Baby Nutrition- Learn what Baby Needs
Good nutrition is vital to help your baby's body to function, grow efficiently and repair itself, and to ensure good health throughout life. Start by giving your baby a broad range of fresh, unrefined and if possible organic foods. In this way you can help to ensure that, by the age of 12 months, he will be eating a well-balanced and healthy diet.
As babies have small appetites, they need small, frequent meals made up of nutrient-dense foods. All foods provide a mixture of nutrients, but no single food, apart from breast milk or formula milk during the first six months, provides them all.
Why Nutrition Matters
"Nutrition in the early years of life is a major determinant of growth and development and it also influences adult health"
The Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy "COMA" Report.
By far the best food for your baby in the first few months is breast milk. Ideally, you should try to breastfeed for at least the first 4 months. Once your baby reaches the age of 4 months you can start to wean him onto "solid" foods - that is, foods and liquids other than milk (although the foods babies eat at this stage can hardly be described as "solid"). The foods you choose to feed him should be the best foods for his development and growth.
Your Baby's Immune System
Your baby's immune system is very immature at birth and it needs to develop to become healthy and strong. The strength of your baby's immune system is dependent on an optimal, balanced intake of nutrients. From birth, the first food to assist in building a strong immune system is colostrum, the liquid that comes from the breast before the milk comes in. Colostrum contains many antibodies to combat bacteria and viruses, and so support, your baby's immune system. Colostrum also contains a high concentration of zinc, which is essential for a child's growth and development. Formula milks are fortified with zinc.
Your Baby's Digestive System
Your baby's digestive system is far from being fully developed in his first few weeks of life, which is why breast milk is the perfect food. It can take up to four months for your baby's intestines to develop and to produce the right enzymes for digesting foods. Similarly, his kidneys will not be able to cope with eliminating waste products from solid food. It makes sense that if solid foods are introduced too early, your baby's digestive system may become damaged. This is one of the reasons why babies are usually weaned between 4 and 6 months old and not earlier.
The reason for making sure that your baby's diet gradually becomes more varied and balanced is because he needs all of the essential nutrients to grow and develop, and to develop strong and healthy immune and digestive systems. His diet needs to be varied, because no one nutrient works in isolation and a severe deficiency of one vitamin or mineral can adversely affect his development.
Energy-dense foods are very important for the first year of life, as your baby's demands for energy are high due to his rapid growth and development while his stomach capacity is small. It is important to remember that standard adult healthy eating advice (low fat, high fibre diets) should not be given to babies or young children under 2 years of age.
Fresh Fruit And Vegetables
Non-citrus fruit and vegetables make great first foods as they are unlikely to cause allergies in babies. They also contain a concentrated supply of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and beneficial enzymes, which can be quickly absorbed into your baby's system and bloodstream. Enzymes are particularly important for your baby's health as they are essential to every stage of metabolism. They can be destroyed during cooking. At first, breast milk will provide all the essential enzymes your baby needs. After 9-10 months, to supplement your baby's enzyme intake, increase the amount of steamed fruit and vegetables you give so long as your baby is confident with chewing.
The Importance Of Vitamins
I often mention antioxidant vitamins (such as vitamins A, C, and E) in this book and, although we associate these with cancer, heart disease, and problems that generally occur later in life, they also play a significant role in assisting the immune system and enabling the body to maintain health.
The Points System
To help make your life easier during these formative months I have chosen five of the key nutrients your baby needs and designed a points system around them. This is intended to help you easily get used to feeding your baby a balanced diet. At the same time, it will reassure you that he is eating the recommended amount of each of these nutrients on a daily basis. There are, however, other nutrients that are also very important during this first year of your baby's life. (To find out how-to ensure a healthy intake of all the key nutrients).