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Baby & Toddler Nutrition

Early nutrition plays an integral role in keeping your little children healthy and free from diseases. A child with a strong, healthy body will experience optimum growth and development and of course, lead a happier, more productive life as an adult. As parents, you can do your part easily if you know what your child needs, nutrition-wise.

The best infant nutrition

Breast milk! – This should ideally be the only food a baby consumes for the first six months of life. Breast-fed babies however, should get a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms (µg) or 400 international units (IU) each day to prevent a possible deficiency. If your baby is on commercial infant formula, Vitamin D supplements might not be required as commercial infant formulas should contain vitamin D. Follow your pediatrician’s advice on this one.

Introducing Flavors via Breast Milk?

Studies on breast milk and babies’ food preferences have shown that babies are more likely to enjoy the foods their mothers ate while breastfeeding over new foods they were never exposed to. According to Julie A Menella, Ph.D. a biopsychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, there is enough evidence to point to the fact that flavors from a mother’s diet are transmitted to her baby through breast milk. Babies can detect the flavors and, if they have experience with those flavors, they are going to be more accepting of the food. So, if you’re breastfeeding, start baby’s love of nutritious food early by piling some on your own plate.

For babies between 7 to 12 months old

From the time your baby hits the 6-month mark, besides breast milk, it will be time to begin adding solid foods. Formula-fed infants should also be introduced to solid foods at this time. Start with foods that contain iron to support your baby’s growth and development. Iron-rich foods include beef, lamb, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, and legumes such as beans and lentils. Iron-fortified infant cereal is also a common first food. Gradually increase the number of times a day that you offer solid foods.

You can also try offering your baby a range of foods from your family meals, as long as they’re nutritious. Let your little one discover different textures and experiment with self-feeding. Finger foods are also a good start, so offer pieces of soft-cooked vegetables, soft fruit such as banana, teething rusks and toast.

Wait until your baby is between 9 and 12 months old to make the transition to cow’s milk as your child’s main milk source. Start with homogenized cow’s milk (3.25% M.F.). If you are going to make fortified soy beverage your child’s main milk source, wait until they are 2 years of age. Rice or nut beverages should not be used as your child’s main milk source.

Dealing food allergens

Introduce food one at a time. A food allergen can cause an allergic reaction in some children (like itchy skin, upset stomach or wheezing). Wait two days before introducing a new food. That way, if your baby develops a reaction, you’ll have a better idea of what food might have caused it.

Between 12 to 24 months

If you’re still breastfeeding, good for you, but by 12 months, your baby will also need a variety of foods. Nutritious, high-fat foods are an important source of energy for your child. Examples include breast milk, homogenized cow’s milk (3.25% M.F.), cheese, avocado and some fish such as salmon or trout. Eat together as a family as often as you can. Be a role model; try new and nutritious foods yourself. It will help if you establish a schedule of regular meals and snacks for your little one. Limit fruit juice and do not offer sweetened beverages. If your child seems thirsty, offer water.

Overfeeding encourages children to override their inborn ability to eat when hungry and stop when full, which may encourage a pattern of overeating that leads to an unhealthy weight.

Safe feeding practices

  • Always supervise your child when eating, even if you practice baby-led weaning. Make sure your child is sitting upright and is not distracted. Do not let your child eat while walking or running, or by themselves while in a moving vehicle.
  • Your little one may seem like an expert at eating by now, but do still be wary of the kinds of food you offer. Do not offer solid foods that are hard, small and round, or sticky, for these can cause choking in little children. Do not offer herbal teas, sports drinks or other drinks with caffeine or artificial sweeteners either.
  • Cook all meat, eggs, poultry, and fish well. To avoid salmonella poisoning, do not use products with raw eggs. Do not offer unpasteurized juices, milk or milk products and to prevent infant botulism, do not offer honey to a baby younger than 12 months.
  • If your child seems disinterested in solids when you first offer them, be patient and wait a few days to give the food another try. Some children take more time than others to come around to eating from a spoon. While some are consistently poor eaters, most babies eat enough to thrive.

Breakfast options

  • Very lightly buttered whole grain toast
  • Scrambled egg
  • Sliced banana
  • Breast milk or homogenized cow’s milk (3.25% M.F.)
  • Snack options
  • Whole grain tortilla
  • Grated or sliced cheese
  • Soft pear, sliced

Lunch options

  • Cooked quinoa
  • Chopped chicken
  • Grated carrot and cucumber
  • Breast milk or homogenized cow’s milk (3.25% M.F.)

 

Snack options

  • Dry cereals
  • Sliced fresh plum
  • Dinner options
  • Poached fillet of fish, deboned
  • Roasted potato, chopped
  • Steamed broccoli and cauliflower, chopped
  • Fruit cocktail in juice
  • Breast milk or homogenized cow’s milk
  • Supper options
  • Whole wheat bread with butter
  • Yogurt
  • Breast milk or homogenized cow’s milk

Toddlers’ eating woes

Toddlers will eat (or ask for food!) when they’re hungry, so if you’re faced with a picky eater, remember that growth spurts, painful teething, and illnesses all contribute to their fickleness about food. So does a general fascination with their surroundings and with their new-found abilities. Often enough, toddlers are more interested in learning a new word or making a run for it than in eating.

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