It’s no secret that parents want to provide the best start in life for their children.
One of the best things you can do for your newborn is to provide them with a healthy, nutrient rich, diet.
It’s hard to navigate all of the information on what is best to feed your baby.
That’s why we’ve put together this article – to help you understand what your baby’s nutritional needs are at the different stages of their life.
Nutrition For Babies
The growth and development of your baby is highly impacted by their nutrition.
Good nutrition is essential to ensuring that your baby is on the right track.
Children, through infancy to toddler-hood, require many nutrients to keep them thriving.
These nutrients include vitamins A, D, B6 and B12, plus protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, probiotics, prebiotics, fiber, zinc, iron, iodine, folate, and choline.
These nutrients are given to your infant through breast milk, formula, and the foods you first introduce to them.
This is why it’s so important to be aware of the best nutritional choices that you can make for your child.
Along with providing nutrient rich foods, make sure you encourage a positive feeding environment for your baby.
The relationship between a person and food begins at infancy, and the basis for some problematic eating behaviour later in life can begin at this age.
Creating a positive experience with food will help your child make healthy choices for the rest of their life.
Part of this includes introducing different foods at the proper stages of your child’s life.
Also, keep in mind that each child will respond differently to solid foods.
Your child may take to it right away while another might not.
Be patient with your baby.Make sure to watch out for signs of reactions to foods when you start introducing solids.
These reactions can be a new skin rash, diarrhea, vomiting, or blood in the stool.
If you think your child is having a reaction to certain foods, consider removing them and trying alternate foods.
If you have questions about which solid foods are the best to introduce, or when to start introducing solid foods, book an appointment with a naturopathic doctor here at Mahaya Health for help.
Stages of Nutritional Needs For Babies
Babies go through stages of nutritional needs.
To properly decide what your infant’s nutritional needs are, you need to know what stage they are in and what foods are appropriate for that stage.
1. The First Four To Six Months
In the first four to six months, your baby is responding to food with four reflexes.
These reflexes are rooting, suck/swallow, tongue thrust, and gag.
These reflexes help baby open their mouth and ingest their food.
What To Feed Baby
At this stage, your baby is not ready to eat solid food.
Their gag reflex is easily triggered, so even spoons in their mouth can cause them to throw up.
They are also unable to chew and swallow.
Infant digestive tracts are still developing at this stage and can’t process solid foods.
2. Introducing Solid Foods (Months 6 To 9)
Before your baby can eat solid food they need to be able to sit without support and have good head control.
Babies usually learn to do these things by the time they’re about four to six months old.
They also need to be able to close their mouths around a spoon and transfer food from the front to the back of their mouth.
Once your baby can do these things, they’re ready to try some solid food.
What To Feed Baby
Before we list some foods that are baby safe, it’s important to note that solid foods are only complementary at this stage.
In other words, your baby’s diet should still be primarily breast milk and/or formula.
Their bodies aren’t ready to rely on only solid foods for nourishment.
Babies at this stage can eat pureed vegetables, fruit, and meat.
When introducing new foods, stick to one thing for a couple days to make sure that your child isn’t having any reactions to it.
Puréed sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, squash, avocado, peas, green beans, apples, pears, bananas, peaches, and plums are good first foods.
If you opt for meats, organic, grass fed meats are preferable.
Be warned, though – babies, like adults, have a sweet tooth.
Your baby is likely to favour the sweetness of fruit so make sure their very first foods are not fruits.
This can help prevent your child from becoming a picky eater.
Healthcare providers now recommend that you introduce common allergens to your baby’s diet.
Watered down nut oil and peanut butter can be given in small amounts under the supervision of your doctor.
It’s thought that exposing children to these allergens before they are twelve months old can prevent them from developing a food allergy.
When your baby first tries a solid food, they will only need a teaspoon a day.
As they get older, your child will let you know when they want or need more solid food.
3. Month Nine to Twelve
During this time, your baby is getting to the point where they can try feeding themselves.
You might see them picking up small pieces of food and putting it into their mouth.
This is a sign that your baby is ready to try food that’s mashed or cut into small pieces, rather than puréed.
What To Feed Baby
At this stage your baby is enjoying the challenge of finger foods and using their spoon for puréed food.
Their food can be puréed, mashed, or cut into small pieces.
Some good choices at this stage include:
- Peanut butter (diluted with water)
- Green beans
- Swiss chard
- Unsweetened yogurt
- Mild cheeses
As you can see, your baby’s diet can become much more diverse at this point. Focus on foods with high nutritional value.
Your baby will still be eating breast milk or formula for a significant part of their nutritional intake, though.
Note too that you should avoid feeding your baby shellfish, honey, or whole milk until after the first year.
4. What Comes Next?
Now your baby has tried a wide variety of food.
They should be able to start feeding themselves with their fingers and utensils.
It’s now safe for you to introduce milk and water into your child’s diet.
Shellfish and honey is safe now, too, but avoid juices – the high sugar content isn’t good.
The big changes at this point will be in the amount of food they eat and how it’s prepared for them.
Book An Appointment With Mahaya Health
As always, we welcome any questions or concerns that you have.
Book an appointment at Mahaya Health with one of our naturopathic doctors – we can answer any questions you have about your infant’s dietary needs.
Yours in Health,
Mahaya Health Services
2 College St., Suite #105,
Toronto, ON M5G 1K3
Mahaya Health Services is an integrative naturopathic clinic in Toronto. With a variety of practitioners each drawing on their own modalities, you’ll find a well-rounded team that can help you with your health concerns.