baby nutrition 2414

The World Health Organization found that a child’s nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life—from conception through age 2—has a substantial impact on physical and behavioral development. According to Dr. Christina Valentine, a neonatologist focused on infant and maternal diet, parents should take this into consideration when choosing a child’s first foods.

“We want kids to develop physically, but we want them to be social as well,” she says. “Brain development affects not only how you learn but how you see the world and respond to sensory inputs. We need DHA from salmon or egg. We need iron from meat. In the first 1,000 days all that development in the brain is happening and needs some of these key foods.”

According to Dr. Valentine, children in the U.S. tend to be deficient in vitamin D, DHA, potassium, fiber, vitamin E and iron. These deficiencies are not only affecting physical development in youngsters—they are hurting social and emotional development as well.

To combat this trend, Dr. Valentine recommends introducing these nutrients as soon as babies are ready to add “complementary foods” to their primary nutrition source of formula or breastmilk. Parents can look for cues like finger-raking to determine when a baby is ready to try solid foods, usually around 4-6 months of age. 

Once baby seems ready, think about starting with foods that have iron, such as strained meats, fruits, vegetables and eggs. Baby cereal was once recommended as a first food, but it doesn’t have as much nutrition or sensory appeal as these other options. From there, continue to add nutrient-dense, brightly colored whole foods to baby’s diet. Be sure to consult your child’s pediatrician about baby’s specific health needs.

Researchers have found that the most predominant “vegetable” in an American toddler’s diet is french fries. About 30 percent of tots are consuming sweetened beverages like cola or sweet tea daily. As a result, many American children are malnourished, despite exceeding daily calorie needs. Their high-sugar diets leave little room for nutritious foods.

For that reason, USDA guidelines are clear about avoiding sweets. Dr. Valentine recommends looking for foods with less than 6 percent added sugar. Check labels—especially on things like granola bars and breakfast bars since they often have a surprising amount of sugar. 

“If you can replace sweetened foods and beverages, you can get more fruits and vegetables and fiber into a child,” says Dr. Valentine. “That will not only help development, but decrease weight and risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It can also improve immune health!”

Mealtime should be fun and exciting for babies. Each meal together is an opportunity for baby to experience new flavors and socialize with family. Try to enjoy eating together and don’t stress too much if you’ve made a few mistakes already.

“It’s never too late,” says Dr. Valentine. Good nutrients benefit children no matter when they are added to their diets.

Dr. Valentine’s Tips for Child Nutrition

  • Roast those veggies. Dice and roast vegetables with a little olive oil for a more appealing texture. Babies are sensory beings, and mushy foods might not be appealing.
  • If your baby takes formula, choose a brand developed in the U.S. Our guidelines are trustworthy and based on good science.
  • Make crispy salmon cakes to help children get enough DHA. Packaged salmon with tuna oil is super nutritious. “Mix it with one egg and some Italian breadcrumbs and make tiny patties,” she says. “Sauté in olive oil and let it cool.”
  • Eat a rainbow—bright colors have nutrients and appeal to baby’s senses.
  • If you’re concerned about nutrition gaps, try making highly nutritious pancakes or muffins by adding powdered toddler formula (containing DHA and iron) to the batter.

What pregnant mothers and babies eat and drink in a baby’s first 1,000 days (from conception to a child’s second birthday) has a profound impact on a child’s growth and development. Learn more at www.thousanddays.org.

Anne Malinoski is a contributing writer. She lives in Santee with her husband and two sons.

_____________

Best Stroller-Friendly Walks in San Diego for Mom Meet-Ups

Best Stroller-Friendly Walks in San Diego for Mom Meet-Ups

  Catching up with friends is easily put on the back burner when welcoming a new baby, but connection with others can be a saving grace in those first months (and years) of being a new mom. So, . . .

Read more

Sleep Shaping: How to establish healthy sleep habits for baby

Sleep Shaping: How to establish healthy sleep habits for baby

  Sleep shaping, sleep hygiene and sleep conditioning are terms for essentially the same thing: establishing a healthy sleep routine and environment from the start that support a good night’s . . .

Read more

Best Snack Ideas for Breastfeeding Moms

Best Snack Ideas for Breastfeeding Moms

  If you’re a nursing mama, then you know breastfeeding hunger can be intense. So, how do lactating moms stay nourished and fueled between meals while staying healthy? Here you’ll find easy, . . .

Read more

San Diego Babies and Toddlers

San Diego Babies and Toddlers

  We teamed up with baby and parenting experts to create a new digital guide that has essential, up-to-date information for first-time parents and must-have resources for those who are expecting . . .

Read more

The Importance of Dad Involvement

The Importance of Dad Involvement

Researchers who study father-child attachment confirm what active, involved fathers have known in their hearts for years—that the father-child bond is no less important than the mother-child bond. . . .

Read more

Baby Product Review: In the Nursery

Baby Product Review: In the Nursery

Baby Product Review. New parents can choose from a variety of products that can make every day with that bundle of joy just a little easier. Anthem All Terrain Wagon2 Seater $499.99 & 4 Seat . . .

Read more

Oral Care for Babies

Oral Care for Babies

Parents are often surprised to hear that they should start dental hygiene for their little ones in the first year. Here are answers to common questions:   When should I take my baby to the de . . .

Read more

Talk to Me, Baby! How to Encourage Speech and Language

Talk to Me, Baby! How to Encourage Speech and Language

There’s something magical about a baby’s first words. More than any other milestone, the first “mama” or “dada” holds the promise of deeper connection with our children. While every ba . . .

Read more

How to Cope with Crying Babies

How to Cope with Crying Babies

Persistent infant crying is often distressing for new parents. If your baby is going through a period of intense daily crying, know that many have walked this path before you. With a little knowledg . . .

Read more

When Breastfeeding is Hard

When Breastfeeding is Hard

In California, about three quarters of women who begin breastfeeding in the hospital have stopped by nine weeks postpartum. According to Neonatologist and Lactation Consultant Dr. Nancy E. Wight, wh . . .

Read more

Celebrating Baby’s First Birthday: Tips from parents

Celebrating Baby’s First Birthday: Tips from parents

Most seasoned parents agree that first birthday parties are mostly for the adults, but still want a fun, memorable way to commemorate this important milestone. Some parents swear by a cake smash pho . . .

Read more

Priceless Tips for NICU Parents

Priceless Tips for NICU Parents

Parents do countless things to prepare for the arrival of a new baby—research, plan, decorate, buy baby gear, select a name and so much more. No matter how much parents prepare, the unexpected can . . .

Read more

How to Transition Back to Work After Maternity Leave

How to Transition Back to Work After Maternity Leave

Just as new moms are getting into the rhythm of parenthood, reality hits for those who work away from home and it’s time to go back. Here are strategies to help plan and manage the transition back . . .

Read more

Baby Digestion Issues in the First Year

Baby Digestion Issues in the First Year

Most babies have healthy, functional digestive systems—even those who experience an occasional bout with gas, diarrhea or tummy pain. But because common digestive issues like spitting up, reflux, . . .

Read more

The Benefits of Rapid Whole Genome Sequencing

The Benefits of Rapid Whole Genome Sequencing

It is estimated that 15 percent of infants and children in intensive care units are there due to an underlying genetic condition. Just a few years ago, many of these infants would pass away or go th . . .

Read more

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!

Subscribe