Infant nutrition is the description of dietary needs of infants (0 to 12 months) which is necessary for optimal growth and development of the baby. Infancy or the first year of life is a prime time for the growth of a baby which not only affects the overall health and growth of the baby but also determines long term adult health. An infant will triple its birth weight and increase in length by 50% during his first year of age. For the physical and mental development of an infant, proper feeding with nutrition is quite necessary. New parents are confused about the infant nutrition; they don’t know how to provide enough nutrients to their babies.
Proper nutrition throughout infancy is quite necessary for optimal growth and development of the baby. It also helps to lay the foundation for an infant’s future health. Therefore, during first year of his life, a baby needs specific nutrition. Breast milk have all the nutrients a baby needs for the first 6 months. Likewise infant formula also contains all the nutrients. After 6 months, they require to comprise the intake of more nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruits, cereals etc.
Basic Nutrition required for Infants:
1.Breastfeeding – a Complete Infant Nutrition:
Mother’s milk or breast feeding is the best infant nutrition for the newborn baby. A number of health organizations recommend breastfeeding as the best choice for babies or infants. It provides all the nutrients to keep the baby healthy and strong. Breastfeeding contains antibodies and other elements that protects the baby from illness. Research says that breastfed babies have fewer infections and other ailments in comparison to formula-fed infants. Breastfeeding keeps the baby developing and growing properly.
Baby should be fed for 8-12 times in a day.
Important Tip: Mother should drink a glass of water 15 minutes before feeding. It helps in digestion of the baby and keeps him away from loose motion.
2. Janam Ghutti for Infants:
Janam ghutti is also a part of infant nutrition which plays a dual role in over all growth of infants. It is a poly herbal preparation for kids which is recommended by Ayurveda. Giving ghutti since birth to infant is our tradition that we are following from generations. If you ask it to your child specialist, he will not recommend to give it to your baby. Since it is purely herbal, therefore safe to use. You can use it in recommended dosage, if your baby has problem of indigestion, constipation, gas, flatulence (afara), vomiting, and low appetite. It is quite safe for kids (newborn to 5 years of age).
Janam ghutti can be prepared in different manners. Some people give honey to the newborn as a ghutti after birth. Few people use harad or terminalia chebula and carom seeds. There are some recipes of preparing janam ghutti; you can choose one of them as per your convenience and suitability.
1. Yellow chebulic myrobalan for Ghutti:
Rub yellow chebulic myrobalan (peeli or badi harad) (in circular motion) with a very little amount of water (1 tsp) on a rolling rough surface for 2-3 rounds (for the age of 3-6 months). It will make the water light brown; keep the water in a spoon and ingest your baby once in 2 days. For the babies below 6 months of age, use mother’s milk instead of water. Increase the rounds (no of circular motion) according to age of infant; you can give the harad water daily (3-4 rounds) for the infant above 6 months to 1 year.
2. Dates & Nutmeg Janam ghutti:
1. Dried dates (Chhuhara) 1 Piece
2. Saffron (Kesar) 1-2 strands
3. Carom seeds 2-3 Seeds
4. Breast Milk 1 tsp
5. Nutmeg (Jaiphal) 1 Piece
6. Kasturi (musk) 1 Piece
Put ajwain seeds, kesar and kasturi with breast milk on a clean rolling rough surface. Rub the nutmeg for 4-5 rounds (no. of circular motion) with all the ingredients (by pressing the ajwain, kesar and kasturi to make paste). Then rub the dates (chhuhara) till it became thick (1/8 th chhuhara). Now, keep the paste on a spoon and ingest the ghutti to the infant.
3. Amaltas (Cassia Fistula Pulp):
Amaltas (Purging Cassia or Cassia fistula) is a plant that has many medicinal properties. Its fruit pulp is used to prepare ghutti for infants at home. It is very good for stomach health of newborn babies.
To make amaltas ghutti, boil 2 gm pulp of dried amaltas fruit in half cup of water till it reduced to half. Add a little amount of jaggery or gur in it for taste. Ingest 2 tsp of this ghutti twice in a week to your baby; it improves digestion and controls gas formation. Amaltas ’s dry fruit pulp is available in grocery shop.
