Babies depend on their parents to get the nutrients they need to grow and develop the way they should. Below are a few essential nutrients, recommended by Scott & White pediatrician Shaili M. Singh, MD, to give your baby the right start on the road to good nutrition.
DHA and ARA
What are they? DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid) are fatty acids that aide in brain and nervous system development in the first six months of life. They are naturally found in breast milk, but are synthetically added to formula.
Why do babies need it? Babies need these essential nutrients for brain and eye development. Not getting enough of these nutrients could affect vision and neural function and development.
How can they get it? If you are breastfeeding, then your baby should be getting all of these nutrients without any added supplementation. But if you’ve stopped breast feeding before your baby can eat solid foods, you should offer formula fortified with DHA and ARA. When your child begins eating table foods and is eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, they should be getting all the nutrients they need.
What is it? Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes calcium absorption in the stomach and enables normal mineralization of bones.1
Why do babies need it? Vitamin D helps in the development of strong, healthy bones. A severe deficiency of this vitamin can lead to weak bones and a disease called Rickets.
How can they get it? Formula is fortified with Vitamin D, but babies can also get it from sunlight and cow’s milk. There are also supplemental Vitamin D drops available for infants that are sold as plain Vitmain D or as a combination with other vitamins called Tri-Vi-Sol or Poly-Vi-Sol.
What is it? Iron is a mineral that is part of all cells. It is part of the protein hemoglobin, which is a key component in the red blood cells of the body. It carries oxygen from our lungs throughout and helps our muscles store and use oxygen.2
Why do babies need it? Iron is part of enzymes that help our bodies digest foods. It carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our body and helps our muscles store and use oxygen.2 Not getting enough iron can cause your baby to be iron deficient, which can cause a delay in normal infant motor and mental function.
How can they get it? If mom continues to take her prenatal vitamins, then the baby can get enough iron from her breast milk. Formula is also fortified with iron. After the baby is weaned, a healthy, well-balanced diet with meat, protein and green vegetables will provide enough iron. You can also give a vitamin/iron supplement in the form of drops.
What is it? Fat is an essential nutrient for our bodies to function. The fatty acids in fats help our brain replace cells that help us think and feel.
Why do babies need it? We all need fat in our diets to help absorb fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin D.
How can they get it? Moms who eat a little bit more fat in their diets tend to make slightly more fatty hind milk, which helps the baby grow a little bigger. After weaning, whole milk and cheese usually have good fat content for toddlers from 1 to 2-years-of-age. Avocados are also an excellent source of healthy fats. Cooking food in olive oil or canola oil rather than lard or peanut oils will provide a healthier version of fat.
For more information about the nutrients your baby needs, ask your child’s pediatrician. For healthy meal ideas, visit choosemyplate.gov.
And for more information on other parenting issues, visit the Parenting section of our blog.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012) Iron and Iron Deficiency. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/iron.html.
2 Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of Health. (2012) Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Retrieved from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind-HealthProfessional/.