What is infant feeding?
During the first years of a child’s life it is crucial that they have good nutrition, not only to ensure good physical growth but also to ensure intellectual development. The ability to learn, think, communicate with others, and adapt to different environments is influenced by good nutrition.
What conditions can be caused by poor nutrition?
If the child’s nutrition is poor, then they could go on to develop cardiovascular diseases or become overweight or obese. It is important to remember that it is in these early years that children form eating habits as well as everyday routines which become increasingly difficult to break or change in later life. It is important to instil good eating habits and exercising habits while children are still young. Medical recommendations for child nutrition include: to eat five pieces of fruit or vegetables a day, not to eat too much fat, not drink too many sugary drinks, or eat too many sweets.
The conditions that children can develop due to insufficient nutrition include: anaemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, gastritis, and dental diseases.
How is infant feeding guided?
As children grow, they have growth and developmental needs that are both physical and mental. It is therefore important for your child to regularly see a paediatrician to ensure that they are healthy and their development is as it should be.
In the first few months of a baby's life, your healthcare provider will help giuide you regarding the optimal method of feeding your baby, and advising what is best depending on the individual parent and infant. There is a great deal of advice available, particularly on the internet, with conflicting ideas and information. Therefore, regular visits and check-ups with your healthcare provider are encouraged. UK guidelines generally follow the idea that:
- Your baby gets most of the nutrients they need from milk or formula for the first 6 months of their life (generally breast milk is encouraged, but there may be exceptions depending on the individual case)
- Sold foods will generally be introduced at about 6 months when your baby is able to digest solid foods properly. Foods are introduced slowly and gradually, as while variety is important, some babies can be allergic to certain foods and this is important to monitor
- Step by step, different foods are introduced as your baby gets used to tastes and textures – after starting on solid foods, your baby can then be encouraged to eat 'finger foods', which they can practise eating alone. Mashed and chopped foods can then be introduced slowly. Speak to your healthcare provider to be informed on the best types of food to feed your baby at each step of their development.
In some cases, children need extra nutrition or supplements, which your doctor will advise you on. Pay attention to your baby and their food habits and let your doctor know if you notice any negative reactions.