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The evolution of nutritional needs

In the first few months after birth, young children experience the most rapid growth of their lives. Your little one’s birth weight will double in the first six months. During this time, his nutritional needs are also changing quickly, so the composition of nutrients should adapt accordingly to meet these changing nutritional requirements.

PROTEIN

To assist with this intense initial growth, protein requirement increases then gradually lowers over the following months in sync with your baby’s slowing growth rate.

ENERGY

Energy requirement (kcal/kg per day) is the highest during the first month of life, followed by a gradual decrease in the coming few months.

FATS

During this initial period of rapid growth, an increased intake of fat over the first two months is also suggested, before being stabilized or lowered.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates intake should progressively increase to provide your baby’s total nutritional energy.

 

Months 7-12

During months seven to twelve, your baby’s diet should be changing, with more solids becoming part of his diet.

Did you know?

  • As your baby becomes more active, greater, too, so does his nutritional needs, with the introduction of more varied foods beginning as early as 6 months old, depending on his developmental progress.
  • For this, fatty acids are essential to offset the lower fat levels in some of baby’s first solid foods.

Your baby's new diet

After six months, your baby still continues to grow, but at a less rapid pace than in earlier months. He begins to taste his first vegetable purees and fruit compotes. Your baby’s nutritional needs have begun to expand.

Big changes ahead

From the middle to the end of his first year, your baby will go from sitting to pulling up and may even take his first steps. He will begin to feed himself, say short words like “mama” and “no” and become increasingly playful.

Proper nutrition is essential to supply the energy to meet the needs of an ever-more-active baby needs to begin the thrilling transition to toddlerhood.

First solids

The first solids for your baby consist mainly of rice. His new eating regime gives him mainly carbohydrates and proteins. However, these meals are not necessarily high in fat, particularly essential fatty acids, which your baby still needs for the proper development of his organs and certain critical functions.

Vitamins and minerals, not yet sufficiently provided by the solids your baby is eating, should not be forgotten. Many additional essential nutrients are still needed to ensure your baby continues to grow and develop.

New food alters your baby's digestive system

With the introduction of solid foods, your baby's digestive system changes dramatically. In addition, as your baby explores his environment, he puts objects in his mouth, exposing him to many different germs.

A smooth transition to solid food

The transition to a diet of solid food is not made overnight. You should allow time for your little gourmet’s digestive tract to adapt to these new foods, and for your baby to get used to new tastes. Likewise, the mechanism used for swallowing food is a very new experience for your baby.

Bottle-feeding your baby during this phase of great change is therefore reassuring and explains why your baby continues to enjoy drinking from a bottle.

 

Months 13-36

After thirteen months, your baby is becoming a toddler, and is working hard on large motor skills, such as walking.

Did you know?

  • Even when toddlers are old enough to begin to eat independently at the table, their nutritional needs are very different than those of adults, or even older children.
  • After the first year, your child will be eating mostly solids, but these alone may not be enough for his development. Milk would remain to be part of a healthy diet.

Finding a balance

Around their first birthday, many babies begin to stand up alone and take their first steps. Your baby’s diet now includes solid food, but his nutritional needs are still different from an older child’s due to continued rapid growth.

Milk is an essential source of nutrition during this period of your baby’s life. It provides a portion of his energy needs.

Becoming a toddler

In his second and third years, your baby grows into an increasingly capable toddler. His ability to learn, remember and imagine blossoms along with language. Motor skills keep pace, and parents keep busy, as toddlers become steady walkers and start to work on climbing, running and jumping.

Getting the essentials

Your child’s diet of solid food is not yet fully diversified, thus a risk of insufficiency in lipids, including essential fatty acids, still persists between the first and second year. These lipids are important for the development of your child’s vision, cognitive function and immune system.

It is therefore important to supplement essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6), including DHA and AA, two polyunsaturated long-chain fatty acids, in the right proportions. A good source of calcium, vitamins and other minerals is vital to help your child keep growing. Some fortified toddler formulas also provide the required amount of micronutrients, such as sodium, potassium and chloride, as well as iron, iodine and zinc.

After age two: sitting at the big table

After your child’s second birthday, he likely eats more or less the same food as you. However his nutritional needs are not the same as yours. For example, calcium, is particularly important for your toddler’s growth.

Milk and iron

Iron plays a crucial role in the cognitive development of your child and in various metabolic processes, including the formation of red blood cells. Cow's milk may not provide your child with the amount of iron that he needs. Formula, on the other hand, is fortified with iron and other vitamins and minerals necessary to meet toddlers’ nutritional needs.

Ask your pediatrician for advice – he may suggest supplementing your child’s diet with extra iron.

Introducing solid food

Early in the 6th or 7th month, your child’s diet begins diversification with the introduction of solid foods. Follow our tips to help him enjoy his new diet.

 

Seven keys to a healthy diet

Here are seven keys to introducing and maintaining a diverse, healthy diet for your child.

1. Introduce solids in stages

Moving to a diet of milk and solids happens in stages. World Health Organization (WHO) recommends to offer your child his first solid food in his 6th month. Do not hesitate to ask your healthcare professional for advice during this new stage of his development. From six months, milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the dietary needs of your child, and its share of your child’s diet gradually decreases.

To complete his new dietary needs, you can gradually begin to give him rice, cereal and pureed vegetables such as carrots, green beans, spinach, zucchini and leeks, as well as fruit such as stewed apples, pears, bananas and apricots and strained meat such as beef or poultry.

Which food, when?

The first step in deciding if your child is ready for solid foods is watching his overall development. Can he sit with support? Turn his head away to show he is full? These and other signs will help you determine when he may be ready to start eating solids.

With some foods, it is best to wait till your child is older to introduce it into their diet, as they may trigger an allergic reaction. You have to be careful on picking right food for your child.

