A fast-growing infant needs plenty of calories, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, which are provided solely by breast milk or special infant formulas for the first few months. (1)
In fact, it has been recommended by WHO for infants to be breastfed exclusively for optimal growth, development and health for the first 6 months. (2)
Why Breast Milk?
Breast milk has many advantages over formulas, and most infant formulas are made to imitate breast milk.
The vitamins and minerals in breast milk are absorbed easily and disease-fighting substances are transferred to the infant from the mother through breast milk. (3)
About 50% of the calories from breast milk and infant formula comes from fat.
This high fat level may surprise some people, but infants need plenty of fat for proper growth.
The baby is developing its central nervous system, brain and eyes, and fats should not be restricted before age two. (4)
After 4 – 6 Months
From about 4 to 6 months of age, infants would have used up most of the iron stored from birth. (5)
Thus, they need to obtain iron from food.
Usually, iron-fortified rice cereal is started at this time. (6)
Next comes the slow introduction of semi-solid foods, working up to “table foods” towards the end of the first year.
This progression of foods helps babies develop oral and fine motor (coordination) skills. (7)
After 1 Year
After the first year of rapid growth, the growth rate in the childhood years (age 1 to 3) is relatively slow.
Brain growth is 75% complete by age 2 and almost 100% complete by the age of 5. (8)
Muscle and bone mass continues to increase throughout this time.
There are no outstanding nutritional needs for any one year because body size, body composition, activity level and rate of growth differs from child to child.
Hence, you can make use of growth charts provided by WHO to measure their child’s growth rate at different age. (9)
Inadequate calories, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients will be reflected in slow growth rates, inadequate bone formation, insufficient iron stores and anaemia.
The proper growth pattern for each child should be monitored by a doctor.
What About Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers?
Toddlers and preschoolers can eat the same food as the rest of the family, but in small amounts. They can always ask for more.
Toddlers and small children need about 2 cups of milk or yogurt each day, which can be provided in smaller servings. (10)
1. European Food Information Council. 2006. Child and adolescent nutrition. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.eufic.org/article/en/page/barchive/expid/basics-child-adolescent-nutrition/. [Accessed 9 November 2016].
2. WHO. 2002. The World Health Organization’s infant feeding recommendation. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/infantfeeding_recommendation/en/. [Accessed 9 November 2016].
3. WebMD/Nivin Todd, MD. 2014. Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/baby/breastfeeding-vs-formula-feeding#1. [Accessed 9 November 2016].
4. Camilia R. Martin, Pei-Ra Ling, and George L. Blackburn, 2016. Review of Infant Feeding: Key Features of Breast Milk and Infant Formula. Human Nutrition Journal from MDPI, [Online]. 8(5), 279. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4882692/ [Accessed 9 November 2016].
5. CDC. 2001. Recommendations to Prevent and Control Iron Deficiency in the United States. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00051880.htm. [Accessed 9 November 2016].
6. Canadian Paediatric Society, 2007. Iron needs of babies and children. Paediatrics and Child Health, [Online]. 12(4), 333–334. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528681/ [Accessed 9 November 2016].
7. Food and Nutrition Service/USDA. A Guide for Use in the Child Nutrition Programs. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/feeding_infants.pdf. [Accessed 9 November 2016].
8. BabyCenter. Your Child’s Growing Brain (ages 5 to 8). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.babycenter.com/0_your-childs-growing-brain-ages-5-to-8_3659070.bc. [Accessed 9 November 2016].
9. CDC. 2010. Growth Charts. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/who_charts.htm. [Accessed 9 November 2016].
10. KidsHealth/Mary L. Gavin, MD. 2015. Growth And Your 2-3 Year Old. [ONLINE] Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/growth-2-to-3.html. [Accessed 9 November 2016].
Published on 9 Nov 2016