Young infants only want three things: to sleep, poop and eat (four things if you count cuddles). In this article, we will be looking at the later.
Exclusive breast feeding is recommended for the first 6 months1. No other foods need to be introduced until this time, giving the gastrointestinal tract time to mature. However, pureed foods may be introduced earlier, usually at four months, if the infant is showing interest in solid foods.
Breast milk provides all the nutrition an infant needs and this includes water. Additional water on hot days does not need to be given2 as it fills baby up without the nutrients of breastmilk. Extra breastmilk should be given instead to keep your baby hydrated2.
Formulas can be used where breastmilk is not a viable option for the infant, for example in the case of intolerances or pre-term births, but we will focus on breastfeeding for now.
Breastmilk gets 55% of its kilojoules from fat. It is not recommended to restrict fat in the maternal diet while breastfeeding. It may be tempting to start dieting to lose the baby weight after birth, but fat restriction may impact on the lipid profile of breastmilk. Infants need the fat for gonad (sexual organ) and brain development, approximately 31g a day1.
Short and medium chain fatty acids in breastmilk are also easier to digest than long chain fatty acids, such as those found in cow’s milk formula1.
Infants require 60g of carbohydrates per day to keep up with their rapid growth1. Normal weight gain is approximately 150g to 200g per week, with their birthweight doubling by 6 months.
If infants do not consume enough carbohydrates their protein stores will be used for energy, meaning that vital protein amino acids will be converted in to glucose instead of being used for growth1.
Other important nutrients for infants include vitamin D and A and iron1.
Regardless of maternal diet, breast milk will be produced with adequate nutrients at the expense of maternal stores. Only the types of fatty acids and vitamins can be effected. Read more about maternal nutrition during lactation, here.
Additional information about dieting and breastfeeding can be found here from the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
A good sign that baby is getting enough breastmilk, and therefore nutrition, is by monitoring their diapers3.
An infant should have:
- at least six to eight very wet cloth nappies OR five very wet disposable nappies in 24 hours,
- odourless and clear/very pale urine,
- three or more soft or runny bowel movements each day for several weeks3.
Food allergies are also a hot topic in infant feeding as evidence has shifted to include foods such as nuts, eggs, milk in the maternal diet while breastfeeding where it was once avoided. There is good to moderate evidence that introducing these foods early reduces the risk of allergies in later life1.
Of course, if you have any concerns about your infant’s feeding or growth consult a pediatrician or health professional.
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- Radcliffe, Dr. J. (2016) DTN4LPN, Lecture 4, Topic 4, Infant Nutrition [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from Department of Rehabilitation, Sport and Nutrition, La Trobe University, https://lms.latrobe.edu.au
- Australian Breastfeeding Association. (2014). Keeping baby cool in the heat. Retrieved from https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/you-and-your-breastfed-baby/cool
- Australian Breastfeeding Association. (2015). Is my baby getting enough milk? Retrieved from https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/my-baby-getting-enough-milk