Baby Nutrition Must-Haves

by Teresa J. Mitchell

Babies grow so quickly that you might think you have a "gro-bot" on your hands! Most babies will double their birth weight by the time they are five to six months old and triple their weight by their first birthday.

This sort of growth rate requires an enormous amount of nutrients to feed that "around-the-clock" baby-growing engine. Let's take a look at what your baby needs throughout the year.

What Foods Do Babies Require?

For the first six months, your baby can get all the required nutrients from breast milk or formula. It remains the baby's major source of nutrition throughout the first twelve months.

Your biggest challenge could be getting breastfeeding off to a good start or it seeing how allowing your baby to end a feeding goes. Some studies suggest early overfeeding and too much weight gain during infancy increases the risk of weight problems later on.

Starting when your baby is 6-months-old, watch and see if your child acts ready for trying solid foods. Begin with offering a small amount of thin puréed foods that gradually become thicker as the weeks pass. Bananas are a common "first food."

Essential Nutrients

Protein forms the basis for all those new cells, including the brain. Foods that are high in protein include fish, milk (breast milk and infant formula), meat, eggs, soy, and legumes.
Vitamins and minerals help out all around the body. These essential tidbits can be found in milk and other proteins foods, vegetables, fruits and grains.
Fats play an essential part in brain building. You'll find essential fatty acids in breast milk or formula, avocados and healthy, plant-based oils.
Carbohydrates supply the energy your baby "gro-bot" needs -- to wiggle, smile and add on those inches and pounds. The best sources of carbohydrates include breast milk or formula, fruits, vegetables and whole grain products.

Bring on the Food!

Your baby's eyes are following your fork from your plate to your mouth and back to the plate. Those little jaws move as your chew. Are they mimicking or want what you're having? You might even have to fend off a possible attempt to get the food on your plate.

Readiness Checklist

Is your tyke ready to start experimenting with food? This checklist can help you decide if it's time to start solids.

❑ Shows an interest in food and eating
❑ Can sit up well without support
❑ Has good control of neck and head muscles
❑ Has lost the tongue-thrusting reflex (it's cute, but this is where your baby pushes their tongue outward, instead of bringing it inward to their mouth)
❑ Can get fingers and toys into mouth
❑ Opens mouth anticipating food

Research increasingly suggests that a child's first experiences with food shape his or her eating habits later in life. Doctors say battling obesity and improving the American diet may mean debunking the myths and broadening a baby's palate.

Dr. David Ludwig of Children's Hospital Boston, a specialist in pediatric nutrition, says that exposing your baby to more foods might be key to getting older children to eat healthier.

Babies in the womb and those who are breastfed develop a taste for whatever mom eats. If mom loves curry, baby probably will, too.

Experts like Nancy Butte, a pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine, say that starting babies on rice cereal and gradually adding other foods has little scientific basis. Nurslings around the world try out healthier, more flavorful fare -- meats in African countries, fish and radishes in Japan and artichokes and tomatoes in France.