I have been thinking a lot lately about baby nutrition: the big nutrition picture for babies.
Having been around the block as a pediatric dietitian—from clinical practice in some of the world’s most famous hospitals and operating my own pediatric-specific private practice– to mothering and feeding four of my own children (plus the mothering of friends and relatives that go along with the territory), I have some items on my baby nutrition wish list I’d like to share.
#1 Pregnant Moms Pay More Attention to Eating
I wish that pregnant moms would pay a little more attention to what they eat. If you’ve ever thought that you could eat better, or healthier, pregnancy this is the time to do it.
The food you eat during pregnancy not only builds the foundation of your baby’s brain and body, it sets his future health in motion. Your body needs more nutrition to grow another human! Nutrients like iron, choline and DHA, to name a few, become high priority when you’re expecting.
#2 Offer Iron-Rich Foods Early
I wish that moms understood the importance of iron for their baby’s brain development.
In the first two years of life, iron is a critical nutrient. Iron deficiency can cause lasting delays in cognitive and behavioral development.
This may translate to learning disabilities, speech delays, social interaction delays, and motor delays.
While baby development happens at an individual pace, all children need good nutrition to make it happen.
#3 Use Tried & True Feeding Approaches
To this end, I wish that parents understood that trendy approaches to feeding young children can have its drawbacks, leading them to make some mistakes with feeding if not careful.
For example, feeding your baby mostly fruits and vegetables can cause poor weight gain.
If your ill-informed about nutrients in food and using baby-led weaning, your baby can miss out on iron, DHA and other important nutrients.
Delaying solids foods in favor of breastfeeding exclusively can also short-circuit important nutrients.
#4 Parents Become Fearless Feeders
I wish that babies were adventurous with food, trying lots of different flavors, textures and types, so they build a wide palate for a variety of food.
Too often, parents get off track by their own food fears, picky eating, and hang-ups. This often trickles down to baby’s food experience and what he eats.
#5 Avoid the Obvious Nutrition Mistakes
I wish that babies wouldn’t drink soda, eat too many sweets, or sip caffeine-containing beverages. These early introductory tastes reinforce baby’s natural preference for sweets and may make him develop an affinity for them later.
#6 No Experimental Diets
I wish parents wouldn’t try out unnecessary, experimental diets on babies, such as gluten-free eating, or the paleo diet, when it isn’t medically indicated.
We have no idea the repercussions of experimental diets on young children.
#7 Offer Strategic Snacks
Away with the nutrient-poor snacks!
#8 Breastfeeding and Beyond
I wish babies were breast fed for as long as possible, and moms felt the support they needed to keep going, making the decision to stop when it’s right for the family, not by any pressure stemming from other sources like returning to work.
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#9 Focused, Not Distracted, Feeding
#10 Learning to Eat is a Process
I wish all parents understood that babies are learning to eat, from tasting new flavors to learning how to self-feed, and that the purpose of early feeding is to teach baby what, how and why to eat.
Those are my main wishes, in a nutshell. What’s on your baby nutrition wish list?
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Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: July 22, 2014
Updated on: June 20, 2019