Nutritional needs of the infant
- For the 4-6 months of life, milk and milk formulae are adequate sources of nourishment. The perfect for infants is breast milk. Hence the initiation of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to safeguard the baby’s life and encourage breastfeeding. This is an exclusive breastfeeding for babies for the first six months. Breast milk and infant formulae lacks iron and vitamin D. While artificial milk is deficient in vitamin C. A healthy baby has a store of iron and vitamin C at birth, which will last for the first six months of life. The baby needs about 160ml/kg a day of breast milk. When tho baby reaches six tnonthg the tnothor•g nqlk needs Gupptementtng with more protein, iron, vitantin C and j0UtoG. The iron and Satamin C storog are exhausted and tho $tnal! percontago of carbohydrato in breast ‘t)ilk is no longer adequate for the increaging’y activo baby.
- At four to six months, an infant can be introduced to semi-solid food e.g. maize or millet porridge from cereals, which supply the energy needs. The infant foods must be adequate.
- Infants require high protein. The recommended dietary allowance of protein for the infant is 2-5gm per kg of body weight. Thus, an infant that weighs 8kg requires 8 x 2.5gm of protein = 12gm.
- Vitamin supplements should be added to the infants’ food. Orange juice is a good source of vitamin C for bottle fed babies. This is because infant formula lacks Vitamin C. Vitamin D can be given, such as cod-liver oil.
- Infants need calcium for strong bones and teeth. This can be obtained from breast milk or infant formula. Infants need iron for the production of red blood cells and prevention of anaemia. Iron rich foods like liver, egg yolk etc. can be introduced after six months.
- Weaning is the gradual replacement of breast milk or infant formula by a good mixed diet. Baby may be weaned at six to nine months. Weaning should be gradual, planned so that good quality proteins, minerals and vitamins can augment those of breast milk. For many in the tropics, breast-feeding up to the age of 18 months to 2 years is necessary for the growth and survival.
Carotene rich foods can be added to the staple foods used. Mashed pawpaw, mango, yellow sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach and other dark green tender vegetables are good sources of carotene. Children do not absorb carotene easily, so use large quantities of carotene foods to supply enough vitamin A. Egg yolk will supply several nutrients, vitamin A some fat, protein and iron. Fish will supply good protein. If animal protein is scarce, use vegetable proteins like groundnut, soybean, yam beans and beans to supplement infants’ meal. Some edible oils e.g. palm oil should be included everyday. It is the richest source of vitamin A and energy.
NB* Introduce single ingredient food one at a time for 4-5 days before introducing another food. This practice will help detect food the child is allergic (reacts) to.