You might admit one simple fact that the initial months of a newborn baby are crucial in terms of growth and development. And at times, one has to be very careful about the food and nutrition of the baby. Some of the necessary nutrients a baby requires are:
All these are effective in development and growth. Suppose a baby does not get an ample amount of nutrition. In that case, he/she might face developmental issues such as myopathies, including muscular dystrophies, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, and many more.
Experts say that the ideal food for a newborn for the first six months is breast milk. Breast milk consists of each and every nutrient that a baby needs for development.
Having said that, there are some alternatives as well. You might consider infant formula to be an appropriate alternative.
Don’t be confused, new mommy. Let’s have a look at what all the nutrients functionally do for a baby’s growth.
Calcium is one of the most required elements for a baby. The only scope to develop strong bones is when we are toddlers. Calcium plays the most important role in developing strong bones.
In case a baby has a calcium deficiency, you might notice weak bone structure and many complications. There can be a chance for your baby to be affected by rickets, a disease that softens bone structure, causes bowed hands and legs, and sometimes stunted growth or weak muscles. In order to avoid that, you should always look for a diet for your baby that consists of a good amount of calcium.
Now, there are some food sources of calcium that can be given to toddlers. Breast milk is the first and foremost option because it satisfies the requirement of calcium for a baby. All the dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) can be an optimal choice for calcium, but your newborn cannot eat all of them. If you are not going for breast milk, pick a suitable infant formula made of milk protein.
Keep in mind that your toddler (if younger than six months) will need 200 mg of calcium per day. And babies from 6 to 11 months will need 260 mg calcium per day.
Although cow’s milk or goat’s milk is adequate in calcium, you should remember that your baby’s stomach is a sensitive one. So the only food you will be giving them is either breast milk or infant formula.
This specific element is one of the crucial elements to keep babies healthy. Iron basically helps to make hemoglobin, which is responsible for the color of the blood. It boosts the red blood cells, and that is how the red color of blood is obtained. Even iron is necessary to develop the brain of a baby.
Now, if your toddler lacks iron, you might notice some signs such as pale skin, no appetite, a fussy mood, and low weight. Iron deficiency can even slow down your baby’s physical activities.
The good thing is the newborn babies already have received iron from their mother’s blood. But it is essential for you to take care of the iron demand of your little one.
For newborns, breastmilk fulfills the requirement of iron. But if breastfeeding is not an option, you can choose any infant formula available in the market. Generally, cow’s milk formulas are high and rich in iron. Try buying one of those if your baby does not have any other problems like lactose intolerance or some other issues with cow’s milk formula.
Zinc is another mineral that is essential for your baby’s growth. Zinc basically develops the cellular structure and efficiency. It is required to make DNA and RNA and various crucial proteins essential for a baby’s body. It also plays an important part in the immune system.
An adequate amount of zinc can provide a better and enhanced immunity system. Babies lacking zinc may face an impaired growth and even are vulnerable to infections—infants of 0 to 6-month need 2 mg of zinc every single day. Thankfully, breast milk is a source from which babies can have the requirement of zinc fulfilled.
But in rare cases, the mammary gland may produce milk that is incapable of providing an adequate amount of zinc. In that scenario, you might opt for formula because that comfortably meets the requirements.
Protein is the key element in the structural development of a baby. From the initial stages of life, protein plays an essential role in developing the baby structurally.
During the first six months, protein should be kept in the list of crucial elements. It actually develops the internal organs of the human body. Muscles and bones are a few on the list. It builds the tissues in a human body and thereby ensures the proper functioning of every organ.
Protein also works as a cellular messenger for enzymes and hormones in the human body. Hence, protein deficiency might lead to malnutrition and weak bones and muscles. Therefore, you might observe weak movements in your toddler.
Experts always recommend filling an infant’s diet with an ample amount of protein to avoid all sorts of problems. As you might have known, breastfeeding is the safest option for every requirement.. Initially, your newborn will acquire protein from breastmilk only.
In case breastfeeding is not an option for you, you might look for protein-rich infant formulas. Since your newborn’s stomach is susceptible, it might not suit the whole milk protein formulas. You may opt for amino acid-based formulas or partially hydrolyzed formulas.
They are easier to digest since they contain smaller units of protein. Always consult a pediatrician before opting for any supplementary baby food.
Another necessary element for your baby’s healthy growth is fat. Among all the macronutrients, it is the most energy-dense nutrient. Since the babies grow almost triple their initial weight within one year, they need a high-fat diet to support this weight gain. And do not worry about your toddler’s plump cheeks or rolled belly because this baby fat is natural.
Fat is much needed for a baby’s well-developed brain. Baby fat helps to achieve healthy skin. Fat helps the cells of the body to function correctly.
Most of the babies gain 5 to 7 ounces every week within the first six months. And within 6 to 12 months of age, your baby might gain 3 to 5 ounces every week. You might notice rolls on the baby’s body or plump cheeks, which is completely normal. Babies gather the essential fat elements from breast milk only.
For the initial days, it is recommended to breastfeed your baby for the fat requirements. But from the age of 4 months, you need to take care of the increased fat demands. Besides their drastically evolving brains, they might need them when they start crawling and putting everything in their mouths. You might think of pairing breastfeeding with specially designed infant formula for the fat requirements.
There are three energy supplying elements that a baby needs protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Fat supplies the most amount of energy among all three. But the rest are also essential for a baby for healthy growth. Infant carbohydrate means the amalgamation of various types of sugar (glucose, lactose, galactose, sucrose, etc.).
