) should be provided to rule out potential
During the latter half of infancy adequate
vitamin D and calcium are also important for attainment of an optimal bone
mass. Good sources are butter, margarine, adequate exposure to sunlight
and oily fish. In case of doubt about vitamin D status supplements can
be started from one month of age. Other vitamin supplements can be delayed
till one year for bottle fed infants consuming at least 500ml of infant
milk per day.
Moderate salt intake by choosing low
salt foods and avoiding addition of extra salt during food preparation
should be ensured.
Apart from meeting the nutritional requirements,
emphasis should be placed on learning to enjoy food. Mealtime for them
should be an interesting occasion, a time they look forward to. This can
be achieved by keeping the atmosphere relaxed and easy during meals.
All parents want to give their
children the best start in life. So if you help your child start
on the right track, it will pave the way for a healthy attitude to food
as well as a healthy diet later in life.
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- The Indiaparenting Team