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A Healthy Start: The Unique Nutritional Needs of Infants

Published on Mar. 09, 2022

Healthy eating starts early and should be practiced at every life stage. This means as early as infancy!

From birth to 6 months of age, breast milk is the ideal source of nutrition, along with Vitamin D supplementation up to 1 year old. If you’re an expectant mom who is considering breastfeeding, reach out to your pediatrician or birthing hospital for resources. For moms who are unable or choose not to breastfeed, iron-fortified infant formula is an alternative to breast milk.

At about 6 months old, you can start introducing nutrient-dense complementary foods, like pureed baby food. Look for foods that are iron- and zinc-rich, but steer clear of foods that have added sugars, sodium, or fats. Ask your pediatrician about cues your child is developmentally ready to start complementary foods.

Introducing your baby to a variety of nutrient-dense foods will help expose them to different flavors, textures and nutrients.

Did you know it takes about 8 to 10 times of trying a new food for an infant to get used to it? So if at first your little one is not a fan of pureed green beans, keep trying!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introduction of allergenic foods, such as eggs and peanut-containing food, as early as 4 to 6 months of age for high-risk infants to reduce risk of developing an allergy to these foods later in life. Ask your child’s pediatrician any questions about allergenic foods before feeding them to your baby.

At 12 months of age, parents may introduce Vitamin D fortified whole cow’s milk. If you prefer plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk, it’s important to know that fortified soy-based milk is the only recommended alternative, as it is on par with the caloric and nutritional content of cow’s milk. 

Between 1 to 2 years of age, continue to avoid artificially flavored or sweetened drinks. Stick with water and Vitamin D fortified cow’s milk (or fortified soy-based milk) instead. In this age group, continue feeding your child nutrient-dense foods, especially those rich in iron, zinc, and calcium. And don’t forget about essential fatty acids from seafood, such as salmon, trout, or sardines, and other plant-based sources like avocados, olives and plant-based oils. These nutrients are essential for brain growth and development. 

If you have any questions about your infant’s dietary needs, reach out to your pediatrician for more information.


About the Author

Dr. Aldrin Insorio is a pediatrician at San Dimas Pediatrics in Bakersfield, a member of Valley Children’s Primary Care Group. He believes in serving not just as a pediatrician, but as an advocate for children’s health and wellbeing as a whole.