During the first year of infants, proper nutrition plays an essential role in their development and growth.
When fed the proper amounts and types of food, they would obtain a sufficient amount of essential nutrients to promote their health significantly.
Therefore, it is crucial for a mother to have a good understanding of nutritional needs for infants to create the right diet for their babies.
In the next sections, we’ll show you all the information on the essential nutrients for infants, along with their functions, and food sources.
Infants require energy from foods for healthy development, growth, and daily activities.
Energy mainly comes from those sources containing fat, protein, or carbohydrate, and can be measured in kilocalories or calories.
The caloric or energy requirement of an infant might depend on several factors, including body composition and size, metabolic rate, medical conditions, energy intake, genetic factors, sex, age, size at birth, physical activity, growth rate, and ambient temperature.
Infants are able to regulate their food intake and consume the necessary amount of calories.
Thus, moms or caregivers should watch for their infants’ satiety and hunger cues to make the right decisions about how much and when to feed.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy to fuel most bodily activities while fat and protein are necessary for other functions in your baby’s body like repairing and building tissues.
This nutrient can be classified into 3 major types: monosaccharides or simple sugars (glucose, mannose, fructose, and galactose), disaccharides or double sugars (maltose, lactose, and sucrose), and polysaccharides or complex carbohydrates (glycogen, dextrins, starch, cellulose, gums, lignin, and pectin).
The major kind of carbohydrate often taken by developing babies is lactose, which can be found in cow’s milk and breast milk.
Lactose-free formulas like soy-based products provide carbs in the form of sucrose.
These formulas are often prescribed to those infants who could not metabolize galactose or lactose.
The recommended amount of carbohydrates is 60 grams per day for infants at 0 to 6 months, and 95 grams per day for infants at 7 to 12 months.
Dietary fiber is available in most legumes, fruits, wholegrain foods, and veggies.
There is no dietary fiber breast milk, so infants basically do not consume this nutrient during the first 6 months of their life.
After the introduction of complementary foods to the diet, the intake of fiber will increase.
It is recommended that infant at the age of 6 to 12 months should be introduced gradually with 5 grams of dietary fiber each day.
Infants require an adequate amount of high-quality protein from complementary foods, infant formulas, and breast milk.
This nutrient plays an essential role in building, maintaining, and repairing new tissues of the eyes, skin, heart, muscles, brains, and lungs.
Also, protein manufactures important antibodies, hormones, and enzymes to ensure a good regulation of all process in the body.
Just like the energy needs, the needed amount of protein for growth each weight unit is basically high in the first stage and then gradually decreases with ages when the growth rate lowers.
If taken in necessary amounts to meet the energy needs, infant formulas and breast milk would provide adequate protein for your infant’s needs.
In later stages, you can provide this nutrient in other foods such as poultry, meat, egg yolks, fish, yogurt, cheese, cereals, grain products, and legumes.
The recommended amount of protein is 9.1 grams per day for infants at 0 to 6 months, and 11 grams per day for infants at 7 to 12 months.
5. Fatty acid and fats
Quality fats are necessary during the infancy to provide your children with the required amount of energy for their liver, heart, and brain, while fatty acids can facilitate in the building of immunity and cells as well as the absorption of essential nutrients.
Regular breastfed babies can consume the needed amount of fats easily during the first year, but those kids who are on formulas might need to take some essential fatty acids that contain omega-3.
This vital component supports the neurological development and visual acuity in young infants, and you should be offered about 1 to 2 grams per day.
In addition to infant formulas and breast milk, you can find fats and fatty acids in some common foods such as meats, egg yolks, yoghurt, milk, and other dairy products, ground flaxseeds, walnut halves, salmon, as well as halibut.
The last group of nutrients that should be included in the diet of your babies is vitamins.
In general, these micronutrients play an essential role in boosting your infant from bottom to top, enhancing nerve development and healthy brain, as well as proper functioning and growth of the immune system, skin, and eyes.
Even Gerber thinks that a lot of babies don’t get enough iron.
Vitamin A, which can be found in cow’s milk, infant formulas, breast milk, and other carotene-rich veggies and fruits such as broccoli, sweet potatoes, or carrots, allows for healthy skin and proper vision.
Vitamin B, including folic acid, promotes the nervous and immune system, regulates metabolism, enhances cell growth, and maintain muscle tone as well as healthy skin.
This component is high in whole grains such as brown rice and other foods like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, beans, and bananas.
Vitamin C helps to improve the absorption of iron and prevent scurvy and can be found in potatoes, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes, and citrus.
Vitamin D is only available in several food sources, including fish, egg yolks, and cow’s milk.
This is the reason why many doctors recommend a daily intake for breastfed babies to meet the essential needs of vitamin D, which can increase calcium absorption and help with bone growth.
A recent study has shown that nearly 50% of toddlers and infants have a low level of vitamin D, which might weaken their bones.
Thus, make sure to have a talk with your pediatrician or expert about starting on a vitamin D supplement for your infant, especially when you are currently breastfeeding.
The antioxidant powers of Vitamin E make it an essential component to facilitate the growth of your baby nervous system as well as cell growth, while vitamin K can be helpful in blood clotting.