Your kid will eat whatever you serve or feed them. So, it might seem easier to plan as well as prepare meals for infants and toddler as compared to grown-ups. However, during the first 2 years of life, providing proper nutrition is crucial for the optimum growth and development of a child, so more attention is necessary during this period. Practicing proper nutrition early in life will not only help your kids to develop healthy dietary patterns but also lower the risk of chronic diseases in adulthood. It is important to determine child’s optimal dietary requirements along with the proper quantity, quality, timing and nutrients of their every meal. Having small stomachs and growing rapidly, it is really important to balance the nutrients of the food you feed your infants or toddlers.
Here are some nutritional tips helpful for parents so that they don’t miss out on child’s growth and development.
1. Breastfeeding for Infants below 6 months:
Exclusive breastfeeding should be done for 6 months, then continue breastfeeding while introducing complementary foods, until your child is 12 months or older. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition till your baby is 6 months old; however the needs increase after this age. Breastfeeding is beneficial for both baby as well as mother. Breastfed babies are at lower risk of short- and long-term problems or diseases like obesity, asthma, type I diabetes, ear as well as gastrointestinal infections; whereas mothers are at lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type II diabetes, high blood pressure.
If you are not able to breastfeed your child, and are feeding baby infant formula, it is better to consult a pediatrician or nutritionist before choosing the formula. The formula should be able to fulfill the minimum nutritional requirements of your baby. Special attention should be giving, considering factors like proper quantity, method of preparation, frequency of feeding, storage, etc.
2. Introducing Complementary feeding for toddlers:
Transition to breastfeeding along with complementary feeding requires consideration of different factors.
First you need to check if your child is ready for foods beside breast milk/ infant formula or not, since every child’s development varies. You can try introducing the feed if your kid has head control, can sit without any support or little support, and voluntarily opens mouth when food is offered.
Initially, introduce mashed, pureed or strained foods which are easier for the child to swallow, also to avoid the risk of choking. Always watch your kid while he/she is eating, and avoid overfeeding. Serve small portions and feed only when the kid asks for more (opening the mouth each time he/she finishes the food in the mouth)
Feed your child one food at a time, and notice if he/she has any problem with it. Wait for 2-3 days before introducing new food. This will help to figure out if the child has any food allergies or not.
Try to prepare a meal combining all food groups which ensures proper balance of nutrients. You can also include the various food groups incorporating them as different meals in a day.
Provide small frequent meals. Foods or drinks high in sugar, salt and oil should be avoided. Also avoid using any kind of processed or preserved food items, since these food items have harmful effect on child’s growth and development.
Prepare foods with different taste and texture which will help your kid to develop chewing skills, fine motor skills; also you will know his/her preference in food.
Even if child does not like particular food at first, continue to provide them that food again and again, since kids might need to try them many times to figure out their preference. You can also try mixing the new food with the food he/she likes.
Try to read signs to figure out if your kid is hungry or full. Kids below 6 months usually put their hands to mouth, turn their heads towards mother’s breast or bottle, clench their hands, pucker/smack or lick their lips when they are hungry, however, close their mouth, turn their heads away from mother’s breast or bottle, relax their hands when they are full. In case of toddlers, they point to or reach for food, get excited when they see food, open their mouth when you offer a food when they are hungry, whereas they act opposite when they are full.
If you require any guidance for your kid's proper nutrition, we are happy to help you!!