By Elena Bianchi
One of your primary concerns as a mother is your newborn’s health which is strongly linked to his or her diet. It is important to be aware of how dietary needs change from birth to twelve months of age. An age-appropriate diet for children is one that provides adequate nutrition and appropriate to the stage of development of the child and will not lead to unhealthy states such as childhood obesity. Of course, the child’s genetic makeup and DNA come into play as well but these you have little control over. So let’s look at some useful dietary recommendations.
From birth until six months
During the first 4 to 6 months of life, infants need only breast milk or formula food alternatives to meet their nutritional needs. If the baby is breast fed, you may need to nurse anywhere between 8 to 12 times a day (every 2 to 4 hours). After four months, breast-feeding may be reduced to 4 – 6 times a day; however, the amount of breast milk consumed each time will increase.
When using formulas to feed babies, these may need to eat a bit less frequently, about 6 – 8 times a day, with amounts of about 60 – 90 grams at a time (a total amount of 400 – 700 grams per day). As for breastfeeding, the number of feedings will decrease as the child grows, but the amount of milk consumed with each feeding session will also increase. It is anything but unusual to wake up for a night feed- this is especially true if your baby does not eat enough during the day or if he or she is underweight. Have regular checkups with your doctor to monitor the growth of your child and check whether dietary needs are being met. Remember that post natal care and medical advice is just as important as pregnancy tests and other prenatal care.
Between four and six months of age, birth weight should have doubled. You can easily assess whether your baby is ready to switch to solid foods. It is important, however, to avoid switching to solids too early as suffocation or choking can occur. Make sure your child has good control over movements of its head and neck and is able to sit up.
In terms of food, begin with iron-fortified cereal or rice mixed with breast milk or formula. This feed should be given a couple of times a day. The cereals can also be mixed in order to obtain a thicker consistency, when the child learns to control the movements of its mouth. Discuss the use of water with your doctor. (In some cases, giving too much water to a baby can lead to seizures)
Between six and eight months
Continue to offer breast milk or formula between 3 and 5 times a day (avoiding cow’s milk until 1 year of age). Note that the infant will gradually need less they get used to a variety of solid foods.
After trying cereals, fruit and vegetables can be introduced gradually – it is important to introduce them slowly so as to avoid allergic reactions. You can start with simple vegetables such as peas, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, beans, beetroot, and fruits including bananas, apples, apricots, pears, peaches and melon. Always give the vegetables before fruits as the sweetness of the fruit can make the taste of vegetables less appealing if given before. You can take 2 to 3 tablespoons of fruit and vegetables and make 3 – 4 servings per day.
Between eight and twelve months
Continue to give the breast milk or formula between 3 and 4 times a day with the addition of cereals, fruits and vegetables. You can increase the quantity of fruit and vegetables given to 4 tablespoons, four times a day.
At the 8 – 12 months of age, a child will be ready to try very tender cuts of meat as well as mince. This introduction of meat will improve the supply of iron to the baby; this is indeed important because breast milk is a not a rich source of iron. You can also give the child eggs, but using only the yolk until the baby is a year old as some children are sensitive to egg whites.
It is important to note that a balanced diet is important for us all and not just for kids. Thanks to research by nutritionists and even to new discoveries about human genes thanks to DNA testing (more about DNA testing can be found by clicking here). We have more thorough information on our food and our ability to metabolize certain substances. We also know the role our genes play in our body’s ability to digest and break down food and the various molecules of which food is made up. In fact, apart from preliminary tests which can inform us about our food intolerances, there are also genetic DNA tests that give more detailed information. These can create a diet that compliments your individual genetic variability.
Elena Bianchi is a writer specializing in the field of DNA testing. Areas of particular interest include prenatal tests and scientific advances within this area, especially related to autoimmune diseases, genetic diseases and fetal health. The author regularly contributes to a number of blogs and info websites.