What 5 Essential Nutrients to Feed Babies After First 6 Month?
Created by Vandana Chawla Updated on Apr 08, 2021
Babies grow at a miraculous rate in the first year of their life. From tiny sleeping tots to the crawling, standing pretoddlers in just 1 year, really requires quality nutrition. During the first six months, your own breastmilk meets all the nutritional needs of your growing baby. As per WHO recommendations, for the healthy growth of the baby, a mom should feed breast milk exclusively for the first 6 months.
It is after 6 months that the need for certain nutrients increases, which breastmilk alone cannot fulfill. It is at this time that the baby is introduced to new foods. So as you begin the exciting journey of starting solid foods, emphasize nutrient-dense foods, which will support your baby’s healthy growth and taste development. Remember, starting solids does not mean, reducing or replacing breast milk feeds; milk feeds continues to remain an integral part of baby’s diet and whatever that you provide in terms of solid feeds are supporting or complementing the milk feeds. Hence, the term, ‘Complementary Feeding’.
5 Nutrients to Feed Your Baby After First 6 Months
To guide your food choices for your baby, the essential nutrients to look out for, are as follows-
Iron is an essential nutrient for life. As a part of hemoglobin, Iron helps to carry oxygen throughout the body. Babies are born with good stores of Iron which are laid down, while they are in your womb and which lasts for 4-6 months. These stores get depleted by 4-6 months and it is at this time that the need for Iron increases. Breast milk is low in Iron and will not able to replenish stores, hence, when solids are introduced, special emphasis should be on meeting Iron needs. Iron is obtained from vegetarian sources, like, prunes, spinach and other greens, broccoli, beans (channa, rajma, soybean), whole grains (bajra), and dates. These can be gradually introduced from 6 months but in stages, in the same order as mentioned, keeping in mind to give one food at a time. Animal sources of iron include meat, and eggs, which can be given to a baby in cooked form from 8 months of age. Starting with any new food, remember, start with cooked food, offer in small amounts and check for baby's tolerance and then gradually increase the amounts. [Explore: Why Is Iron Important For Toddler?]
Zinc is an important mineral required for making proteins and DNA. Plus it also helps in boosting baby’s immunity. Hence, it is critical that after 6 months of age, breastfed babies should be introduced to zinc-rich foods to meet their nutritional needs adequately. Foods like cheese, yogurt, nuts(cashew/pine nut in powdered form ), beans (channa), dals eggs, meat, and seeds like pumpkin seeds are all great sources of Zinc. As said earlier, introduce one food at a time and in this list, start with dals and then gradually move to others. [Explore: How Zinc Deficiency Can Cause Growth Retardation?]
Omega3 or the essential fatty acids, help to boost baby's brain and eye development, as well as immunity. DHA and EPA are the essential omega 3 fatty acids, which our bodies cannot produce. Hence, it is very important to include them in the diet. Breast Milk is the richest source of DHA, the brainy fat... In addition, adding powdered flax seeds or cooked egg yolk/chicken from 8 months and powdered walnut or cooked fish like salmon from 1 year is a great way of adding Omega 3 to baby's diet. [Explore: Why Are Omega 3 Fatty Acids Good for Growing Child?]
Protein is vital for the baby's growth and development. Proteins work as messengers, enzymes, and in fact, are an integral part of all cells, tissues, and organs. Luckily, there's just the right amount of protein in breast milk, which fulfills the baby's needs in the first 6 months. And when baby starts solids, introduce your baby to plenty of protein-rich foods, like, eggs, cheese, paneer, dahi, meat, poultry, and fish. The baby also gets protein from non-animal sources such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, dals, beans as well as some fruits and vegetables. Do not depend on one food to get proteins, make sure your baby gets it from a variety of sources. [Know: How Much Protein to a Toddler?]
All Vitamins are essential for the baby's overall growth and development, water-soluble vitamins, like, B vitamins, are the true energy boosting nutrients that keep baby active and alert. Whole grains like oats, ragi, daliya, bajra, whole wheat atta, and cereals are all great sources of many B vitamins. Introduce baby to a variety of grains but one at a time. Vitamin C is not only a great immunity booster but also helps in iron absorption. Fresh fruits and veggies are the great Vitamin C rich first foods for the baby.
Fat-soluble vitamin like Vitamin A is great for baby's skin, eyes and for building baby's immunity. Dairy, eggs, and colored fruits and veggies are great sources of this vitamin. Vitamin D is great for bone mineralization and for immunity. Though this vitamin is available from limited foods like egg yolk or Cow's milk., out of which, the latter cannot be started before 1 year of age, hence choice is limited. Therefore, it is always better to check with the doctor, if the baby needs supplements. [Expert Opinion: Does Baby Need Vitamin/Mineral Supplements?]
To conclude, a baby's need for essential nutrients keep growing as he/she grows older. These nutrients not only help in baby's physical and mental growth but also vital for building immunity. Hence, including a variety of foods in baby's diet is the best way to meet baby's increased nutritional needs. But, go slow, introduce one food at a time and do not forget the 3-day rule when starting with any new food.