Baby food diet is nowadays a name given to a weight loss diet based on baby food. However, we’re not going to talk about it in this article. Our mission is to give applicable advice and tips to new moms and answer the most frequent questions parents can have. For this reason, this article is focused on how to feed and when to wean your baby.
The diet of your baby is important since birth. New moms should focus on the well-being and health of the child, giving him only the best and most nutritious foods. With the weaning, it is also important to shape the culinary habits of your little one.
In fact, what and how your baby eats will have a huge impact on the future habits of the child. Bad habits might not have an immediate effect, but in the long run, they can predispose the individual to dietary disturbances and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, several types of tumors, and heart diseases.
BABY FOOD DIET FROM BIRTH TO WEANING
Typically, the first 12 months of a baby’s life are the most important from a nutritional point of view. In this period, a child triples his weight and grows to 50%. These weight and height increments are key indicators of the nutritional conditions of the child and are measured by pediatricians at regular intervals.
These figures are tools that allow you to keep track of your child’s progress, and are particularly important in the first 6 months of life, as they help pediatricians diagnose metabolic or systemic diseases but also wrong baby feeding techniques.
For a newborn, breastfeeding on demand remains the ideal form of nutrition, if the baby is healthy and delivered on the term. In fact, human milk provides an optimal nutritional formula that promotes growth and development.
In the first 6 months of life, babies have a rapid growth characterized by a particular development of the brain. The amino acids and fatty acids from the breast milk contribute to this growth. Moreover, the mom’s body is able to adjust the composition of the breast milk to fit the particular needs of their baby, providing the right nutrients at each meal.
Apart from nutrients, breast milk also contains antibacterial and infection prevention agents including immunoglobulins, which play an important role in the development of the immune system.
Particularly important in the first days of life is also the colostrum. This fluid is produced only in the first days after delivery and it is rich in proteins. It also has a high content of minerals and vitamins, not to mention antibodies, infection prevention agents, anti-inflammatory agents, growth factors, enzymes, and hormones.
Breastfeeding is a baby food diet strongly recommended by pediatricians for physiological, psychological and emotional reasons. Moreover, mom and baby can even prolong this period until it is satisfactory for both of them, even until the baby is two years old.
In some particular cases, a newborn’s diet can consist of artificial milk, widely known as baby formula. High-quality formula generally has satisfactory nutritional characteristics and are usually used by busy moms. However, the baby formula should only be used in accordance with the federal and World Health Organization guidelines.
For optimal growth, it is recommended to feed the baby on demand and the formula should be prepared at the moment of the feeding.
Since the immune defenses of a formula fed baby are weaker compared to the breastfed babies, it is recommended to pay special attention to the sterilization of all baby bottles and instruments that come in contact with the milk.
WEANING: HOW AND WHEN
Weaning is a term referring to the introduction of complementary solid foods in the baby food diet. This is a gradual process that can last weeks or even months, and the introduction of solid foods should start at about six months.
The exact time of the beginning of the process varies from baby to baby. Both moms and babies will know when is the right time to start weaning, as the milk will no longer be able to provide adequate nutrients on its own.
The introduction of solid foods is also important for the proper development of the child. In fact, chewing is responsible for the correct development of the oral cavity but also for the ability to speak correctly. Introducing and increasing the quantity of the solid foods should be done gradually and following the baby’s pace.
Typically, cereals are the first solid foods introduced in the baby food diet. Most of the times they are mixed with milk and transformed into almost liquid foods. Following the cereals, you can introduce in the baby’s diet veggies and fruits, but also meat. To maintain their nutritional properties, the preferred way of cooking is steaming, and the cooked food should be reduced to smooth purees. A baby food maker is a handy appliance to have during this period.
With the introduction of the solid foods, meals consisting of breast milk or formula should decrease. However, breastfed babies will probably ask for breastfeeding too. In this case, moms should learn how to alternate between breastfeeding and solid food to avoid the installation of obesity.
In the weaning period, it is recommended to avoid the introduction of potentially allergenic foods, such as eggs and fish. Typically, these foods should be introduced after 12 months.
Following the current lifestyle changes, industrially prepared baby foods play an increasingly important role in a baby’s diet. We admit that they are handy in many situations, but make sure to choose baby foods made by popular brands and that meet all the federal quality and safety standards.
Because of their practicality and variability, industrial baby foods are a viable alternative to complement homemade foods. Most commercially available baby foods are of a high quality and made with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. Pay attention to choose those foods with no preservatives added.
An important consideration to make in the first year of the baby’s life, especially after weaning, is the amount of iron present in the baby food diet. Your pediatrician can help you monitor the level of iron in your baby and detect iron deficiency anemia from an early stage.
