Nutrition Do Baby Needs

baby needs

Adequate nutrition during infancy and early childhood is essential to ensure the growth, health, and development of children to their full potential. Poor nutrition increases the risk of illness. Inappropriate nutrition can also lead to childhood obesity which is an increasing public health problem in many countries.

Early nutritional deficits may also have a link to the long-term impairment in growth and health.

The first two years of life provide a critical window of opportunity for ensuring children’s appropriate growth and development through optimal feeding. Optimal nutrition has greater importance during this time of life than during any other because of its effect on brain growth, the development of the nervous system, and future health. Each country should use recommended nutrient intakes for infants and young children, based on international scientific evidence i.e. as the foundation of its nutrition and feeding guidelines. Provision of adequate dietary energy is vital during the period of rapid growth in infancy and early childhood.

Attention is mandatory to feeding practices that maximize the intake of energy-dense food without compromising micronutrient density.

An adequate protein intake with a balanced amino acid pattern is important for the growth and development of the infant and young child. It is prudent to avoid a high protein diet because this can have adverse effects. During complementary feeding and at least until 2 years of age, a child’s diet should not be too high in fat as they reduce Micronutrient density. A fat intake providing around 30-40percent of total energy is prudent. Consumption of added sugars should be less ranging about 10 percent of total energy, because high intake may compromise micronutrient status.


After birth the total body water decreases, and the percentage of body weight that is fat increases rapidly to peak at around 6 months of age. After early infancy, arrives after a period of natural slimming until around 5 years of age.

One of the most important factors while feeding infants is consistency. We must remember that:-

  • a 0-3-month-old infant can take in only liquids.
  • a 3-6-month-old infant can swallow liquids that are thicker inconsistency.
  • a 6-9-month-old infant can eat semi-solid foods that are smooth.
  • a 9-12-month-old infant can take in small mouthfuls of semi-solid or solid food. You should not filter the food and try chopping them instead.

Here are some micro and macronutrients that are highly important for babies


In countries where there is a high prevalence of childhood infectious diseases. It is important to determine whether vitamin A and vitamin D deficiency is a public health problem.


It includes iodine; iodine deficiency is also a major issue that is considered in the early stages.


Iron deficiency in infants and young children is widespread and has serious consequences for child health. Preventing iron deficiency should therefore be given high priority. It is important to give iron-rich foods such as liver, meat, fish, and pulses or iron-fortified complementary foods.

Nutrition can be given by breastfeeding or using the formula, complementary feeding.


Breastfeeding is a traditional practice for most cultures. Breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula should be provided until the infant is 12 months old. Breastfeeding is imperative to maintain and sustain child development and wellbeing. At birth, the natural bonding between mother and infant may also be enhanced through breastfeeding. Human breast milk highly nutritional for the requirements of a human baby. Breast milk contains all the nutrients that an infant needs in the first 6 months of life, including fat, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water.


Lactose is the main carbohydrate in milk. It fit its role in providing the infant’s nutritional requirements since it is highly soluble, promotes the growth of protective intestinal flora, and facilitates calcium absorption through the relative solubility of calcium lactate. Other carbohydrates in milk include monosaccharides, oligosaccharides, and protein-bound carbohydrates. These provide important protection against infection.


Breast milk protein differs in both quantity and quality from animal milk and it contains a balance of amino acids which makes it much more suitable for a baby. Human milk protein is 30 to 40 percent casein and 60 to 70 percent whey. Human milk casein forms smaller micelles with a looser structure than the casein of cow’s milk.

The structure facilitates enzymic action. Precipitation of tough, undigested casein curds in the stomach is less likely than with cow’s milk or unmodified cow’s milk formula.

The concentration of protein in breast milk is lower than in animal milk.

The much higher protein in animal milk can overload the infant’s immature kidneys with waste nitrogen products. Human milk contains alpha-lactalbumin whilst cow’s milk contains beta-lactalbumin, to which infants can become intolerant.


Although the quantities of fat in human and cow’s milk are not very different, the component fatty acids differ greatly. Human milk fat is higher in unsaturated fat, particularly the essential fatty acids linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid, and also contains the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA). These fatty acids are important for the neurological development of a child. LCPUFA are added to some varieties of infant formula but this does not confer any advantage over breast milk, and may not be as effective. The fats in human milk are more readily digested and absorbed than those in cow’s milk.


