Adequate nutrition during infancy and early childhood is essential to ensure the growth, health, and development of an infant to their full potential. For your infant to grow appropriately, they need adequate calories, protein, and essential nutrients.
Human milk and infant formula have all the nutrients your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. From 6 months, solid foods can be slowly introduced in the form of purees and mashed mixtures. Here are some ways to know if your child is ready to eat solid foods;
1. When he/she can hold up his head with no or little support.
2. When he/she can swallow by moving the tongue from the front to the back of the mouth.
3. When your baby is interested in what you or other people are eating (by trying to grab what you are eating).
For proper growth and development, an infant must obtain an adequate amount of essential nutrients by consuming appropriate quantities and types of foods. The ideal calorie intake for infants is between 430 and 844 calories per day, depending on the age, size, gender, medical conditions and growth rate. If your baby is not getting enough calories, you may notice the following symptoms;
1. Slow weight gain: Your child is much smaller than other children of his/her age. This may include weight, height and size.
2. Lost interest in the world around them: The baby may find the world not friendly because he/she doesn’t have enough energy for the day's activity and finds it hard to get along with peers.
3. Extreme sleepiness: The baby feels tired or drowsy during the day. These can possibly affect the baby’s day-to-day functioning
4. Frequent crying and fussiness
5. Missed physical milestones: Not rolling over, sitting or walking at the same time as other kids their age.
Here are some high calorie foods which can help your baby to gain weight and develop properly
1. Beans porridge: Beans are a great source of iron, calcium, fibre, vitamin B, and protein. When combined with white yam, it keeps your baby full for an extended period. Boil the beans until it is very soft to make it easier to swallow then add onions and crayfish, little red (palm) oil, salt and stock cubes to give it taste. The beans can also be combined with plantain and potato.
2. Sweet Potato meal. Sweet potatoes are also naturally packed with vitamin B5, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and carotenoids. Boil sweet potatoes until soft. Mash with scrambled eggs and feed the baby well.
3. Mashed Irish potatoes: Irish potatoes are a good source of weight gain for babies. If you know how to make mashed potato salad, then you can do this. Boil the potatoes till soft, mash with boiled egg yolk. Add just a little milk and feed the baby.
4. Corn pap (Ogi): Corn pap can be made from maize, guinea corn, millet Etc. Don’t feed babies bland pap and don’t force feed. If the pap tastes good, your baby will eat without a fuss. The reason babies sometimes reject corn pap meals is the bland taste. Serve with milk to give it an even greater taste.
5. Plantain porridge: Mashed plantain porridge is easy to prepare. Plantain is a good source of vitamin A and C, wonderful in maintaining body mechanisms, helping the body develop well. Also, it is a high-fibre food, aiding your baby to gain weight. To prepare, unwrap the back of the plantain, slice into pieces and pour in a pot. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Add vegetables and simmer. It can also be served with titus stew.
6. Rice meals: Very soft rice is what the babies need. Cook until it can be swallowed without necessarily chewing. Babies can eat any form of rice whether fried rice, jollof rice, boiled rice or even coconut rice. One thing though is watch the pepper and ensure the rice is cooked softer then what is served to other members of the family. For fried rice, let the vegetables cook well. For jollof, make sure you don’t use peppery stew.
7. Boiled yam mashed with palm oil: Yams are rich in potassium and manganese, which are essential for good bone health, growth, metabolic function, and heart health. Boil the yam till soft and mash it with palm oil
8. Soya bean meal: Soya bean meal is enriched with important nutrients that help your kids grow strong. Grind soya beans with crayfish, groundnut, millet and guinea corn. Mix soya bean flour with clean water. Then cook for at least 2 minutes before serving.
9. Egg yolk: Egg, which is another calorie rich baby food, is packed with protein and can be cooked and added to puree of vegetables or rice. Egg yolk not only nourishes the baby with essential minerals, but it also helps the baby to gain weight. Boil egg yolk and mash with a little breast milk. It can also be scrambled.
10. Avocado: Avocado is rich in good fats and minerals like potassium, folate and Vitamins E, B, C and K. It is good for the baby’s health and can be given in mashed or pureed form or mixed with formula milk to form a paste. Avocado can also be combined with other fruits such as bananas and fed to the baby.
11. Milk: Cow milk is good for babies as it has a good amount of calcium, which is vital for developing strong bones, teeth and muscle growth. It contains Vitamin D which helps in the absorption of calcium in the body. Milk also carries a high amount of protein, which helps your baby grow.
Nigerian foods are great to help babies gain weight. Your baby may not like all the foods you give. Try different options and find their most favourite foods.
Here are some important tips to note:
1. Please ensure that your baby is about six months old before you start giving solid foods.
2. Trying to increase a baby’s weight when it’s not needed can increase the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and weight gain later on.
3. You’ve passed the 6-month milestone and you’ve introduced your baby to solids, but they’re not gaining weight as you’d hoped. After you’ve introduced single-ingredient foods safely and have a chance to incorporate more flavours, you can fit in some additional calories and fats.
4. For the first few months of life, remember that your baby is more in tune with their own needs than the clock. If they’re hungry, feed them. As they get older you can begin to establish set mealtimes.
5. After 6 months or so, more of a schedule may help encourage healthy eating habits. That’s the time to start setting aside time to mindfully eat. Make sure to schedule in snack time at mid-morning and mid-afternoon because little tummies don’t hold many reserves.
6. Don’t let a refusal stop you from offering a new food. It may take up to 10 times before your baby decides to give it a try.
7. While you want your child who needs help to gain weight to eat high-calorie foods, these should be high-nutrient or nutrient-dense, energy-dense healthy foods and not simply junk food.
An infant’s diet should be well balanced and high on nutrition in order to support the physical and mental development of the child.