Nutrition is an integral part of life from birth to death. The nutrition needs of infants and toddlers are a cornerstone for the rest of the growth and strengthening of their bodies and minds. There are specific ways that we can ensure the maximum possible benefits during this period of growth. By focusing on what is most beneficial, and knowing what items need to be avoided, we can give infants and toddlers a nutritional jumpstart into a healthy life. The first thing that is almost universally agreed upon for infants is that breast-feeding is almost always best. The values associated with breast-feeding are numerous. There are several illnesses prevented or minimized such as bacterial infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections and others. Post-neonatal death risk is lowered. Breast-feeding also benefits the baby’s development, improving visual acuity, neurological development, and long-term cardiovascular health (Papalia, Olds, and Feldman, 2008). Breast-feeding is not suggested when the mother has HIV/AIDS or other infectious illnesses.
Alcohol and drugs are transferred through breastmilk, as are many prescription medications (Papalia et al, 2008). Formula is a good alternative to breast milk when necessary. Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and soy milk alone are not suitable for children under 12 months. They do not have the nutritional value that is needed for growth (Post, 2011). A study by the American Society for Nutritional Sciences (Specker, 2004) explains that formula high in calcium and vitamin D can potentially be better for infant bone strength than breast milk or other formulas. Ongoing research is being done to ensure that formula, which has been used for decades, is the most effective nutrition possible when breast milk is not an option. Around six months of age, babies are ready to start expanding their diet beyond just breast milk or formula by trying cereals and baby foods.
From seven to eight months, they can start adding in more variety such as soft fruits, soft-cooked vegetables, and mashed chicken or rice. It’s a good idea to introduce one food at a time so that you can see if there are any allergies. It’s also extremely important that no foods are given to an infant that are solid and larger than a dime since these are a choking hazard. (Post, 2011) What is just as important is the list of foods infants and toddlers should not have. Salt, sugar, and caffeine cannot be processed in a baby’s system. Juice is very high in sugar; tap water is a better alternative when the baby is thirsty because it has no calories and is fortified with fluoride. Honey and unpasteurized dairy products may contain bacteria that a baby under one year old cannot defend against. As stated earlier, cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and soy milk are not suitable for children under one year.
Finally, cookies and candy should be avoided until the age of two because it will cause the baby to lose interest in any other type of food. (Post, 2011) When a baby gets to the age of one year, there is a noticeable decline in appetite. This is common because the growth rate has slowed and not as much food is required. The toddler should have transitioned by now to solid foods only. A healthy toddler should be eating 1,000 calories a day. Toddlers need the same four food groups adults do: protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. (Shelov & Remer-Altmann, 2010) Cholesterol and fats are very important to normal growth and development at this stage. Half of the calories eaten should be from fat until age two to continue with a healthy development. Obesity from eating fat should not be a concern as long as the intake is maintained at 1,000 calories.
A common concern at the toddler stage is erratic eating patterns. It should not be a concern when or how often food is eaten as long as it balances out over a 3-day span. (Shelov & Remer-Altmann, 2010) There are still choking concerns at the toddler stage. Peanuts, whole grapes, whole cherry tomatoes, carrots, large sections of hot dogs, hard candies, or large chunks of peanut butter are all examples of foods that may be a severe danger to a toddler. Teaching a child not to talk while he’s eating is smart as well. (Shelov & Remer-Altmann, 2010) The nutrition needs of infants and toddlers are a cornerstone for the rest of the growth and strengthening of their bodies and minds. As explained, there are many things to follow and watch out for. The fact is a baby’s nutrition is in the control of the parent. By focusing on what is most beneficial, and knowing what items need to be avoided, we can give infants and toddlers a nutritional jumpstart into a healthy life.
Papalia, D, Olds, S. & Feldman, R (2008). A Child’s World: Infancy through Adolescence (11th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Specker, Bonny (2004) Nutrition Influences Bone Development from Infancy through Toddler Years. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences. Retrieved from: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/3/691S.full
Post Author Unknown (2011). ABC Parenting, Babies:Nutrition. Australian Broadcasting Company. Retrieved from: http://www.abc.net.au/parenting/articles/babies_nutrition.htm
Shelov, Steven & Remer-Altmann, Tanya (2010). Feeding and Nutrition: Your One-Year-Old. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved from: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/nutrition/pages/Feeding-and-Nutrition-Your-One-Year-Old.aspx