Janam ghutti are available in market; there are many Ayurvedic pharmacies that prepare this formulation. But it is better to make fresh ghutti for your baby everyday.
Simultaneously, lactating mother should avoid to eat certain foods which causes gas such as- yellow lentil or toor dal, beetroot, brinjal, potatoes, onions etc.
Mother’s diet (whatever mother eats) affects baby’s health because of breastfeeding. Lactating mother should chew carom seeds (ajwain) everyday after meals; it is another solution of controlling gas among infants. Most of the ladies drink water boiled with a very little amount of ajwain after delivery.
Iron is an important part of infant nutrition; its deficiency may affect the cognitive and behavioural development of the babies. Healthy, full-term babies are generally born with a reserve iron, stored in their body to last about for first six months. It is said that iron supplements are necessary after a baby reaches at the age of six months. Though breast milk is the best formula for getting iron but some mothers became anaemic during pregnancy. So, the baby did not get sufficient iron from the mother. If the breast feeding is not sufficient, use the infant formula milk for the first 12 months. Infant formula that contains 4-12 milligram of iron per litre are considered iron fortified.
A full term breastfed baby doesn’t need an iron supplement but low birth weight baby needs iron supplements. The new parents should consult their doctor for the dose of iron supplement, it required. When the baby started eating solid food, iron supplementation depends on their age. There are many iron rich foods which are babies friendly, such as- egg yolk, quinoa (a seed that can be cooked and consumed like rice), tofu, sweet potatoes, dried fruits, dark leafy vegetables, beans, peas, millet, amaranth (rajgira), barley, whole wheat cereal etc. It is better to serve iron rich foods along with the foods high in Vitamin C; it helps in proper absorption of iron.
Recommended dietary allowance for iron is 0.27 mg for the babies 0 to 6 months and 11 mg for 7 to 12 months (1).
4. DHA as Infant Nutrition:
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is an essential infant nutrition required for the rapid growth of baby’s brain. DHA is a form of omega-3 fatty acid; it is necessary for the development of brain and eyes. Major infant brain growth occurs during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of life. During this period, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Arachidonic Acid (ARA)- both nutrients are necessary for infants. So, it is important that parents provide them a diet that includes adequate amounts of both DHA and ARA. Parents can fed infants formula supplemented with DHA and ARA. It is proved by certain studies that DHA and ARA are good to improve mental development, sharpness of vision and also reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
Calcium, an important infant nutrition, is a type of mineral that is necessary for teeth and strong bones. Daily requirement of calcium for a baby below 6 months is about 200 mg and about 260 mg for babies above 6 months to less than 1 year. (2)
Babies get their calcium from breast milk or formula milk; both are believed to be sufficient to supply enough calcium and vitamins as required for babies growth. In case of those mothers who are not producing enough breast milk, parents should consult their doctor for calcium supplement. Likewise, parents can give calcium supplements to premature or undernourished babies after consulting with their doctor.
Once the parents introduce solid food to their baby, yoghurt is also a good option. Doctors say that babies under age 12 months shouldn’t have cow’s milk because cow’s milk has high concentrations of protein and minerals; babies can’t digest it completely. Other good choices are cheese, orange juice, tofu, broccoli, white beans, tomatoes and oatmeal.
6. VITAMINS as Infant Nutrition:
Vitamin means ‘vital for life’ ; they are nutrition compounds necessary for the healthy functioning of the body. Deficiency in certain vitamins may lead to serious health problems. Therefore, parents should ensure that their baby receives enough vitamins for normal growth and development. They should provide their babies fresh foods which are full of vitamins, such as- cereals, green vegetables, milk, fruits, egg and dairy products.
Main vitamins required for the infants up to the age of 12 months are A, D, E, K, C and B.