These nutrients provide energy for the brain, muscles, and other organs of the body. For the initial months, lactose is the predominant sugar that a baby needs. Thankfully, that is present in breastmilk and different milk-based formulas. So, you can go for breastfeeding (which is probably the best option so far).
Otherwise, you can also choose milk-based infant formulas.
In most cases, babies thrive well with lactose consumption, whereas some exceptional cases might happen where you might see your baby not accepting lactose.
In those cases, you might have to depend on lactose-free formulas. There are soya protein formulas and corn syrup formulas available in the market. They generally come with a lactose-free composition. You might opt for that for your baby. But it is better to consult with a pediatrician before starting any new food habit.
Since a baby’s body and internal organs are vulnerable to infections and contamination, vitamins are a must for good health. Some vital vitamins for your baby and their functions are as follows:
- Vitamin A: It keeps your baby’s hair, skin, and vision clear and healthy. Also, vitamin A provides the immunity system of the baby a boost. Hence, it is necessary for your toddler to thrive.
- Vitamin B1: Vitamin B1, also called thiamine, helps the baby to obtain energy from the food taken.
- Vitamin B2: This is also known as riboflavin. Apart from acquiring energy from food, this vitamin also helps in protecting the cells from damage.
- Vitamin B3: Vitamin B3 is also called niacin. This vitamin helps to turn the food into energy. Especially when it comes to deriving energy from protein and fat, niacin is much needed.
- Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 keeps the brain and the immune system healthy.
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin has a crucial job to do for your baby. It takes care of the blood cells and makes DNA (the genetic material of the cell).
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is needed because it protects your baby from infections and enhances its immunity system. Besides, it also helps in building strong bones and muscles. Additionally, it helps heal wounds quickly.
- Vitamin D: This vitamin is vital for a baby because it helps to derive calcium from food. So it basically helps in developing bones and teeth. Breastfed babies might need a supplementary diet for vitamin D.
- Vitamin E: This vitamin works for protecting from cell damage and for immunizing a baby’s body and internal organs.
- Vitamin K: Vitamin K helps the blood in the human body to clot. So that if any sort of cuts or wounds are there, the blood clots immediately, and it saves from losing a lot of blood.
Now, all of the above-mentioned nutrients are available in breastmilk except Vitamin D and K. so, if you are relieved that you have opted for breastfeeding, this is your reality check!
As stated earlier, breastfed babies might need a supplementary diet with breastmilk for fulfilling the need for vitamin D. This is the time you should consider taking infant formula for your little one. Most of the cow milk-based formulas contain an adequate amount of vitamin A, D, E, C.
But for vitamin K, many pediatricians recommend injecting babies with a one-time injection. Since it is needed for some of the elements to activate for blood clotting, you might take a look at that and consult with an expert.
How important is breastfeeding?
Well, if you are a new mommy and have had your first breastfeeding experience, I am sure it must have been magical for you. The sensations of breastfeeding are very special to a mom. But when it comes to a newborn baby’s nutrition, is breastfeeding a one-stop solution to everything?
Well, honestly, experts always emphasize breastfeeding, and that too for a reason. Breastmilk, or the lactation product that a female body produces after giving birth to a baby, comprises almost all the vitamins, minerals, and essential items. So, there is nothing better for a baby than breastmilk for the first four to six months.
Breastmilk comprises sufficient calcium, zinc, fat, protein, carbohydrates, and different necessary vitamins. It protects the baby’s internal organs from malfunctioning and thereby provides a healthy and immune system. Also, it protects the baby from allergies and obesity. Besides, it protects against infections. Breast milk protects from cancer too.
Additionally, the composition of breastmilk is so simple that it is easy to digest. That is why babies with a breastfeeding habit rarely suffer from constipation or any issue regarding the stomach. Moreover, it is readily available everywhere. So, you do not need to worry about your baby’s appetite.
But, then again comes the downside or cons of it. Breastmilk is not a good source of iron. Thankfully, the babies already store some amount of iron from the mother’s blood in the womb. And they are not likely to suffer from anemia. But your baby will need some source of iron from the 4th or the 6th month.
Another problem with breastfeeding is that breast milk is also not a good vitamin D, K, and B12. So, you might have to think of some other supplementary diet for your baby to fulfill the needs of vitamin D and B12.
How appropriate is it to depend on the formula?
A mother may choose to breastfeed her child. And that has many good sides also. But what if it is not an option for you? Or you just feel like it’s not the best option.
Well, do not worry, because experts have come up with a solution to every problem. Manufacturers have introduced many infant formulas in the market. These formulas are clinically tested with a sufficient amount of nutrients for your baby. The compositions of these formulas are similar to breastmilk.
You might opt for the cow milk formula for best results. Cow milk formulas are rich in vitamin A, C, D, E and can provide an ample amount of essential minerals. So they can be good alternatives.
No matter whatever you choose, the crux here is the appropriate nutrition of the baby. Now, it is stated that infant formula can be an excellent option to replace breastmilk. But to be honest, it is not recommended to introduce your toddler to bottle-feeding or formulas for the very initial days.
After four to six months, you can replace breastmilk with formula, but not before that. If the breastfeeding option is ultimately a no for you, you have to shift to a formula. Take a look at the compositions of a formula and the tolerance of your baby. It is probably best to consult with a pediatrician prior to taking one into account.
The most crucial part is your baby’s health and well-being. And as long as your baby is healthy, no point of worry or anxiety. So, just watch your baby grow and glow.