A Guide on What Baby Food Should Contain and Whyby Sophia Mann
by Sophia Mann
While it is advisable to continue breastfeeding your baby until he is a year old, introducing solid food into his diet gradually will help. Once your baby turns six months old, and if he can sit upright on his own, or keep his head from swaying, you can consider starting to feed him solids in addition to breast milk or formula.
For first-time parents, starting to feed solid food to the baby may seem a daunting task- they don’t know how to start, what to start with, and what to avoid. Add to this the confusion that relatives, friends, and sometimes even strangers create by offering their advice, and one will start feeling the pressures of parenthood.
You can choose to make your baby’s food yourself or buy it from outside. But remember that it’s very important to note what you are feeding your baby. Here are some nutrients that your baby needs to be fed, and a few tips on buying store-bought baby food.
Essential Nutrients for Your Baby
When babies are exclusively breastfed, they get all the nutrition they need from their mother’s milk. As your baby grows, so do his nutritional needs. As such, the solids you feed him should be packed with all the goodness your baby needs.
Iron is crucially important for developing the brain and a lack of it can lead to motor deficiencies and difficulties in thought processing. Iron also plays a vital role in the production of hemoglobin which helps transport oxygen to all parts of the body. Babies who are formula-fed in their first year meet their daily iron requirements from their food. Breast milk does not meet the daily iron requirements of babies. Babies are born with a reserve of iron which lasts them until they turn 6 months old. After this age, you’ll need to feed him iron-rich foods.
Baked potato, broccoli, eggs, soybeans, spinach, chickpeas, and avocado are great sources of iron. You can also cook and mash meat, poultry, and fish to feed your little one. Fortified cereal also meets your baby’s iron needs.
Like iron, zinc helps the brain function to its full potential and has a positive effect on cognition. It also maintains the body’s immune functions and helps in optimal cell growth and repair. Zinc deficiency can lead to impaired growth, and increased susceptibility to infections. Most foods rich in iron will also be rich in zinc. Apart from iron-rich foods, feed your baby yogurt, lentils, and cheese too.
- Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium helps your little one develop bone mass and build strong bones. Calcium also helps prevent fractures. Vitamin D is necessary as it helps the body absorb calcium. While your baby will get the required calcium from breast milk, you can add fortified cereal, yogurt, fish, and egg yolks to his diet for the vitamin D.
- Vitamins A, B, C, E, and K
Vitamin A promotes good vision and healthy skin. Carotene-rich fruits and vegetables such as carrots, mangoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, etc. are rich sources of vitamin A.
Vitamin B complex improves the working of the immune and nervous systems, promotes cell growth, is responsible for healthy skin and muscle tone, and helps regulate metabolism. Choose fruits, green vegetables, dairy, and whole grains for your baby.
Vitamin C helps maintain overall health and in the absorption of iron. You can get vitamin C from tomatoes, cantaloupes, potatoes, strawberries, and citrus fruits.
Vitamin E has anti-oxidant properties and helps in the development of the nervous system and also facilitates cell growth. Your baby will get enough of the vitamin from cereals, grains, and vegetable oils.
Vitamin K is essential for clotting blood and as such, a shot of this vitamin is administered to infants. Fruits, leafy vegetables, and soybean oil are rich in vitamin K. Once your baby becomes a year old, he can have cow’s milk which has enough vitamin K for his growing needs.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular DHAs play an important role in brain and eye development. They also help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. You can feed your baby DHA-rich foods like avocado and salmon.
Store-Bought or Home Cooked?
Store-bought baby food is good if you don’t have the time to make your baby’s meals yourself. However, home-cooked baby food doesn’t take much time nor do you need exceptional cooking skills for it. You will also know what exactly you’re feeding your precious one when you prepare his food yourself.
If you do buy baby food from stores, make sure you check the labels before purchasing it. Baby food should be free from artificial flavors and colors. Never buy jars or packets that don’t have the seal intact. Look for the expiration date on the label too and select packets or jars that are the freshest of the lot.
Store-bought food might turn out to be expensive in the long run. But if you can’t do without it, you can save a few bucks by getting baby wipe freebies.
Don’t worry too much about the taste of food at this point as your goal should be to introduce new flavors and textures to your baby. Avoid adding extra flavor or spices to food; you don’t want your baby turning into a picky eater.
Keep in mind that babies can develop allergies especially if you have a history of food allergies running in your family. To prevent allergies and to be able to identify allergens, introduce new foods gradually.
Sophia Mann has been working as a freelance writer for a long time. She has a diverse background in health and fitness. She loves sharing her opinions on the latest issues affecting women and children.