The Perfect Baby Diet: From Birth to Toddlerhood

Hi There! I’m Dana Hunnes, a PhD-Dietitian and mother to a toddler!  I’m honored to be a guest on Organic Sunshine! Today, I’d like to give you a little primer on the best nutrition for your fast-growing infant and toddler!  I provide basic information in this guest-post, with much more in-depth information and references in my amazon.com e-book!  Available at: Perfect Baby Diet

Human Development and Nutrition

We, as humans, develop physically, mentally, and socially, more in the first 5 years of our life, than we do over the rest of our lives.  However, the first 2 years of life are the most critical for brain and cognitive development. Much of this development is dependent on healthy, proper social interactions with caregivers, as well as on proper and healthy nutrition.

Nutrition is more than just ensuring an adequate intake of protein and calories.  Healthy nutrition is also related to WHAT we eat or drink, as well as its micronutrient content, the “small stuff!”  Micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients found in food.

First 6 Months

The best nutrition for the first 6 months of your baby’s life is mother’s milk.  Breast milk.  It is sterile, the proper temperature, has the appropriate amount of water, calories, carbohydrates, fat (and types of fats for brain development), protein (casein-to-whey ratios), micronutrients (with exception of vitamin D), immune-mediation factors, lactoferrins, oligosaccharides, and probiotics.

Breastfeeding Mother

Whoa!  That’s Heavy!  What a lot of stuff!  Now, as I mentioned above, vitamin D is lacking in breastmilk, so it needs to be supplemented to your baby.  The best vitamin D to give is vitamin D3.  There are many liquid drops available now with vitamin D3.  The amount needed is 200-400IU per day.  This can be given directly from the dropper to your baby, or you can mix it in with breastmilk.  (Note:  Most formulas are supplemented with vitamin D).

Formula Feeding

If you choose not to breastfeed, are unable to breastfeed, or would like alternatives, the next best thing is formula.  There are so many formulas available on the market now, from cow’s milk to soy and even goat’s milk formula. Goat’s-milk formulas are a suitable alternative to cow’s milk or soy-milk formulas.  Goat’s milk, in fact, may be closer to human milk in terms of protein ratios, types of fats, and other immune-factors that are healthy for your growing baby.

Mother Giving Baby Son Bottle Of Milk

For formula, organic is a better choice than non-organic, especially if soy products are used.  For infants with special conditions, seeking the advice of your pediatrician or a pediatric dietitian is recommended.  However, there are specialty formulas available on the market as well. 

6 to 12 Months

For the first six months of your baby’s life, the only thing he or she needs for proper growth and development is breastmilk/formula.  By the time your baby is 6 months old, he will be taking approximately 32 ounces per day of either breastmilk or formula, or combination thereof.  You should continue to give your baby breastmilk or formula ONLY until 12 months of age. Whole-milk has far too much protein for a 6-12 month old baby, and not enough calories or fats.

First Foods

Once your baby turns six months, you will want to try first foods.  Now, you can go to your local market and try rice cereal or oat cereal if you want.  But, your baby definitely does not need that as a first food.  For my son, his first food was pureed/thinned out avocado.  We put avocado in a blender with a little breastmilk and whirled until it was a smoothie consistency.  Now, he did not like it, but that is because for 6 months, 6-8 times a day, he was only getting breastmilk!  Most babies dislike their first taste of food, no matter what it is.

Mother Feeding Baby Boy In High Chair

We made a bunch of home-made purees for him to try.  We went from avocado to green beans, then onto asparagus, and other vegetables.  We did not even try fruit until he turned 12 months. I always recommend going with veggies first; because ALL BABIES and PEOPLE (for that matter) tend to enjoy fruit more than vegetables.  So, if you can teach your baby to love vegetables as much or more than fruit, you are far ahead of the game for a lifetime of healthy eating and healthy weight!

