Now that your baby is ready for solids, let’s chat about important nutrients your baby needs. Whether you plan to offer purees, attempt baby-led weaning, or do a combination of both, your little one’s meals don’t have to be overly calculated. It’s more straightforward than you think. However, it’s important to be mindful that your baby is getting what he or she needs. After all, food is what supports growth and development. Given the variety of nutrients your baby requires, offering a wide variety of foods is key. It’s the best way to ensure your baby’s needs are met. This also helps broaden your baby’s palate, encouraging him or her to be an adventurous eater.
An Infant’s Main source of Nutrition: Breast Milk and / or Formula
As a whole, it’s pretty easy to provide the nutrients your baby needs—particularly once you learn what they are. But in the beginning (for the first six months, or so), babies get all the nutrients they need from breast milk and / or formula. And, these liquids will continue to be your baby’s main source of nutrition through the first 12 months. Gradually, you’ll serve more and more nutrients in the form of solids.
trust your baby’s hunger cues
While it’s a big relief to know your baby’s food needs are met during the first six months, it can feel daunting when it comes time to introduce solids. Fear not. I can support you on that journey! In terms of how much your baby should eat—when it comes time for solids—that varies. Some babies have huge appetites, others don’t. Some babies are varied and adventurous eaters, others are particularly picky. When presented with a wide variety of wholesome foods and are encouraged to follow their appetites, almost all healthy babies eat as much as they need to grow and thrive. Trust is key. As long as your little one is growing at a healthy rate (and your doctor agrees) he or she is likely getting all the nutrition necessary.
HOW MUCH SHOULD MY 6 MONTH OLD BABY EAT?
As mentioned, during the first six months, breast milk and / or formula will provide all of your child’s nutritional needs. Once you introduce solids, some babies eat more than others—some are grazers, content with eating less, more often—others have voracious appetites. In general, however, babies drink more (and go longer stretches without eating) the older they get, increasing their amounts of liquid by about one ounce each month, until they reach about 7-8 ounces.
Every child is different, but a feeding schedule for a 6-month-old baby may look something like this: Can drink 7-8 ounces of breast milk or formula every 4-5 hours during day, as well as 1-9 tablespoons of fruits, vegetables, and animal protein (if not vegan / vegetarian).
Nutrients Your baby Needs
To preface, there is no such thing as an unimportant nutrient. Babies need carbs, fat, protein, and fiber (just like us!). When serving the following nutrients, make sure to offer them in age-appropriate preparations, introduce just one new food at a time. Watch closely for signs of an allergic reaction when baby first samples common allergens like dairy, wheat, eggs, and nuts. As a whole, below are the six nutrients your baby needs.
Did you know that between 6-12 months, a baby actually requires more daily iron (11mg) than an adult male (8mg)? Special emphasis should be placed on this mineral when starting solids. However, the type of iron in supplements and iron-fortified foods can be very hard on a baby’s delicate system. Iron supplements and iron-fortified foods are also one of the leading causes of constipation in babies. So, it’s best to turn to iron-rich, real food sources to help meet your baby’s increased need for iron.
Iron is available in two forms: Heme and non-heme. Heme is found in meat, seafood, and poultry. It’s more absorbable than non-heme iron (plant-based sources of iron, like lentils, beans, tomato puree, and quinoa). Regardless, to increase absorption, pair iron with vitamin C. It can increase bioavailability up to 3x. Also, consider a cast iron pan. Cooking with a cast iron pan can also increase the iron content of foods.
As a whole, healthy fats are vital for infants, babies, and toddlers. They protect major organs, increase nutrient absorption, prevent constipation, and stabilize blood sugar. And of course, they keep babies full and satisfied. The human brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, specifically the fatty acid: DHA. DHA and EPA are found in fatty fish (ex: sardines or salmon), grass-fed beef, and algae (only reliable plant- based source of DHA). If your little one is vegan or mostly plant-based, my recommended plant-based source of DHA supplementation is marine algae.
First and foremost, it’s recommended to supplement exclusively breastfed babies with vitamin D drops. Most mothers do not produce enough of this important vitamin in their breast milk. This is not a defect of breast milk, but rather the result of modern women being significantly deficient themselves. Once weaned from breast milk, all babies should be supplemented with a minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D3. Food sources of vitamin D for your baby include cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, herring, egg yolks, and beef liver.
Choline is not a widely recognized nutrient, but it plays a crucial role in infant development! It supports brain development, enhances the memory, improves cognitive function, and more. Food sources of choline include eggs, liver, salmon, beef, beans, lentils, and plain yogurt.
Breast milk and formula are rich in calcium, but dietary sources of this nutrient become increasingly important once a baby begin consuming less milk, or weans completely. Calcium is vital for building strong bones and teeth. For optimal absorption, pair foods with calcium with fat. Baby-friendly foods with calcium include plain yogurt, canned sardines, kefir, salmon, chia seeds, tahini, and spinach.
Offering probiotic-rich foods is one of the best thing parents can do for the health of their baby. Breast milk contains healthy fat and bacteria because babies require both to thrive. However, the foods most commonly fed to babies lacks both. Probiotics are especially important for babies that suffer from constipation, colic, acid reflux, gas, etc. Additionally, they’re helpful for babies given formula and / or were born via C-section. Probiotic-rich foods should be introduced slowly, starting with very small amounts so a child’s system has time to adjust. Your client can dip a spoon or finger in the brine juice of sauerkraut) or other fermented vegetables and let baby taste it. Even the juice has beneficial qualities.
Keep in mind that plant-based families should also be mindful of protein and vitamin B12.