When you’re a new parent, it is natural to be subjected to every kind of contradictory advice about what foods are best for your new born. Infant nutrition plays a key role in determining the growth rate and body changes during the first year of life. A healthy start can go a long way with respect to your baby’s long-term health, body weight, immune system, metabolic programming, and overall ageing.
Breast-feeding is vital
For the first six months of infancy, your new-born baby must be breast-fed. Breast milk is an essential nutrient mix that comprises of antibodies, enzymes, antimicrobial factors, fatty acids and other anti-inflammatory factors. Breastfeeding promotes optimal brain development and is considered a good practice for both the mother and the infant. Respiratory and gastrointestinal infections are at bay when the baby is steadily breastfed the first six months. While the mother breastfeeds, it releases beneficial hormones such as prolactin and oxytocin, which helps the mother bond with her child and lose weight.
A healthy diet for the mother
As a nursing mother it is important you understand that what you eat is what your little one eats. Limit exposure to toxins, while cutting down on your caffeine and alcohol consumption. Go organic while avoiding seafood. Include as many fruits and vegetables as possible in your diet, thereby increasing the nutritional value of the milk you breastfeed your baby.
Introducing solid foods
Infants are unable to digest most foods until they are 4-6 months old. Soon as the baby has doubled its birth weight and is able to hold up its own head, parents can start introducing solid foods. This is a normal occurrence when babies reach the 6 months phase. Baby feeding is a delicate process that needs to be done in a way where all types of baby food are introduced to the infant at the right age. Solid foods is often paired with breast milk, and not considered to be a replacement for it. Ensure that ‘solid’ food is introduced in liquid state. New types of solid food can be introduced to the baby once every three days. Take it nice and slow while introducing solid food in order to see how your little one responds. Keep a keen eye on any negative reactions such as skin, respiratory or gastrointestinal issues.
Types of baby food
Rice cereal teamed with formula or breast milk is the first ‘solid food’ ideally introduced to a baby. It is seen that babies have low potential for allergy and tolerate intake of rice cereal. Although not as sweet as fruits, pureed vegetables such as beets, potatoes, carrots or squashes are the next option. Introducing vegetables before fruits is essential. If the baby is introduced to fruits first then expectation that every food will taste as sweet will occur. Also, babies do not have the ability to completely digest fructose. Instead try high fibre fruits such as mashed bananas with breast milk or pureed peaches, apples or pears. Mashed and well-cooked lentils, beans, peas and meats can be given as final introduction to solid foods. Although, the baby could take a while to adjust its GI tract to this diet.
Post 12 months
When the baby is a year old, it is ideal to introduce an array of other foods such as tree nuts, avocado, asparagus, string beans, egg, meat and other baby food. However, continue to finely chop or mash most of the food into tiny bits so the child will not choke on it.