FeedingGrowth and development is most rapid in the first year of life. A baby usually doubles its birth weight breast feeding within the first four months, and triples birth weight by the first birthday. For this wonderful growth, adequate intake of calories and nutrients are essential for the infant. Good nutrition along with loving environment guarantee normal development. Your baby needs the same nutrients as you do namely, protein, carbohydrate, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals. Over 40 different nutrients are needed by your baby for healthy growth and development. For first few days the full–term babies have enough reserves of nutrients, especially water. By the second or third day, your baby needs calories, water, and nutrients.
Birth to 4 months
Breast milk or formula
Breast–feeding is best for babies, but this may not be possible in case of few health problems or for new mothers who want to return to work. New mothers who want to return to work have often been able to combine breast–feeding with formula–feeding (powder milk).
The nursing mother usually needs an extra 500 kilocalories per day, along with 20 more grams of protein and 400 more milligrams of calcium. This can be supplied by adding a glass of milk, a slightly larger serving of meat, and an egg or a slice of bread. Drinking plenty of water will help provide the needed liquid.
Advantages of breast feeding
- Breast milk contains best combination of nutrients for your baby.
- Breast milk contains factors which help protect your baby from viruses and bacteria since in the first few weeks your baby has little resistance to diseases.
Disadvantages of breast feeding
- Babies can receive harmful substances from a mother’s milk if she is on medications, alcohol and caffeine, (However, mothers can easily limit their use of caffeine and alcohol, and only use medication on the advice of their doctor.)
- It is easy to prop the bottle in the baby's mouth while doing something else rather than give the baby the love and attention it needs.
The stomach of a newborn infant has a capacity of less than 1/4 cup or three hours. Babies get hungry at irregular times during the first few weeks and as they grow they become more regular and will be able to go longer between feedings.
Just like older children and adults, babies need water, daily, as well as milk. These fluids are necessary for the formation of urine to help remove wastes from the body. Babies need about 1/3 cup of fluid per pound of body weight up to 18 pounds. At heavier weights, fluid needs are smaller. A 12 pound baby, for example, needs about 4 cups of fluid a day. Most of this should come from breast milk or formula though in hot weather many babies may need additional water.
Vitamin & mineral supplements
Breast milk and commercial formulas contain adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals for normal infants. Although breast milk and formula contain very small amounts of vitamin C, it is enough to meet a baby’s needs. Generally the vitamins and minerals in breast milk are well–absorbed and used by an infant. A full–term baby who has a well nourished mother is born with iron stores large enough to last nearly six months.
Many babies cry inconsolably after given a feed. Some may even vomit. Colic may be a result of something the baby has eaten, or something the mother has eaten that appears in her milk. Most babies get fussy or appear colicky at times. Practice some comforting techniques, such as rocking your baby or talking or singing softly to her.
Small babies can sense when a parent is tense rather than relaxed. So always make a comfortable environment while feeding your baby. It is most important for parents to make decisions that are right for the family. Whichever feeding method is chosen, the baby needs to be fed in an atmosphere of love. The baby should be nestled close, touched, rocked, and talked to during feeding times. Without this tender, physical contact, babies often fail to grow and develop.
Introducing solid foods
The current recommendation is to wait until the baby is 4 to 6 months old. Around this age babies gain control of the head and can sit upright more easily. Both of these developmental milestones show that a baby is ready to eat from a spoon. A baby needs the nutrients in solid foods after age 4 to 6 months. By this time the baby has doubled its birth weight and will become hungrier. The baby will need more food.
How to introduce solid foods
- Go slowly. One or two spoonfuls will be enough.
- Introduce only one new food at a time. Give the baby a few days to get used to it before adding another. By doing this it becomes easier to identify any food allergies.
- Start with rice cereals. Some pediatricians recommend iron–fortified infant rice cereal as rice is less likely to cause allergic reactions than other grains. This gives your baby a good source of iron, as well as a good distribution of calories between carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
- Touch is still important. Hold your baby while introducing solid food.
You must be very careful while heating baby food in the microwave. Microwaves can heat a food unevenly, forming hot–spots. One spoonful of the food may be cold, yet the next spoonful could burn the baby’s mouth. Warming the food is not necessary, If you do warm the food in a microwave oven, make sure the temperature is right and also stir the food well before feeding baby.
Vegetables & fruits
FruitsVegetables and fruits fruits should be given at around 7 months. These provide vitamins A and C. If your baby starts to show some signs of chewing you may give her some mashed vegetables or thick cereal that improve chewing skills. An 8 to 9 month baby has one or two teeth and can have lumpy foods. Start with easy–to–mash foods such as cooked potato or carrot, banana and bits of biscuit.
Milk for the older baby
Until the age of six months babies need either breast milk or commercial formula as their main source of nutrients even though babies will begin to eat other foods. Around 10 to 12 months eggs can be added to their diet. Although egg yolks can be added to the diet around 10 months, egg whites or whole eggs should not be given to your baby until the end of the first year. This is because egg whites often cause allergic reactions if given too early. Cheese and yogurt in small amounts may be added to the diet now.
By the age of 10 to 12 months the baby will have a set pattern for meals. The baby will still need to eat more frequently than other family members, with mid–morning, mid–afternoon, and evening snacks as well as regular meals.
Drinking from a cup
At around 10 months the baby may begin to drink from a cup with help to hold the cup. Around 12 months of age most babies can handle a cup alone. Milk, water, and juice may all be given in a cup instead of a bottle. Give small quantities of liquid at first. Offer just 1 or 2 ounces (1/8 cup) and gradually increase the amount. Some babies are ready to give up nursing or the bottle around this age. Many will want to have a bottle for a few more months.
Babies are generally weaned by the end of the first year. As a baby learns to drink more milk from the cup, bottles or breast feedings can be discontinued gradually. A baby who continues to drink large amounts of milk may not be eating enough solid foods to meet his or her increasing nutritional needs. By the age of 1 year a baby should be eating a variety of foods and drinking only about 2 cups of milk a day.
Things to watch
Raw eggs and raw milk are not right for babies. These foods may be sources of infections that can be dangerous to infants. Foods that are avoided in babies include desserts, carbonated beverages, caffeine–containing beverages and candy. They provide calories but few nutrients.
Food for life
Good nutrition is essential for normal growth and development throughout life. Proper growth and development depend on an adequate supply of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. You can help your baby learn by making feeding time a happy time. You can help your baby develop healthy lifetime eating habits as you introduce nutritious new foods. You should feed your child healthy and nutritious food on right times and in right quantity.