Vitamin A, a fat soluble vitamin, requires for proper vision and healthy skin. Breast milk, infant formula, cow’s milk are the main source of Vitamin A. Carrot juice, sweet potato, spinach, sliced mango, cooked broccoli, papaya, and peaches are few other options of the food rich in vitamin A. You can try as per your baby’s taste if you have started to feed solid food to your baby.
Recommended intake of vitamin A is 350 (microgram) units per day from 0 to 12 months of infants. (3)
Vitamin D is necessary for bones development; it also helps in calcium absorption. It is a fat soluble vitamin. Best source of Vitamin D is sun exposure (early morning sunlight) at least twice a week. Some other options are – salmon, milk, cheese, egg yolks, soy milk, orange juice.
Recommended intake of vitamin D is 8.5 (microgram) units per day from 0 to 6 months and 7 (microgram) units per day for the infants of 7 to12 months of age. (4)
Another essential nutrition a baby needs is Vitamin E; it works as an antioxidant agent. Vitamin E facilitates cell growth and the development of the nervous system. Vitamin E-rich foods include vegetable oils, cereals and grains. Almonds, avocado, kiwi, peanuts, spinach, broccoli (cooked) are best sources of Vitamin E.
Recommended daily intake of vitamin E is 0.4 mg/g PUFA for the infants of 0 to 12 months of age.(5)
Vitamin K helps blood to clot; it is essential to prevent serious bleeding. Vitamin K deficiency may cause a rare disorder of bleeding into the brain- called ‘vitamin K deficiency bleeding’ (VKDB). It can be prevented by giving new babies extra vitamin K; contact your doctor for proper guidance. By the age of about 6 months, babies have built up their own supply. Good sources of vitamin K are- Cow’s milk, leafy green vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, turnip, banana, kiwi, avocado and soya bean oil.
Recommended intake of vitamin K is 10 (μg) units per day from 0 to 12 months of infants. (6)
Vitamin C is another important nutrient essential for the general health and immune system of the baby. It improves iron absorption and the production and repair of red blood cells in the body. Vitamin C is water soluble; so the excess is flushed out from the body through urine. Best sources of Vitamin C are- orange juice, papaya, kiwi, guava, strawberries, peaches, cabbage, sweet potatoes, broccoli etc.
Recommended intake of vitamin C is 40 mg per day for the infants 0 to 6 months and 50 mg for 7 to 12 months of age.(7)
Babies need vitamin B to metabolize their milk or formula milk properly. Vitamins B is a group of nutrients that work together in converting protein, carbohydrates and fat into energy. In other words it maintains healthy muscle tone and skin, promotes nervous system and cell growth, improves immunity and regulates metabolism. Folic acid , one of the important part of vitamin B, is found in green vegetables, and fortified cereals and breads. The other vitamins B are found in whole grains as well as in eggs, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, asparagus, spinach, dates, bananas, beans, and avocado are some good sources of Vitamin B.
Fats work as the most significant nutritional source of energy. These fats are are important in brain and eye development. Fats originating from food create energy, that keeps skin and hair healthy and protects against infections.
Breast milk and infant formula provide your baby with energy and essential fats – linoleic and linolenic acids. These essential fats play an important role in maintaining the proper functioning of cell membranes.
8. Protein as Infant Nutrition:
Protein, an important infant nutrition, supports the growth and development of infants. Babies grow rapidly, so they need more protein than toddlers. Protein forms part of all cells in the body and is needed to make new cells.
Breast milk or infant formula supplies all the protein a baby requires until 4 to 6 months. Then some protein-rich solid foods should be added to his diet. Cottage cheese, yoghurt, mashed beans, mashed egg yolks, are few options of the protein rich food till 10 months of age. From 10 to 12 months of age, a baby can eat the same protein rich foods the rest of the family eat. Parents should ensure before feeding the food to their baby that it should be soft and in small pieces. Babies should get enough protein everyday as the body doesn’t store protein.
To get enough nutrients, breastfed babies should take a supplement but it should be provide only for normal growth, not for excessive weight gain. If your baby has started to take solid food, there is a variety of foods to get enough nutritions such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, whole grains, healthy fats etc. Average protein requirement of an infant is 1.12 g/kg/day.(8)