In a continuation of our series, nutritionist Leila Johari discusses her thoughts on the importance of providing the right nutrition for your baby! Part one was all about babies from 0-6 months; if you missed it, catch up here. This post, part two, is all about babies from 6-12 months - Leila looks at baby’s nutritional needs from six months and what foods are best.
Up until the six month mark, a baby gets all their nutritional requirements from breast or formula milk as well as having the nutrient stores they are born with. But by six months, they have a much higher need for energy, vitamins and minerals in order to continue growing big and strong. Milk alone is no longer enough and they need a diet that is nutrient dense and provides energy. Nutrient-dense means that they need small amounts of food that is rich in nutrients and high in energy rather than larger amounts of less nutrient- rich foods. Therefore it is important to know what foods are best for baby at this stage.
Below, is a list of vitamins and minerals of particular importance - and where they can be found, to give to baby.
Up until now, your baby has had enough iron in their own system - but supplies are starting to dwindle. It is important that good sources of iron are introduced, as a lack of it can lead to anaemia, which makes for a very irritable and tired little baby.
Luckily, iron is found in a variety of foods. The best, most easily absorbed form is in red meat and chicken. It is also found in beans, lentils, chickpeas and green leafy vegetables such as spinach. Non-meat sources of iron are absorbed less easily; enough Vitamin C (see below) is therefore important to assist with this. Fortified cereals and follow on milks will also provide iron.
Zinc is a micro mineral vital to proper growth and development. It also supports the immune function. It can be found in a variety of foods such as eggs, milk, cheese, wholegrains, fortified cereal, meat, fish and pulses.
Calcium is vital for building strong bones and teeth, promoting nerve and muscle function, helping blood clot and activating the enzymes that convert food to energy. A lack of calcium can lead to rickets, the condition in children describing poor bone development, and weak nerve and muscle functions.The best sources of calcium can be found in dairy products such as milk and cheese. Other sources include green, leafy vegetables and fortified cereals.
Vitamin A affects growth and development, skin, eyes and the immune system. It can be found in cheese, butter, oily fish and milk. Carotene, a pigment found in certain vegetables such as carrots, other orange coloured fruits and dark green leafy vegetables, converts to Vitamin A, providing an additional source.
As mentioned above, Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron and, like Vitamin A, affects growth and development. It is also vital for the formation of a protein called collagen that helps make skin, scar tissue, tendons and blood vessels. Vitamin C rich foods include oranges, mangoes, kiwi fruits, broccoli and peppers.
As Vitamin C helps absorb iron, Vitamin D helps absorb calcium. They are also linked in that a deficiency in Vitamin D has similar results to a lack of calcium; it can lead to rickets and poor bone development.
Vitamin D is difficult enough to source, so it's important to be vigilant to make sure that baby is getting a sufficient amount. An excellent source is liver but it is unlikely your baby will be a fan of this! Oily fish, eggs, margarine and fortified breakfast cereals will also do the trick. Vitamin D is also manufactured by sunlight on our skin, but it is not enough to meet the needs of a growing baby (and given our climate here in Ireland it really cannot be relied upon)! Exposing babies to too much sun is not recommended anyway - but it's still a good way for mum to get her requirements! Instead, the HSE recommend that you give your baby 5 micrograms (5µg) of vitamin D3 every day from when it is born up until 12 months. Vitamin D drops can be bought in most pharmacies.
In the next instalment, we will look at all-important portion control for your hungry baby!
Leila Johari is a personal trainer with an ITEC qualification in nutrition.
Did we mention...along with the food, we keep our small & me bangles and necklaces in the fridge - the cool temperature is extra soothing for teething babies!