Once you have tried a bunch of vegetables, which, by the way, grilled peppers were his favorite (pureed of course), you can gradually add in pureed meats, (chicken, fish, meat) and other proteins such as beans, legumes, or tofu.

Toddlerhood

When your baby grows into a toddler, I suggest giving him or her bite-size (finger-sized) pieces of whatever you are eating.  No need to make special foods for your little one.  She should learn to like the foods you like.  Not only does it make meals easier, since you won’t need to prepare additional items, but it teaches your child that you are not a short-order cook, and that what is for dinner, is for dinner.  It also teaches your child what a healthy meal looks like. 

Happy little boy with strawberries, isolated over white

Infants and toddlers have an amazing ability to moderate their own appetites.  So, if your child refuses to eat what you put in front of her one night, it might not be that she does not like the food, it could just be that she is not hungry. Our pediatrician has even said, “If he doesn’t eat what you eat, put him to bed without eating.”  Your baby will eat when he is hungry.  Trust me.

One day she will eat everything on her plate, even it was something she refused to eat the day before because she is hungry.  The next day he might eat NOTHING you put in front of him, even if it was his favorite food the night before!

Through my trials and tribulations with my own son, I have learned that he will eat ONLY. WHEN. HE. WANTS. TO.  or when he is hungry.  Making a special food for your child, which he may not eat anyway after the fact, or giving her something unhealthy just so that she will eat, adapts your child’s taste buds to less healthy fare.

Have Your Child Help in the Kitchen

I also learned, through experience, that having my son help me make meals (now that he is old enough) teaches him the importance of making home-scratch meals.  He loves to stand on a chair next to me in the kitchen and “help” me chop vegetables and fruit for the salad, or for the meal.  Now, when I say he likes to “help” that really means, as I chop vegetables for the salad, he reaches in to the salad and pulls them out to eat them…so, I cut a little extra and let him go to town.

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As someone who has worked in the field of nutrition for 12 years, and as a mom…I’ve learned that giving my child healthy, mostly plant-based meals, with whole foods, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains, not only gives him optimal nutrition, but it teaches him to like the foods for how they are really supposed to taste.  Not how “restaurants” make us believe they are supposed to taste – salty, sugary, fatty.

For more in-depth information, please refer to my e-book:  The Perfect Baby Diet; available on Kindle.

You can also learn more about me and read more about healthy nutrition on my personal blog: Nutrition Simply

Dana

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Dana Hunnes, the mother of a toddler, is a Registered Dietitian with a Ph.D. in Public Health Nutrition. Dana has worked 11+ years as a Registered Dietitian, 10+ years at UCLA Medical Center. Dana completed her B.S. at Cornell University in Nutritional Science and Human Biology, and her dietetic internship at Emory University Hospital. Dana went back for her Masters in Public Health ('07) and Doctorate in Public Health ('13) at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health. Dana has expertise infant and child nutrition, recently completing her first e-book, “The Perfect Baby Diet”. Dana is a sought-after expert in all things nutrition, frequently cited in popular news articles, appearing on news segments, and in other media. Dana's interests include: Nutrition, Public Health, infant- and child-nutrition, and physical activity.

Author: Dana Hunnes

Dana Hunnes, the mother of a toddler, is a Registered Dietitian with a Ph.D. in Public Health Nutrition. Dana has worked 11+ years as a Registered Dietitian, 10+ years at UCLA Medical Center. Dana completed her B.S. at Cornell University in Nutritional Science and Human Biology, and her dietetic internship at Emory University Hospital. Dana went back for her Masters in Public Health ('07) and Doctorate in Public Health ('13) at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health. Dana has expertise infant and child nutrition, recently completing her first e-book, “The Perfect Baby Diet”. Dana is a sought-after expert in all things nutrition, frequently cited in popular news articles, appearing on news segments, and in other media. Dana's interests include: Nutrition, Public Health, infant- and child-nutrition, and physical activity.

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