Parenting is especially tough when a baby’s diet and nutrition are in question. A hundred tiny details go into deciding the most nutritious food options before and after every meal. Babies undergo a growth spurt at 5-6 months old when their weight doubles and then triples by the time they are one year of age. To support this rapid growth, babies need lots of nutrients. So, to help make your life easier, let’s discuss your baby’s nutritional needs.
Important nutrients in a baby’s diet
Some nutrients play a huge role in your baby’s food as compared to others. Here is a list of some important nutrients your baby needs to thrive.
Protein is essential for your baby’s growth and development as it maintains, repairs, and builds body tissues during its growth period. Babies can get most of the needed protein from formula and breast milk. However, that can change after your baby crosses the one-year milestone, a perfect time to add some protein-packed foods to your little one’s diet. These protein-rich foods include meat, chicken, eggs, tofu, and fish. You also need to ensure that your baby gets proteins from different sources.
Both formula and breast milk are adequate sources of calcium to meet your baby’s growing needs for the first year of their life. Some baby-friendly calcium-packed foods include whole milk yoghurt, cottage cheese, ricotta, and whole milk cheese (like muenster, cheddar, Baby Swiss, Havarti, Monterey Jack, and Colby).
Babies have an adequate store of iron during the first 4 to 6 months of their lives saved up from the gestation period; as these iron reserves start to deplete, iron-fortified formulas and breast milk may not nearly be enough to bring it up to balance. Hence, it is vital to introduce iron-rich foods to your baby’s diet to help them meet the recommended iron intake of 11 mg each day. Iron-rich foods include fortified baby cereal, meat, wheat germ, egg yolk, legumes, and whole-grain bread.
Omega-3 fatty acids
A part of the essential fatty acids family, omega-3 is vital for the physical growth and development of the baby. Breast milk, baby formulas, and foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Once your baby starts consuming solids, you should regularly feed them omega-3-rich foods like salmon, tofu, flaxseed, grass-fed meat, DHA-enriched yoghurt, canola oil, eggs, and cereals.
Another essential mineral to promote your baby’s cognitive and motor development, lack of the mineral may lead to deficits in neuropsychologic functioning. Zinc is also required to strengthen your baby’s immune system. Babies suffering from zinc deficiency may experience impaired growth and an increased risk of developing infections. Up to 6 months, babies need 2 mg of zinc each day, and children between the ages of 7 months to 3 years need around 3 mg daily to meet their recommended intake. You can enrich the baby food with zinc-rich foods like fortified cereals and pureed meats.
What to avoid feeding your baby?
It’s wise to avoid feeding whole cow’s milk to your baby for the first 12 months as it doesn’t have sufficient levels of vitamin E, iron, and essential fatty acids. Also, it may contain too much sodium, protein, and potassium for your little one’s body to absorb, causing harmful side effects. It’s advisable to wait until your baby is at least a year old before introducing cow milk into its diet. Also, avoid giving homemade formula and soy milk as they do not offer the balanced nutrition that your little one needs.