Importance Of Nutrition In The First Three Years Of Life
Brain growth is most dependent on food and nutrition. Here are some tips for the first crucial years of an infant
Food is the most essential commodity for survival. This is instinctively known from birth. As parents, you try to give the best nutrition for your child. Proper nutrition for your child is fundamental for his/her growth and development.
- Importance of nutrition for your baby
Food is the source of nutrition for your baby’s body. You need to provide adequate nutrition to your little one by serving them the right foods.
Nutrition helps your baby develop in the following manner -
- 1. Rapid physical development
Adequate nutrition plays an important role in the early formative years of your little one’s life. Your baby’s body and brain growth is the fastest during this age group. Proper intake of all nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals, is absolutely essential to ensure optimal growth and development.
- 2. Brain growth
Your baby’s brain growth is most dependent on food and nutrition. The brain growth occurs from mid-gestation up to two years of age.
- 3. Healthy start
Good nutrition is the foundation for a healthy future. Providing your toddler with a healthy balanced diet will ensure adequate physical, mental, and cognitive growth and development. This helps your little one attain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases in life.
- What food to feed your baby?
Essentially, once your baby is a year old, he/she should eat everything that you as a family eat. Ensure that every meal is nutrient-dense and packed with variety.
Portion control is key and necessary for ensuring that all nutrients are covered. Make sure that you are giving a portion of every nutrient from the following list.
- Carbohydrates - rice, wheat, jowar, ragi
- Proteins - lean meats, eggs, fish, poultry, paneer, dals, pulses, lentils
- Fats - Nuts, seeds
- Vitamins and minerals - Vegetables, fruits
- How often should you feed your baby?
Your baby knows his body and his appetite well. Trust your little one to have that ability to decide how much to eat. Force feeding is not going to help in any way. Do not compare your child’s appetite to another baby. Every child is unique and has an individualistic way of eating. Offer what the child should be eating. How much to eat is entirely his choice.
- What foods to avoid?
- Avoid giving your baby any kind of junk food.
- Avoid sugary foods and soft drinks.
- Processed foods like crisps, chips, cookies, soda, candies, cakes.
- Foods that have high amounts of fats, salt, sugar, and chemicals in them.
- How to feed your child?
Give your little one his own set of bowl, spoons, and other cutlery. Let him explore and learn to feed himself. Offer on demand. Place the bowl on his high chair and let your baby eat. Give your little one all the time he needs.
Mind you, eating can get messy. But kindly ignore that and let your child eat peacefully. Self-eating is a part of sensory play for your kid and helps in motor development.
Avoid force feeding and do not try to correct your baby. Let him explore and eat slowly. Encourage him to finish the food on his plate.
Make your baby sit along with you during meal times at the dining table. This way your child will learn to eat together as a family. Interact and smile while talking to your child. Positive reinforcements in the form of praises and encouragement is welcomed.
Remember, you are doing your best. Parenting is already hard enough. Every child is a separate individual and unique in his/her own way. There is no one perfect method to feed your child. Let your little one lead and trust them to show you the right way that suits them.
(The author is a nutritionist at Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central.)