Nutrition for Infants and Young Children

The nutritional needs of infants are unlike those of any other group. They grow at a faster rate than adults. They have to make a dramatic transition in diet, from liquid to solid foods. And they face food hazards that adults and older children do not. Careful attention to feeding is absolutely essential to supporting the growth explosion that characterises infancy, therefore breast is best. For the first year of life, breast milk is the best primary food source for providing a baby with everything that he or she needs to grow strong and healthy. No other source provides quite the same combination of unique infection-fighting properties and ideal calorie, protein, vitamin and mineral composition. If you are breast-feeding, expect to feed your baby eight to 12 times a day in a 24-hour period.

If breast-feeding is not possible, iron-fortified infant formula is an acceptable substitute, therefore don't feel guilty. A lot of pressure is put on a mother to breast feed but if you are unable, you shouldn't be made to feel like an outcast, which can happen.

Allergic or intolerant reactions to the components in standard infant formula are not common, but in the event that your baby experiences them, specialized formulas are available.

Whichever formula you use, proper dilution, mixing and storage are essential; always follow the instructions on the can carefully.

Formula-fed babies generally consume about two to three ounces per pound of body weight divided into feedings every three to four hours during the first four months of life.

Check with your healthcare provider to determine whether your baby needs any nutritional supplements to breast milk or formula.

Quiz: Is Your Baby Ready for Solid Foods?

Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions to determine whether your baby is ready for solid foods.

Is the baby between 4 and 6 months old?

Has the baby’s birth weight doubled?

Does he or she weigh at least 12 pounds?

Can your baby sit up with support?

Does it seem like he or she is hungry all the time, even after nursing 8 to 12 times a day or drinking a quart of formula?

Do you notice the baby showing great interest in food that is served at the table?

When given a tiny bit of baby cereal, can your baby move the cereal to the back or his or her mouth (instead of thrusting it back out with the tongue)?

If you answered “yes” to at least six of these questions, your baby may be ready for solid foods. But before you start this important new stage in your baby’s growth, be sure to talk about it with your pediatrician.

What to Feed the Baby

So your baby is ready for solid foods. Now what? Start with iron-fortified rice cereal, mixed with water, infant formula or breast milk, and follow these simple steps.

Use a small spoon to work up to 2 to 3 tablespoons of baby cereal twice a day. Stop feeding whenever the baby turns his or her head or tries to push away the spoon. Never add rice cereal to a baby’s bottle. After a few days, it is fine to try other cereal varieties (although it is not necessary). If you do decide to try other varieties, keep these guidelines in mind. Introduce a new cereal only after the baby has tolerated rice cereal for several days. Try one new cereal at a time. Wait a few days between varieties. Beyond Cereal: Other Good Foods for Babies

4 to 6 months

2 to 3 tablespoons iron-fortified rice cereal twice a day Other iron-fortified infant cereals, introduced gradually Pureed vegetables and fruits, introduced one at a time (Vitamin D may be recommended for breast-fed infants with little or no sun exposure)

6 to 8 months

Mashed vegetables and fruits Infant breads and crackers Up to 2 to 4 ounces (1/4 to 1/2 cup) a day of diluted 100 percent juice that has been pasteurized and fortified with vitamin C, served in a cup (no orange juice until 12 months)

8 to 10 months

Soft-cooked vegetables and fruits Finely cut meats, fish, chicken, cheeses Plain yogurt, chopped tofu, egg yolks, legumes Breads, rice, pasta

10 to 12 months

Continue to introduce a wide variety of low-sugar foods, modified in texture as needed

12 months

Whole cow’s milk to replace infant formula

Ten Foods to Avoid:

1. Cow’s milk

  • Potential allergen; difficult to digest
  • Do not use until 12 months.
  • When introduced at 12 months, use whole milk.

2. Honey

  • May contain the type of bacteria that causes botulism
  • Do not use until 12 months.

3. Egg whites

  • Potential allergen
  • Do not use until 12 months.
  • Egg yolks are acceptable at about 8 months.

4. Hot dogs

  • Choking hazard
  • Excess sodium, nitrites, preservatives
  • Not recommended at all for a baby or toddler

5. Grapes

  • Choking hazard unless skinned and chopped
  • Do not serve until about age 2 or 3.

6. Juice drinks

  • Serve only 100 percent juice, not juice drinks.
  • Offer juice only in small quantities.
  • Large amounts of juice (more than 4 ounces full-strength juice a day) may interfere with the baby’s intake of more nutritious foods.

7. Popcorn

  • Choking hazard
  • Do not serve until age 3.

8. Nuts

  • Choking hazard; potential allergen
  • Do not serve until age 3.

9. Candy

  • Choking hazard
  • Non-nutritive energy source

10. Peanut butter

  • Choking hazard; potential allergen
  • Do not serve until age 2 or 3.