Infant feeding is an important part of your little one’s upbringing and for his life, right from infancy to adolescence and thereafter. Most new moms find it challenging to feeding infants. There are many dos and don’ts to take care of when feeding your little bundle of joy in his infancy. The failure to start on a healthy dietary regimen can affect your infant’s present growth and future health needs. The food must have adequate and complementary nutrition that can help infants meet their evolving needs, while continuing with breastfeeding for a minimum of two years.
Recommended Guide for Infant Feeding
There is no substitute to breast milk. Infants need necessary vitamins and minerals for growth in their tender years. Breast milk is rich in nutrients to help with the growth of your baby. Make sure your infant gets an adequate supply of breast milk for at least one year.
The timing of the first introduction of solid food to your infant depends on several development milestones. These baby growth milestones show whether your infant is ready for solids.
- Can he sit without support?
- Is his neck steady?
- Can he move his neck from one side to another?
- Has he lost the “Extrusion reflex,” with which he used to push out any food placed on his tongue? The reflex starts to diminish by the time a baby is 4 months old. But if your child still pushes out any solid, it means he is not yet ready for a solid diet.
- Has he crossed the first development milestone of six months?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation, exclusive breastfeeding is crucial for the proper growth and development in the first 6 months of life. This also helps delay the introduction of solids.
Do not start solids unless advised by the doctor. Feeding solid food too early can result in overfeeding and excessive weight gain.
Infant Nutrition for 6 -12 Month Old
By the time a baby is 6 months old, his natural iron stores begin to deplete. As a result, he needs more iron from food that supplements breast milk. However, you should never substitute food for breast milk. Early introduction to solid foods as a substitute to breast milk may cause poor nutrition outcomes. The baby may suffer from low iron stores and an increased risk of diarrheal disease.
- Introduce supplemental food to satisfy your infant’s appetite. Start with one new food at a time, so that you can identify any allergic reactions that the food can cause in your infant. Offer one new food every 3 days, so you have time to see your baby’s response. Skin rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, and wheezing are some of the common food intolerance symptoms in kids.
- Avoid using salt or sugar when making infant foods. Try to avoid canned foods, which contain an overload of salt and sugar.
- Do not choose fruits and vegetables that have fallen on the ground and risk causing food poisoning. Avoid high fiber fruits and keep fruit intake moderate. Start with cooked and puréed fruit.
- Do not include honey, eggs, and peanuts in your infant feeding diet. Honey can cause allergy in some infants because of the presence of bacteria spores.
- Begin with infant cereal, which is easy to absorb and well tolerated. It has a low potential of allergy. Then start supplementing the infant nutritional intake with fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid feeding cow’s milk to your infant until he is twelve months of age. Early introduction of cow’s milk can cause lactose intolerance, milk protein allergy, and iron deficiency. Cow’s milk lacks many nutrients that are essential for the proper growth of your baby.
- Avoid giving fat diets to babies under one year of age.
- Increase servings of vegetable purees from a few teaspoons to two tablespoons.
The AAP recommends limiting serving to four ounces of juice every day. Dilute the juice with water in the case of frequent servings.
Infant Nutrition: 12 Months and Beyond
By the time your baby is one year old, he can eat a variety of foods. But it is always best to start slowly. From mashed lentils to pureed fresh fruit, tree nuts, meat, chicken, and mild-tasting fish, the choice of infant food is unlimited once they cross the one-year milestone. However, shellfish is a common allergen in infants, so you may want to wait for some more time to introduce it to your baby. Other allergens include soy milk, egg white, cow’s milk, and wheat.
Observe your child’s reactions to a specific food carefully. It is advisable to exercise caution before adding a new food to your baby’s diet.
It’s a good idea to introduce a new food when your baby is hungry. Whatever you choose to feed your toddler, make sure the food size and texture is age appropriate. Choose whole foods, which are both satiating and nutritious. Follow your infant’s hunger signals and never try to force food into his mouth.
Remember, infant bodies are self-regulated. They eat when they are hungry and reject food when they are full.
Do not restrict fat and cholesterol in your infant nutritional intake unless advised by a doctor. These are crucial for his growth and the development of their body cells and the nervous system.
A child can establish life-long taste preferences in the first couple of years.
Ravneet also blogs at www.wellnessguide.com