Infant Health And Nutrition
The right Nutrition is the most important aspect of a child’s growth and development. From the time a baby is born, extra care is provided to the child. This article talks about all the vital aspects of infant health and nutrition.
Age: Birth to 6 months
During this time, it is only recommended to exclusively breastfeed the baby or formula feed him. Introducing any other form of liquids (not even water) or semi-solid food is not advisable as your baby’s digestive tract is usually weak and still developing. Plus, your baby will get all the required nourishment from your breast milk or from formula. It is advised to feed the child every 2 to 3 hours initially and then the feeds can be on demand.
Age: 6 to 8 months
By this time, your baby is usually ready for solids. Breastfeeding or formula milk should be continued as they still remain a major part of your child’s nutrition. This is just an introduction to semi-solids to start developing your baby’s taste buds and to supplement breast milk or formula milk. There are certain signs which you need to look for while introducing semi-solids. They are:
- Baby can hold his / her head up and sit upright in highchair
- Your baby has doubled his / her birth weight
- His / her eating reflexes have started functioning. Like he / she can close their mouth when a spoon is put in.
- The baby can move the food in the mouth.
You can feed your baby boiled, mashed or pureed vegetables or fruits, dal water, ragi porridge or any other form of mixed porridge (oats, barley etc). One thing to remember is that when you are pureeing anything always add breast milk or formula to it if you want it in a more liquid consistency. Cow’s milk or any other animal source of milk is a strict no till the child turns one year old. Begin with just one spoon of whatever you are introducing to your baby. Try it out for a few days and then you can increase the quantity to another two to three spoons and maybe you could feed your child twice a day with the new form of food. Always give your child two to three days to get used to it. It is an extremely new thing for the baby and we need to be considerate about it.
Age: 8 to 10 months
Infant baby food is a very new thing to first time parents as they usually do not know how to go about. During the next phase of your baby’s life, after getting introduced to semi solid food items, your baby is usually ready for a little solids and finger foods. Also, this is usually the time when your child starts teething and might be constantly looking for something to chew on. Finger foods are of great help during the teething phase. The signs you need to see are if he / she is able to pick up objects with their thumb and forefinger, if she can transfer items from hand to another, if the baby tends to put everything in his / her mouth and if your baby can move their jaw in a motion resembling a chewing motion. At this stage, you could start with paneer and unsweetened yogurt, mashed vegetables and fruits, small bits of meat or fish, pulses, iron fortified cereals and mainly finger foods like teething crackers, small pieces of bread or bagels, boiled potatoes / carrots cut into long slices, well cooked pasta. You could give half to one cup of a combination of these food items two to three times a day to your baby.
Age: 10 to 12 months
Introducing healthy food for infants is of utmost importance to set good eating habits for your kids later in life. Most of their brain development takes place before the age of five hence, infant baby food is to be given utmost importance. The signs you need to look for are:
- Your baby is able to swallow food more easily
- Has more teeth
- Show readiness to use a spoon
You could give all the food items that you have been giving your baby. In addition to this, you can start making cubes or small pieces of soft fruits and vegetables. You can start with soft boiled eggs when your child completes one. Eggs are the highest source of protein and fat and are very beneficial for your baby’s growth and development.
Age: 1 year and above
This is the time to start introducing proper home cooked meals in small quantities to your child. Grains like rice, whole wheat rotis, dal, vegetables with very less salt, cow’s milk and everything else which isn’t very spicy and has too many flavors can be introduced to your baby. The idea is to get your child used to eating like us adults eventually. You can primarily begin with milk as an important part of your child’s meal. Honey can also be added to fruits and served as a meal. Keep in mind that honey cannot be given to a child who is under the age of one due to the risk of an infection called as Botulism.
The quantity of food can be your choice and as per your child’s requirement and appetite. Always begin the introduction of healthy food to your baby slowly. Do not rush into it as it is a very new experience for your child. Offer one type of food and if your child refuses, wait for around four to five days and offer the same food again. You never know, he might just like it this time. Consult your pediatrician on a regular basis and take tips for infant food ideas. A lot of them have charts or catalogues which has an array of food options. Last but not the least; don’t fret if your baby isn’t eating much initially. They will surely develop a liking or a taste for food and in no time they will be munching away like any one of us.
Also read - Importance Of Maternal Nutrition For The Baby