Being a first-time parent can be hectic and overwhelming, and it can sometimes come with a lot of questions. One major concern for new parents is understanding how their baby feeds, if they’re getting enough, and if the baby’s nutritional requirements are being met. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about an infant’s nutritional needs:
Nutrition In The First Six Months
All the nutritional requirements are covered by the mother’s breast milk in the first six or so months of a baby’s life. Health experts suggest that the best source of nutrients is found in the breast milk. However, especially if the mother is having issues producing breast milk, formula is also said to be a good alternative for your baby.
Experts encourage exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months. Basically, your baby needs as much milk as they can during the first year, as a lot of their growth spurt happens during this time. They must get all the necessary nutrients they need for healthy growth.
Nutrients In Breast Milk
As a lot of people know, breast milk is milk produced by mothers and in their breasts. Breast milk is the main source of nutrition for newborns and contains most, if not all, the nutrients they need as they grow.
Breast milk contains protein, fat, carbohydrates and other vitamins and minerals. It also has important non-nutritional ingredients like antimicrobials, hormones, digestive enzymes and other growth elements essential for protecting your baby against infections, especially in your baby’s early days.
For your infant to grow as well as they should, they need the following nutrients found in breast milk:
Folate is one of the B vitamins, also called vitamin B9. You may have heard about folic acid, which is the man-made version of folate. Folate helps in making red blood cells and is important in preventing conditions like anaemia.
Calcium is an essential mineral infants need to build healthy teeth and bones. Experts also said that calcium helps with proper muscle, nerve and heart function. If your baby receives low calcium, they could have problems with their nerves and bones later in life.
Iron is said to help with building red blood cells and the development of the brain. Infants need iron as their brains are at a stage where development is critical. However, in breastfed babies, an iron supplement may be needed as breast milk is believed to have low iron levels. Formula brands like Alula and others will normally have a list of ingredients. Check them out first if you need to know how much iron they have in them.
Fat is an essential part of every infant’s diet. Experts believe fat has an essential role in the development of your baby’s brain. It also helps them reach their full potential as fat is used as fuel. And it helps their bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Infants also need fat to help keep their skin and hair healthy. Fats are also believed to help keep infants warm.
Carbohydrates can be a great source of energy for your infant’s muscles, brain tissue and other organs. In breast milk, carbohydrates could be found in lactose, which is also a carbohydrate that consists of glucose. Experts believe lactose is the major carbohydrate in breast milk, cow milk and most milk-based infant formulas like S-26 baby formula and many similar brands.
Protein is thought to be an important nutrient for the growth and development of your infant. Protein also plays a huge role in the major functions of the body. Your infant’s first 12 months are crucial, as rapid growth and development take place with protein support.
Protein in breast milk has four main functions:
- Providing protection from bad gut bacteria and gut development
- Boosting the immune system
- Helping digestive functions
- Transporting other nutrients
Like calcium, phosphorus helps in the proper formation of bones and teeth. As your infant grows, they need to have strong and healthy bones. Phosphorus is believed to help infants’ bodies utilize protein to maintain and repair their tissues and cells. Experts also say phosphorus plays an essential role in how infants use fats and carbohydrates.
- Vitamin A
In infants, vitamin A is believed to be essential to provide and support rapid growth. It’s also said to be instrumental in the fight against infections. Because infants are vulnerable and prone to infections, they need vitamin A to help boost their immune system. Vitamin A is also thought to help keep the hair and skin of infants healthy.
- Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is thought to be vital for supporting brain development in infants. It’s also useful for producing healthy red blood cells. If your baby boy or girl doesn’t get enough vitamin B12, they could become vitamin B12 deficient and put at risk of being permanently brain-damaged.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is also commonly known as ascorbic acid. It plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system in an infant’s body. It’s also thought to enhance the absorption of iron and the production of collagen in the body. Collagen is a protein that aids in skin, bone and tissue repair.
- Vitamin D
Your baby requires vitamin D for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D deficiency could result in conditions like rickets, which is the softening of bones. Breast milk has very little vitamin D, so your baby might need some recommended supplements. Sun exposure is a great source of vitamin D, but it may not be recommended for younger infants and for longer periods.
Nutrients In Formula
Most infant formulas are now made from cow’s milk, which is fortified with nutrients. This makes them quite close to breast milk, and it also ensures that your baby gets all the essential nutrients they need to grow big and healthy.
Cow’s milk formulas typically have the following nutrients:
- Vitamins A, C, D, E and B
Formulas will sometimes also add other nutrients to give them more like breast milk–like qualities, which include:
- fatty acids,
- prebiotics, and
At times, babies born preterm may be given formula with extra nutrients to help with their growth.
Experts believe babies grow thrice as much in their first year. As your infant is going through an amazing growth spurt, they need lots of nutrients. Experts have said that breast milk is the best source of essential nutrients for babies during the first six months. Formula has been believed to be a great alternative to breast milk. Raising your first baby should be less difficult with so many resources on the internet about their nutritional needs. You’ve got this.