Nutritional Needs of Babies

New moms always have a lot on their minds, including serving up the best foods for their babies. The happy news is that it's pretty easy to provide the nutrients babies need once you learn what they are.

For their first four to six months, babies get all the nutrients they need to thrive from breast milk and/or formula. Considering how dizzying those early days are, it’s a big relief knowing that — at least when it comes to feeding your baby — you’re pretty much covered. But that’s exactly why making the switch to solids can feel so daunting: It’s now up to you to make sure you’re supplying a diet made up of the best foods for babies. To the rescue: this baby-nutrition primer with the must-haves for your munchkin.

Must-Have Baby Nutrient: Iron Formula and baby cereals are iron-fortified for a reason: Not only does this mineral play a vital role in the production of hemoglobin (the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body), but iron also helps brain development — including building motor skills and memory. Make sure your baby gets her 11 milligrams a day by offering her iron-fortified formula or cereal as well other iron-rich foods, including meat, chicken, fish, eggs, avocado, broccoli, and spinach.

Must-Have Baby Nutrient: Zinc Like iron, zinc helps keep that baby brain cranked up to full speed, but it also helps keep your critter healthier overall. Zinc fuels the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and ensures the body’s cells grow and repair themselves properly. Formula and fortified cereal provide the three milligrams a day babies need once they’re six months old, as do most iron-rich foods, especially meat and dark-meat poultry. (Iron and zinc tend to show up together.)

Must-Have Baby Nutrients: Calcium and Vitamin D Calcium is essential for developing strong bones, and vitamin D helps your baby’s body absorb it. Both breast milk and formula provide all the calcium she needs for the first year, but only formula-drinkers will get the required 400 IU of D. Most doctors suggest a supplement for breastfed babies because there are few foods that are naturally high in D. Still, you can give your peanut a hit of D with fortified yogurt and cereal, egg yolks, and fish.

Must-Have Baby Nutrient: Omega-3s/DHA For adults, omega-3 fatty acids are great for heart health. That’s true for babies too, but at this early stage of life, omega-3s, particularly the type known as DHA, play their biggest role in brain and eye development. In fact, research has shown that babies who are low in DHA also have lower cognitive skills. Plus, healthy fats like omegas help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A and E (more on those below). Breastfeeding and/or offering a DHA-fortified formula will give your little one what she needs. You can also serve up avocado or salmon.

Must-Have Baby Nutrients: Vitamins A, B, C, and E These four vitamins boost your baby from top to bottom, promoting healthy brain and nerve development, as well as proper functioning and development of her eyes, skin, immune function, and more. The secret to getting them into your little one’s diet: Feed her the rainbow! Carrots and sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A; green veggies, bananas, and beans are packed with B’s; turn to tomatoes, strawberries, and cantaloupe for C; and cereal and grains for E.

Now that you've gotten the lowdown on your sweetie's nutritional needs, check out these must-have feeding products.

Baby » Nutrition

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