Nutritional Health and Well-Being of Infants and Babies

The Nutritional Responsibility of Parents

The first five years of life is a crucial period in the development of infants. Infancy is a time of rapid growth. Babies grow and develop at an extraordinary rate. To help them in this process, proper nutrition is the key responsibility of the parents. Feeding BabyParents play an important role in the mental, emotional, and physical development of infant/baby. They are responsible for helping them grow up to be stable, well-adjusted human beings. Nutritional health and well-being of infants and babies is of primary concern. What do the latest research findings tell us about the use of formula VS breast milk?  How does one make homemade baby food? Which 6 nutrients are critical to early development in infants?

Infant Playing in Grass

In an article written by the Urban Child Institute (2011) titled “Nutrition and Early Brain Development,”  it states that “Nutrition has been called the single greatest environmental influence on babies in the womb and during infancy, and it remains essential throughout the first years of life.”  The parents or primary careproviders are solely responsible.

Which Nutrients are Essential to Infant Health?

BreastfeedingWithout a doubt, no parent will argue that a proper and balanced nutritional diet is critical in brain and physical development of infants and babies. Essential nutrients for babies include, but are not limited, to the following:

  1. folic acid
  2. zinc
  3. healthy fats
  4. protein
  5. iron
  6. vitamins


Which Foods and How Often?

Babies and infants must consume appropriate amounts and types of foods to receive required nutrients. Infants eat much more often in a day compared to adults because they require the nutrients every few hours.

Breastfeeding is a common practice in the first few months of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that mothers breastfeed for at least the first six months of the baby’s life.

After this time period, the baby can start to eat soft foods, known as the BRAT diet:

  1. Bananas
  2. Rice
  3. Applesauce
  4. Toast, or soft pieces of bread

BRAT Diet

Also during this stage in the baby’s development, he/she will want to explore other foods that taste different than his/her mother’s breast milk.

Tips for Buying or Preparing Baby Food

Homemade baby food VS store-bought baby food is a hot topic when it comes to good parenting. Parents have the right to choose what kinds of food their baby eats, and where the food comes from. Some parents prefer to buy fruits and vegetables from the grocery store and make their own baby food. Other parents prefer to buy baby food in a jar at the grocery store.Infant Babyfood

Whether you are planning on making your own baby food or buying prepared foods, Mayo Clinic (2013) provides some tips that may prove to be helpful:

  • Make baby food from freshly prepared ingredients, such as tender meats, lentils, beans, fresh or frozen cooked vegetables, and ripe fruits. Avoid canned products with added salt.Vegetables
  • Cook, puree or mash, and then freeze in small containers, such as ice cube trays or mini muffin cups. Reheat thoroughly and then let the food cool so it is warm to the touch when you’re ready to feed it to your baby.
  • When choosing commercially prepared baby foods, stick to the single ingredient types as they are more nutritionally dense than the mixed dinner meals.

Homemade VS Store-Bought Baby Food

In truth, there are advantages and disadvantages to homemade baby food and store-bought baby food. Baby WatermelonThe advantages for parents who make their own baby food are the following::

  • Parents know exactly what their baby is eating. They can include organic ingredients in the food which is free from pesticide residue.
  • Parents can be creative about making the baby food. They can add the flavors they choose, which may or may not be found in standard grocery stores.
  • It may be cheaper to make the food instead of purchasing it at the store.

The disadvantages to making homemade baby food include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Homemade baby food spoils at a faster rate than store bought baby food.
  • Homemade baby foods also need to refrigerated, which can take up a lot of space.
  • Homemade baby food takes a great deal of time to make.

Small child eatingThe advantages to buying store bought baby food are convenience and food safety. It is simply much easier to buy pre-packaged baby food that doesn’t spoil quickly. Baby food is starting to be packaged in pouches which means that they are lighter and won’t break when they are dropped as opposed to glass jars. Baby food is strictly regulating by the United States Food & Drug Administration. In fact, any food made for solely for infants and/or babies is put to higher standards because of the target consumers.

The disadvantages to purchasing store-bought baby food is the nutritional value of the food compared to homemade baby food. There may be added sugars or corn syrup in prepared foods. It is important that the parents who decide to raise their baby on store-bought food read the labels on the jars very carefully.

Concerns and Warnings

It is important to not to introduce the following foods to your baby or infant child’s diet, until after one year of age:

  1. honey
  2. dairy
  3. eggs
  4. strawberries
  5. tomatoes
  6. citrus
  7. nuts

HoneyHoney can contain botulinum spores, which may cause infant botulism due to the immature digestive tracts of babies. However, honey is harmless to older children and adults.  The other foods (dairy, eggs, strawberries, tomatoes, citrus and nuts) are common allergy triggers.  Introducing these foods at a later age would minimize the effects of allergens later in life.

Babies under one year of age are more susceptible to infection, inflammation and illness, so it is also very important to sterilize cooking utensils when preparing and storing homemade baby food, and to wash hands thoroughly, and keep the preparation area (countertops, sink, stovetop, etc.) clean to prevent cross-contamination.

Summary and Conclusions

At the end of the day, there really is no right or wrong option for purchasing baby food. Parents have to decide which option is the most appropriate and beneficial for their lifestyle.Brothers As long as the infant/baby receives an adequate amount of essential nutrients from the food the he or she consumes, the parent should take comfort in knowing that they are doing right by their baby.

References

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). AAP Policy on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding Initiatives.  Retrieved June 13, 2015

Healthy Child: Healthy World. (2015). Food. Healthy Living. Retrieved June 13, 2015

Livestrong.org. (2013). Food to Make My Baby Gain Weight. Retrieved June 10, 2015

Mayo Clinic. (2013). Homemade Baby food: What are the Benefits? Nutrition and healthy eating. Retrieved June 12, 2015

Urban Child Institute. (2011). Nutrition and Early Brain Development. Updates. Retrieved June 12, 2013

_________________________________________________

This articleHang Pham, MBHA Health Educator is written by Hang Pham. Hang Pham is a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator. Hang Pham was born in Hoc Mon, Vietnam. She came to America in 1994, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2011. Hang graduated from Seaside High School with diploma and received her AA in General Studies from Monterey Peninsula College in 2011. She received her BA in Collaborative Health and Human Services from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2012. In addition to working as a volunteer staff with the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, she currently works as a Clerical Aid in the Human Resources Department of Salinas City Hall. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.   All images are copyright free, from www.pixabay.com unless otherwise noted.

Disclaimer:  The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

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