Baby nutrition in the first year

As milk is gradually replaced by solids, here’s how to make sure your baby continues to get the vital nutrients she needs to grow and develop

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Every type of food your baby eats will give her a range of different nutrients. Some give her energy, while others help her to grow and protect her body from illness.

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For the first six months of her life, all the nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop come from drinking breastmilk or formula milk. However, once she reaches six months, she can no longer get everything she needs from milk alone.

Around this age, all her stores of essential nutrients such as iron, which built up in her body before her birth, need to be replenished through the gradual process of weaning. So what are the key nutrients help with baby nutrition?

Fat

Why it’s important
Fat provides your baby with essential fatty acids, needed for all of the body’s developmental processes, as well giving her energy. It also provides her body with important fat-soluble vitamins and is vital for her rapidly growing brain.

Good food sources
Breastmilk (contains a whopping 50 per cent fat – but the good kind), formula milk, cheese, yoghurt, olive oil, meat, eggs.

How much your baby needs
She’ll get enough from her usual breastmilk or infant formula, but you can supplement this with butter, cheese or egg as she starts to eat more solids.

Protein

Why it’s important
Protein provides amino acids (the body’s building blocks) which are vital for all that rapid growing your baby will be doing in her first year. It also gives her a lasting supply of energy and helps her to repair her body.

Good food sources
Breastmilk, formula milk, meat, fish, eggs, dairy foods, cereals, bread and pulses.

How much your baby needs
From six to 12 months most of your baby’s protein will come from her daily milk intake (formula or breast), but after eight months add one daily serving of protein-rich food in the form of meat, fish, cheese or beans. A serving is around one to four teaspoonfuls, depending on her appetite.

Carbohydrates

Why they’re important
As your baby moves from milk to solids, carbs will increasingly come to provide her with much of the energy she needs each day.

Good food sources
Baby cereals, potatoes, pasta, bread, rice and noodles.

How much your baby needs
Around two or three small servings (e.g. one to four teaspoonfuls of cereal, half a slice of bread), increasing as she reduces her milk intake when she gets to a year.

Calcium

Why it’s important
It helps your baby to build strong teeth and bones, regulates her muscles and her heart and makes sure her blood clots normally.

Good food sources
Formula or breastmilk, cow’s milk (suitable for use in cooking before 12 months, but not as a drink), yoghurt, cheese, butter, green leafy vegetables and bread.

How much your baby needs
Around one pint of formula or breastmilk each day, but you can provide more by giving her extra cheese, yoghurts or green veg, especially if you’re concerned that she’s dropping milk feeds too quickly.

Zinc

Why it’s important
Zinc helps your baby’s body to use carbohydrate, protein and fat. It also helps her grow and repair tissue and boosts her immune system.

Good food sources
Meat, milk, cheese, eggs, cereals and pulses.

How much your baby needs
She should get all she needs from breastmilk or infant formula until a year old. Give her cheese, meat and eggs as she takes more solid food.

Iron

Why it’s important
It helps to make red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body, and is essential for preventing anaemia – a condition that can make your baby tired, listless and pale.

Good food sources
Red meat, poultry, fish, beans, dried fruit (such as apricots), baby breakfast cereals and most dark green leafy vegetables (but not spinach).

How much your baby needs
The iron in infant formula milk should meet her needs, but if she’s breastfeeding or taking less that 500ml or formula a day, a serving of minced meat or fortified breakfast cereal will help up her intake.

Vitamins

Why they’re important
These essential micronutrients are needed in small amounts in your baby’s body to keep her healthy, and are involved in everything from eyesight to immune function.

Good food sources
Fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D, E, K) are found in vegetable oils, dairy foods, liver and oily fish. Water-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin C and the vitamin B group) are found in fruit, vegetables and grains.

How much your baby needs
The vitamins in infant formula milk should meet most of her needs, but if she’s taking less that 500ml a day or she’s breastfeeding, supplements providing vitamins A, C and D (in the form of liquid drops) are now recommended from six months. Your health visitor can advise you on what supplements you should be giving.

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