From 7-9 months on, you can add animal protein in your child’s meals. On the menu might be a spoonful of meat (chicken, turkey, veal or ham), fish (cod, salmon or tuna) or egg (yolk only).

From one year on, he can eat almost everything. He can enjoy new food such as pulses, black beans and cheese.

2. Introduce a new food at a time

To detect a possible allergy, offer your child one new food at a time, then wait a few days before trying another new item. This is the time it takes for an allergic reaction to show up. For example, Monday you might give your child mashed carrots to try, and, on Thursday, pureed spinach.

3. Start with small quantities

Your child will begin to eat everything you eat, but in much smaller portions. The capacity of his stomach is still limited; so do not expect him to eat large quantities yet. You may provide just a small amount at each feed. In the beginning, for example, let him taste one spoonful of puree: that is all he needs.

The same principle goes for meat: at 7-9 months, a child can be satisfied with a teaspoon of meat or fish mixed well. You can then gradually increase the amount.

4. Vary the textures

While starting to introduce your child to solids, offer only smooth textures, mashed or pureed, to enable your child to safely master swallowing rather than sucking. From around seven months of age, you can let him taste all his new foods mashed or pureed. Then, from around 8 to 10 months, he can try small, soft, easy to chew pieces of food.

Try to vary how the food looks when you offer it to your child.

5. Use a child spoon

Your child's gums are fragile, so you need to feed him with a flexible spoon, the right size for his mouth. Avoid using small, stainless steel dessert spoons that could hurt him. If he refuses the spoon, be patient, and try again later.

6. Avoid salt and sugar

There is no need to add salt or sugar to your child's meals, and you should also pay attention to any sugar he might consume, such as avoiding sugary drinks.

7. Listen to your child

Don’t force him to eat solids – instead, follow his lead. If he refuses to taste a vegetable puree, try again tomorrow. Finally, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to consult your healthcare professional.

 

Picky eating

It’s a whole new world of tastes and textures for your child. Refusing certain foods is very normal. With a little patience and persistence, he will learn to enjoy his new diet.

Food refusal

Your child will tell you, without words, that he doesn’t like his spinach puree: grimace, mouth closed, plate thrown on the ground. Don’t worry too much about your child’s lack of desire to try solid food.

So far, he has enjoyed drinking milk and has not questioned that this is where he gets his food. Now he understands that he can make decisions (“I like” or “I don’t like”). This is the beginning of your child learning to say "no”, and by not wanting to eat food, he is expressing a desired autonomy more than a refusal to eat.

Be persistent, offer food at least 8 times before deciding he really doesn’t like it. Offer previously rejected food every few days, in non-emotional way and/or bridge with food he does like.

Food rejection after age two

By age two, many children have similar preferences for food: they may love pasta, rice and potatoes rather than a plate of vegetables. And, if you try something new, you'll often get an instant refusal. This is called "food neophobia". It’s more or less pronounced depending on the child and may improve after school age.

Forming good food habits

If your child does not want to eat, don’t force him, but do not offer anything else if he refuses what you have chosen either. This may be difficult to do the first time, but your child will quickly understand that he has to eat what he’s given or he will get hungry later. Here are some ideas for helping make meal times go more smoothly:

• Be creative. If your child doesn’t eat his carrots, offer him carrots again tomorrow, in a different way. Who could resist a "face" made out of pureed vegetables, with sliced carrot eyes and a green bean mouth?

• Teach your child to verbalize “my tummy is not hungry” – then learn to respect his words. After all, your child should eat when he is hungry, not to please someone else. Take your time, relax and encourage him to do the same by serving meals in a relatively quiet place and without distractions, like television turned off.

Healthy eating after age two

At two years of age, a child will often eat 4 regular meals, and 2 snacks, or mini-meals. Seat your child at the family dining table, in his highchair, next to you. He will love to see you trying lots of new foods and will want to imitate you. Be sure to set a good example for him – fill your own plate with an appropriate portion of healthy foods like vegetables, to help him form good eating habits early in life.

Learning to prepare feeds

Preparing your child's feed is not complicated, and the following are several tips that will ease the process.

Hygiene is essential. First step, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Then comes sterilizing the bottle for five to ten minutes in boiling water.

The bottle or cup is prepared just before your child needs to be fed. For his health, follow the instructions indicated by your brand of milk formula on how it should be prepared.

 

Bottle or cup temperature

Always check the temperature of the milk before giving the bottle or cup to your child: if it’s too hot, it could burn your child. To check the temperature, pour a drop on the inside of your wrist, which is a particularly sensitive area.

 

Bottle or cup feeding

When preparing to feed your child a bottle or cup, be sure you are seated quietly and comfortably, such as in a chair with armrests. The correct position for him is recumbent, and in the crook of your arm. Use a pillow if you or your child needs help with positioning.

The bottle should be held slightly inclined so that there is no air in the teat. If there are bubbles in the bottle, loosen the ring.

When your child starts to suckle, follow his pace. Some like to take breaks and have a small burp during feeding, while others do not. Pay attention to his facial expressions, little noises or movements. These are his way of communicating with you. Use this time to give him soft caresses and talk to him in a gentle tone.

 

When your child is done

When your child is finished he will let you know. If he has not finished the feed, do not overly encourage him to finish it. Remove the bottle or cup and hold him against you, head slightly above your shoulder. Gently pat him on the back to help him burp - removing any air bubbles he might have swallowed. If your child is not burping, keep him in an upright position for about 10 minutes to assist him in getting any gas out.

If he does not finish the feed and seems to be satisfied, throw away the rest of the milk and wash the bottle or cup in hot soapy water, with the help from a brush. The bottle or cup is then ready to be sterilized again.