What is Infant Nutrition?

Kristin Wood

Although proper nutrition is crucial for the health and development of a baby, infant nutrition is usually easy to learn and implement as a daily routine. For those who choose to breastfeed, breast milk will provide the perfect nutritional value for a baby. Breastfeeding is usually recommended when possible, but store-bought formula also typically gives everything needed for infant nutrition.

Pureed vegetables provide nutrition for babies.
Pureed vegetables provide nutrition for babies.

Infants of one to three months can feed from breast milk or formula alone. The caretaker's primary concern should be making sure the baby gets enough milk or formula each day. Feedings are often scheduled every three hours in the beginning, while other parents feed their babies on demand. To ensure adequate infant nutrition, it is recommended that parents give at least six to eight feedings a day. Healthy babies will be growing and gaining weight during this time and dirtying their diapers on a regular basis.

Breast milk is all a baby needs for the first three months of life.
Breast milk is all a baby needs for the first three months of life.

Many parents begin introducing solid foods at four to seven months. At this point, infant nutrition will still primarily come from breast milk or formula, but the baby can start experimenting with appropriate foods. Parents can typically tell when their baby is ready for solids by observing the infant's behavior and development. For example, the baby might be teething and able to sit up or support his own head without assistance.

The most tell-tale sign of an infant being ready for solids is the way he reacts to these foods. If he is grabbing at his parent's meal or watching his mother intently as she feeds herself, the caregiver might want to offer her baby a small, soft piece of food and gauge his reaction. If he seems to enjoy his first taste of solid food, parents can begin purchasing iron-fortified infant cereals, or they can make their own baby food by pureeing fruits and vegetables. Even as the baby begins eating more and more solids, the most important infant nutrition will usually continue to be supplied in breast milk or formula until at least month 12.

Many cautious parents will only offer one new kind of food at a time. This practice could be helpful in diagnosing any possible food allergies with the infant. Until the baby turns a year old, certain foods are not usually recommended. Cow milk and eggs are typically withheld, along with honey and citrus fruits. Other foods might be avoided until the child turns 2 or even 3 years old. Common allergens, like seafood or nuts, might be dangerous, especially if the parents have a history of food allergies.

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