If this condition is detected, it is recommended to introduce in the baby’s diet formula or cereals enriched with this important microelement, to help your baby fight the condition.
BABY FOOD DIET FROM 1 TO 3 YEARS
After the first year of life, the baby starts sharing meals with the rest of the family, provided that the family follows a healthy and well-balanced diet. This period is of crucial importance for the future nutritional preferences of the child because a baby will inevitably end up loving the foods his parents eat.
In fact, the food preferences of each individual are inevitably affected by the maternal diet long before birth. Afterward, a baby’s preference will be affected by the choice his parents make.
Soon after the first anniversary, the baby can start eating truly solid foods. By this time the baby should have the first teeth and parents can start cutting the food into small chewing pieces that will help the baby get used to it without choking.
Since babies tend to follow the parent’s behaviors, it is important to follow a healthy diet yourself. At each meal, you should offer your baby a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, without despairing if the baby refuses to taste them.
In fact, the aversion of young children for new foods is a common phenomenon that is even considered a stage in the baby’s development. When introducing new foods, try to present them in a manner that is attractive for your baby, for example by playing with colors or with the layout of the food.
A thing to pay attention to during this stage is the quantity of food included in the baby food diet. As a main rule, you should never force your baby to eat. Unlike adults, babies are used to eating just as much as they need, and their nutritional requirements change after the first twelve months of life.
In fact, the growth rate and energy requirements are reduced after the twelfth month onwards, and most babies will need only 90 calories per each kg of body weight at this stage.
A reduction in appetite is therefore normal, although many parents perceive this situation as a nutritional risk. However, pediatricians recommend to not force the babies to eat if they don’t want to. Their bodies are able to adjust and a young child will always ask for food when he’s hungry.
Regarding the meals, they must be healthy and varied. To promote growth and healthy development from the earliest stage, the pediatricians recommend following the Mediterranean diet which includes important amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, accompanied by cereals and legumes, milk and derivatives, fish, meat, and eggs.
Although it is an early stage, it is recommended to divide the nutritional needs into five daily meals. The baby should have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus two snacks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The energy requirement should be roughly distributed to 15% for the breakfast, 5% the mid-morning snack, 40% lunch, 10% afternoon snack, and 30% dinner. You should avoid giving your baby additional snacks, however, if he’s really hungry, give him a fresh fruit or a smoothie.
By following this model, if you notice that the baby is hungry between the meals, it means that you might be dealing with a nutritional deficiency and you should investigate the cause.
Regarding the distribution of foods, the breakfast should become a basic habit, as this meal helps to better distribute the calories throughout the day and keep weight under control, even later in life. The best foods to serve at breakfast are nutritious and healthy foods such as milk or yogurt, fruits, homemade sweets such as biscuits, eggs, and bread. These foods provide protein, carbs, fibers, and vitamins.
The mid-morning snack should be something light and rich in vitamins, such as a fruit, fresh juice or smoothie.
Lunch should be a meal rich in carbs and proteins. Ideally, lunch should be a combination of cereals, vegetables, and meat. Some foods to consider are pasta, rice, fish, meat, cheese, legumes, and whatever seasonal vegetables you might want to serve.
The afternoon snack should comprise a light food, such as a yogurt. Sweets are also a great choice, although you should keep the sugar intake as low as possible. However, an ice cream or a pancake with jam are two great options.
Regarding dinner, it should be similar to lunch but lighter. Avoid carbs and feed your baby fresh or cooked vegetables, meat, cheese or other dairy products, or legumes.
From all the foods present in a baby’s diet, fruits and vegetables are by far the most important. Fruits can be given to the child fresh and chopped in chewing bites or reduced to smoothies or juices. Vegetables can be consumed raw or cooked.
You should pay attention to choose only seasonal fruits and veggies which are rich in minerals, vitamins, and fibers. These foods increase the sensation of satiety, improve the function of the intestine and reduce the risk of developing colon cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. They are also an important source of water, which is essential to ensure a proper hydration of the body.
Regarding the cooking method, prefer steaming over all other methods and, by all means, avoid feeding your baby with fried foods.
Steaming should be preferred because this cooking method preserves all the nutritional microelements present in the foods. Baking is also a great method of cooking, but avoid the addition of fats of any kind. Pressure cooking can help when you want to reduce cooking time.
Boiled foods can be avoided unless you want to prepare soups or broths. In fact, when boiling, all the micronutrients present in the various foods pass into the cooking water.
You should also delay the introduction diet of fried foods in the baby food for as long as possible. Fried foods are poor in nutrients, rich in calories, and potentially harmful, as the oil can produce toxic substances at high temperatures.