Child Nutrition in Ventura, CA
Keeping a child healthy is a concern that parents express from birth onward. Understanding how nutritional needs change rapidly over the first few years allows parents to make the best choices for their children's health. Just before birth, the mother's body produces a nutrient-rich form of breast milk called colostrum.
Just a tiny amount of this "first milk," as it is sometimes called, contains a multitude of proteins, antibodies and enzymes needed to prepare a newborn for life outside the womb. Colostrum is a thick, golden-colored liquid that gradually changes to breastmilk within 3 to 4 days of birth.
Breastfeeding for at least six months is recommended by a number of health organizations; it is widely considered to be the best way to nourish an infant. It contains highly digestible nutrients that babies need to grow, but also helps to build immunity from infections and prevent allergies from developing. However, some mothers may be unable to nurse due to lifestyle, anatomical or medical reasons; for these instances, infant formula is available. Regulated by the FDA, it contains the same or similar nutrients as breast milk, although it cannot replicate the antibodies needed to prevent infections or illnesses. Talking with your pediatrician can help determine the best choice for your family.
While breast milk or formula is all an infant needs for the first four to six months, they will eventually need to be introduced to solid foods. Babies usually provide several cues to show they are ready to transition to this stage - they have control of their head and neck, can sit with support, and show an interest in foods that others are eating. A few tablespoons of rice cereal should be the first step, followed by pureed fruits and vegetables between six and eight months of age. These should be introduced one at a time to watch for any signs of allergy. Honey should not be given until after the age of 1 year; it can contain spores that an infant's digestive system cannot process.
As infants grow, so do their nutritional and developmental needs. Soft finger foods, such as noodles, bananas, and graham crackers, can be given at approximately eight months of age to help the baby learn to self-feed. While infants this age will still be nursing or taking a bottle of formula, it will be less frequently. They will also need more sources of protein and iron; egg yolks and strained or finely ground meats.
After 1 year, a baby can be started on cow's milk. A variety of foods from each of the food groups - grains, meats, fruits/vegetables and dairy - should be offered during meal and snack times. The diet should be low in fat and sugar to prevent bad habits and health issues later in life.
Keeping regular appointments with your child's pediatrician will keep track of your child's nutrition and identify any modifications that may be needed as he or she grows.