Infants experience an exceptional rate of growth and development in their first year of life which requires ideal nutrition. The incomprehensible infant formula shortage has brought the conversation on infant feeding front and center. Now seems like the perfect time to discuss infants’ unique nutrient needs. Here is an overview of important nutrition considerations for the first year of life.
Birth to 6 Months
For the first time ever, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) offers guidance for infants and toddlers under the age two. The DGA recommends human milk for infants, particularly in the first 6 months of life, and longer if possible. Breastfed infants should be supplemented with vitamin D and possibly iron, as these nutrients aren’t present in breast milk. Of course, there are many reasons why a family may not breastfeed their baby. An iron-fortified, FDA approved infant formula is uniquely prepared with a blend of nutrients and bioactive compounds for the needs of infants and is an safe alternative to breast milk.
Did you know that Guiding Stars has unique guidance for Infant and Toddler foods?
Why breast milk or formula?
It’s critically important that infants are only offered breast milk or formula. Infants cannot metabolize cow’s milk, goat milk, or a dairy alternative. There are several reasons why these milks aren’t appropriate for infants, including that their protein and mineral composition is inadequate and unsafe for infants, likely leading to digestive (and possibly renal) issues. Infant formula is carefully composed to match an infant’s needs and includes nutrients that sustain shelf life and a protein composition that’s easier on the baby’s digestion. It’s also, as recent news highlights, highly regulated by the FDA to keep babies safe.
Infant formula is not evaluated by the Guiding Stars program. The composition of infant formula is highly regulated and is considered more of a medical food for this reason. We also feel strongly that the decision about the use of formula or breastfeeding is a personal one that should be made by individuals with the help of their child’s pediatrician.
When is it safe to add complementary foods
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing complementary foods to an infant’s diet between four and six months, when they show signs of readiness. Add complementary foods slowly, one at a time, to ensure that a baby comfortably digests each new food. While babies won’t remember their first introduction to food, it will begin to shape their relationship with food. As caregivers, it’s our job is to offer food, while baby will decide when and how much they want to eat. This approach to feeding, known as the division of responsibility, reminds us that feeding babies is a dance that we aren’t leading, but serving as a partner in.
Offering complementary foods and allergies
While there was a time when we delayed offering infants potential allergens (such as peanuts), research has confirmed that earlier exposure to potential allergens reduces the potential that a child will develop food allergies. However, a baby that has eczema or an egg allergy is at greater risk. In these circumstances, peanuts should be introduced judiciously, under the guidance of a pediatrician or allergist. In all cases, peanut butter should be offered carefully and safely to an infant.
Guiding Stars for infants and toddlers
Guiding Stars understands that mere minutes can make or break a shopping trip and can help caregivers quickly and easily locate the best foods for babies and toddlers. Many Guiding Stars earning foods make perfect first bites for babies and help them grow into toddlers and young children who embrace a variety of nutrient-dense foods that are optimal for their growth.
Learn more about what infants and toddlers need in their diets in this free webinar.