Breast milk normally contains sufficient vitamins for an infant (besides vitamin D which the inf ant produces on exposure to sunlight). Breast milk contains lactoferrin and other micronutrient binding compounds. These facilitate the absorption of iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, zinc, and other micronutrients.

Anti-infective factors

Breast milk contains many factors that help to protect an infant against infection:-•Immunoglobulin, principally secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), which coats the intestinal mucosa and prevents bacteria from entering the cells

  • White blood cells which can kill micro-organisms
  • Whey proteins (lysozyme and lactoferrin) which can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi
  • Oligosaccharides which prevent bacteria from attaching to mucosal surfaces

Infant formula is usually derived from industrially modified cow’s milk or soy products. During the manufacturing process, the quantities of nutrients are adjusted to make them more comparable to breast milk. However, the qualitative differences in the fat, the absence of anti-infective and bio-active factors remain and protein cannot be altered.


From 6 months of age, an infant’s need for energy and nutrients start to exceed what is provided by breast milk. Complementary feeding, therefore, becomes necessary. Ideally, parents wait till the baby is 6 months old since the renal and digestive systems are not fully developed at an earlier age and to decrease the risk of food allergies and choking. Complementary foods need to be nutritionally adequate, safe, and appropriately fed.

The child should initially be given small amounts of food which increase as the child gets older.

The most suitable consistency for an infant’s or young child’s food depends on age and neuromuscular development. Beginning at 6 months an infant can eat pureed, mashed, or semi-solid foods. By 8 months most infants can also eat finger foods. By 12 months, most children can eat the same types of food as consumed by the rest of the family. It is important to gradually increase the solidity of food with increasing age, for optimal child development.

The infant can be started on dry infant rice cereal, mixed as directed, followed by vegetables, fruits, and then meats.

When preparing infant foods, salt or sugar should not be added.

Canned foods may contain large amounts of salt and sugar and are therefore best avoided. Cow’s milk should not be introduced until the baby is 1 year old. It is recommended not to give fruit juices to infants younger than 6 months of age. Only pasteurized, 100 percent fruit juices, without added sugar may be given to older infants and children and this should be limited to 180ml a day.

The juice should be diluted with water and offered in a cup with a meal.  Fat and cholesterol shouldn’t be restricted in the diets of very young children. Children need calories, fat, and cholesterol for the development of their brains and nervous systems and general growth.

After the age of 2, it is recommended that the diet is moderately low in fat, as diets high in fat at a later stage may contribute to cardiovascular disease and obesity later in life.

Adult recommendations for fiber intake should not be applied in early childhood. High fiber content would lead to the decreased energy density in foods, and high phytate levels could interfere with micronutrient absorption.

Vegetables or fruits which are cooked well can also be given to the 5-6-month-old infant. Roots and tubers, vegetables that can be given in the boiled and mashed form include potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, and carrots. Spinach could be offered after fibrous parts have been removed.

This can be done by pressing the cooked spinach through a sieve to get a puree.

Fruits such as bananas, papaya, mangoes can be mashed and offered to the infant. However, fruits that are harder such as pineapple and peaches can be cooked first in a minimum of water after removing the skin and seeds. Sugar may be added to taste once the fruits have become soft. These can be mashed, and fed to the infant.

In addition to breastfeeding, a 4-6-month-old infant can be offered about half a Katori (small serving bowl) of khichri with vegetables or half a Katori of porridge (cooked suji/ Dalia/ragi or rice mashed and mixed with sugar or jaggery and some oil/ghee).

This quantity must be offered over five to six feeds since the infant cannot eat much at one time.

By the time the infant is eight or nine months old, finely cut foods such as boiled potatoes and carrots can be given. Biscuits or toast may be enjoyed by her because this lets her chew. Such foods provide exercise to the teeth and reduce the irritation in the gums sometimes associated with teething.


During early childhood and school-age years, children begin to establish habits for eating and exercise that remain for their entire lives. If children establish healthy habits, their risk for developing many chronic diseases will be greatly decreased. On the other hand, poor eating habits and physical inactivity during childhood set the stage for health problems in adulthood.

During the period when infants are introduced to supplementary foods and after this, they often suffer from infections like whooping cough, measles, or diarrhea.

You may be aware that these diseases are caused by germs that may be present in our food/ water or in the air we breathe. Poor intake of supplementary foods worsens the situation. A well-nourished infant may also get these infections but would recover sooner as compared to an undernourished infant.

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