Good nutrition is essential for survival, physical growth, mental development, performance, productivity, health and well-being across the entire lifespan; from the earliest stages of fetal development, at birth, and through infancy, childhood, adolescence and on into adulthood.
Breastfeeding and complementary feeding are a critical aspect of 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 life-span, including increased performance and productivity, and reduced risk of certain non-communicable diseases.
Nutritional Needs of your Baby
In the first few years, your child has specific nutritional needs to ensure his/her growth.
Human milk and infant formula have all the nutrients your baby needs for the first 6 months – protein, fats, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. Human milk contains additional components (e.g. immune defense proteins) that are not present 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, as well as other fats that 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 important 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, helps keep your baby healthy and improves development. What’s more, human milk can provide the basis of healthy nutrition until the infant is one year old or more, right until weaning is complete.
Your infant’s nutritional needs
All babies are different and so are their needs. This means that babies can regulate the amount of nutrition they need by taking more or less milk, both human milk and infant formula. That is how they make sure they get the right amount of energy, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins.
- WHO. Nutrition. Accessed on 7th October 2018.