Infant nutritional requirements

The first year of life is a period of very rapid growth for an infant. They will on average double their weight by age five months and triple it by the age of 1 year. In addition they will add 50% to their length in the first year of life. This means that meeting their nutritional requirements are very important during this period of time since they are growing so quickly.

Every infant will need different amounts of caloric requirements as their needs will depend on their size, activity levels, the rate of their growth, and the energy needed to metabolize their intake. The caloric intake for the first year of life is much higher than it is at any other time.

Protein, carbohydrates and essential fats are responsible for the make up of the essential parts of an infant’s diet. They need protein in order to grow and build new muscle mass. The carbohydrates are used for energy and to metabolize other needed nutrients. Fat makes up the rest of their diet and is used for metabolism and energy purposes. Fluid levels are maintained by utilizing the water in either breast milk or formula for the first months of life.

The recommended diet for any infant is either breast milk or a commercially prepared formula that is fortified with iron. Breast milk is the ideal first part of an infant’s diet. The breast milk provides all the needed nutrients including vitamins and minerals. Infants who are breastfed get antibodies that will help them build immunity against infection in their first months of life. Babies that are breastfed have shown over the years that they are less likely to have ear infections, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal problems. Breastfed infants have fewer problems with allergic reactions as well. Babies that are born into families that have histories of allergies or asthma get added immunity to those types of diseases in addition to the other benefits noted above.

If an infant cannot be breastfed, a commercially prepared formula that is fortified with iron is recommended for feeding for the first six months of life. It is recommended to feed infants only breast milk or formula for the first six months of life to reduce the chance of food allergies and asthma.

After six months of age, infants can start eating semi-solid foods. It is recommended to start infants on rice cereal first mixed with formula or breast milk and to feed it in a fairly liquid consistency. It is preferred to feed the infant with a spoon. It is not recommended to put cereal or other solids in a bottle or infant feeder for feedings. If the infant tolerates cereal then baby food vegetables and fruits can be introduced next. Each new food should be introduced into the diet individually for two to three days to make sure there are no reactions or problems with new foods.

At the age of seven to eight months baby food meats can be added to the infant’s diet. They can start to use a sippy cup to drink their formula or continue to nurse if being breastfed. Fruit juices can be added to the infant’s diet between the ages of nine months and one year. Juice should always be given in a cup to keep down the incidence of bottle caries. This is where the top upper teeth of the infant get cavities due to the high sugar content of liquids that have been given to the infant in bottles.

Formula or breastfeeding should be continued until the infant is one year old. Cow’s milk should not be introduced into the diet until that time. Self feeding should be encouraged when the child is able to sit up and grasp things in their hands. They can be given things such as teething biscuits, arrowroot cookies, cheerios, or other items that are easy for them to handle but are not choking hazards. Infants and toddlers should be supervised while handling foods.

The infant can then graduate to more solid foods such as the type that adults eat as long as additives such as sugar, salt and oils have not been added to them during cooking. Table foods can be mashed and given to children after the age of one year. Chopped vegetables and fruits can be given to the child as soon as they have enough teeth to chew the foods appropriately. Allow the infant or toddler to feed themselves as much as possible to foster independence and good eating habits for the future.

Last updated on Oct 7th, 2009 and filed under Healthy Eating. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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