Nutrition For The Newborn Baby

Proper nutrition for newborn babies is essential for rapid, healthy growth. Making healthy food choices during your child’s earliest chapter of life can have lasting positive effects in the years to come.

The Foundations of Baby Nutrition

For our purposes, babyhood extends from birth to a child’s second birthday. Nutritional needs change rapidly during this time. In general, guidelines for nutrition for newborns are based on a few basic facts:

  • Allergies are often unknown during infancy.
  • Babies can suck, but they have no independent swallowing reflex. A baby’s tongue tends to passively press a spoonful of food against the roof of the mouth.
  • Babies digest some nutrients, especially proteins, differently than the rest of us.
  • Bodies and brains develop very quickly at this age.

Baby Nutrition During the First Six Months

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers provide breast milk as the exclusive nutrition for newborns for the first six months of life. This recommendation stems from the fact that some beneficial components of breast milk are not well-understood and have never been successfully synthesized. But, if a mother prefers not to breastfeed, iron-enriched infant formulas also provide adequate nutrition for newborns. Formula comes closer to simulated breast milk than any other food and is considered an acceptable alternative.

Nutrition After Six Months

At around six months, baby nutrition can come from complementary foods–such as infant rice cereal–in addition to breast milk or formula. Your baby may be ready for additional food if she:

  • Can support her own head.
  • Is beginning to lose the tongue thrust reflex that causes her tongue to push food out of her mouth.
  • Shows interest in your food by leaning or reaching toward it while opening her mouth.

Parents may want to begin with iron-enriched infant rice cereal mixed into breast milk or formula. Then, introduce one new food at a time and wait a few days between introductions. This will allow you to link any food allergies to their source.

Baby Nutrition During the First Year

Once your baby is eating from a spoon, you can start introducing pureed foods and jars of homemade or commercial baby food. Begin with one food at a time, rather than mixed foods.

You can also introduce fruit juice around this time, which can help you teach your child to drink from a cup, though it’s best to offer only 100 percent fruit juices in limited amounts. To help avoid weight problems and dental cavities, limit your child’s intake and dilute juice with water.

Developing Positive Associations

It’s rarely necessary to force feed a baby who isn’t hungry, but the time between the first and second year presents an excellent opportunity to expose your child to a variety of food options. A baby’s taste for different foods is malleable at this time, and a wide range of experiences now can lay the foundation for healthy preferences later on in life.

Resources

KidsHealth.org. (2010). Feeding your newborn. Retrieved August 20, 2010, from http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/feeding/feednewborn.html

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Feeding your newborn: what you need to know. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.mayWclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/PR00057/NSECTIONGROUP=2

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2010). Infant and newborn nutrition. Retrieved August 20, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/infantandnewbornnutrition.html