Good nutrition is essential for survival, physical growth and mental development. It helps boost performance, productivity, health and well-being across the entire lifespan. Nutrition helps babies from the earliest stages of fetal development, at birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Breastfeeding and complementary feeding are critical to caring for infants and young children. Appropriate feeding practices stimulate bonding with the caregiver and psycho-social development.
They lead to improved nutrition and physical growth, reduced susceptibility to common childhood illnesses and better resistance to cope with them. Improved health outcomes in young children have long-lasting health effects throughout the lifespan, including increased performance and productivity and reduced risk of certain non-communicable diseases.
Nutritional needs of your baby
Your child has specific nutritional needs to ensure their growth in the first few years.
Human milk and infant formula have all your baby's nutrients for the first 6 months – protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Human milk contains additional components (e.g. immune defence proteins) not in infant formula.
The fats in human milk, infant formula and food provide your baby with energy and essential fats—linoleic and linolenic acids, fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K, and other fats have many benefits. Fats are high in energy which is especially important for infants.
Protein forms part of all cells in the body and is needed to make new cells. Protein is essential for your baby's growth. The amount of protein in human milk is suited to the growth rate of human infants.
Human milk alone is the best source of nutrients for infants and is the gold standard for good nutrition from birth up to 6 months. Human milk provides nutrients in the quantities and proportions required to sustain an infant's growth and development during the first months of life. It also strengthens the immune system of your baby.
It helps keep your baby healthy and improves their overall development. Human milk can provide the basis of healthy nutrition until your infant is one year old or more until weaning is complete.
Your infant's nutritional needs
All babies are different, and so are their needs. This means babies can regulate the amount of nutrition they need by taking more or less milk, both breast milk and infant formula. That is how to ensure they get the right amount of energy, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins.
Some nutrient-rich meals to include in their routine include:
- Bread and tea
- Mashed potatoes and yams
- Mashed rice and fish
Mama, stick with works for your baby. If your baby loves them, feed them appropriately. When they show signs of disapproval, please stop. Ensure you monitor their skin, as this is when you should be alert for allergies. Stay safe, mama!