You are here

The 5 Nutrients All Babies Need

Veer

IRON

Why babies need it
Iron is critical for brain development -- research shows a lack of this mineral can lead to thought-processing and motor deficiencies. The good news is that infants are born with large iron stores, usually enough to satisfy their needs until 4 to 6 months of age. Premature babies, however, may miss out on some or all of the significant iron accumulation that occurs during the last trimester of pregnancy. This, coupled with their "catch-up" growth rates, may deplete their supply by two to three months. If your baby was born early, ask your pediatrician if she needs an iron supplement.

Daily dose
Formula meets iron needs for the first year, but breast milk doesn't, which is why pediatricians recommend introducing high-iron food early on in the second half of the first year, when you start your baby on solid foods (just remember to always finely chop round, firm foods until your child is 4 to avoid choking hazards). At 7 to 12 months, babies need 11 milligrams of elemental iron per day, and by 1 to 3 years old, 7 milligrams daily.

Serve it up
After your baby is 6 months old, two servings of iron-fortified baby cereal (one-half ounce each) provide the 11 milligrams your baby needs, so make cereal your go-to first solid food. Meat, poultry and fish are naturally iron-packed; try giving ground beef or turkey, chicken and halibut to your little eater. Other rich sources include avocado, baked potato, broccoli, chickpeas, eggs, prunes, soybeans and spinach.

Good to know
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency among U.S. children. To prevent it, make sure your pediatrician screens your baby for iron-deficiency anemia at 12 months and 18 months.

CALCIUM

Why babies need it
This mineral helps children achieve peak bone mass, necessary for building strong bones and preventing fractures when they start climbing trees and playing sports.

Daily dose
Breast milk and formula meet your baby's calcium needs for the first year. Once you switch to whole milk, your baby will need 500 milligrams daily.

Serve it up
A cup of whole milk or 6 ounces of yogurt each provides about 250 milligrams, making both bone-building powerhouses. Babies under age 1 shouldn't have cow's milk, but yogurt is typically fine once you introduce solids. Other good choices are cheese, salmon, calcium-fortified orange juice, tofu, broccoli, white beans, tomatoes and oatmeal.

Good to know
Helping your baby develop a taste for low-fat dairy will serve him well when he gets close to puberty and his calcium needs soar (1,300 milligrams a day at age 9!), since calcium is absorbed best from food. Babies who are overweight and at risk for obesity, or who have a strong family history of early-onset cardiovascular disease, can have reduced-fat 2 percent milk between 12 and 24 months.

ZINC

Why babies need it
Besides having a positive effect on cognition and development, zinc's primary roles are to maintain immune function and assure optimal cell growth and repair. Zinc deficiency is associated with impaired growth, increased susceptibility to infection and an increased risk of diarrhea.

Daily dose
Formula meets needs through age 1, but breast milk doesn't, so it's important to introduce zinc-rich foods in the second half of the first year. Children from 7 months to 3 years of age need 3 milligrams a day.

Serve it up
Three ounces of pork tenderloin has 2 milligrams, a cup of yogurt has 1.6 milligrams, and half a chicken breast has 1 milligram. Other good sources include turkey, beef, fish, eggs, lentils, whole milk, cheddar cheese and fortified cereal.

Good to know
Zinc is most commonly found in iron -- rich meat, poultry and fish, so if you're meeting your baby's iron needs, chances are she's getting enough zinc too.

VITAMINS A, D, E, AND K

Why babies need them
Vitamin A promotes proper vision and healthy skin. Vitamin D increases calcium absorption and helps with bone growth -- a deficiency can cause bone-weakening rickets. Vitamin E's antioxidant powers facilitate cell growth and the development of the nervous system. Vitamin K helps with normal blood clotting.

Daily dose
A shot of vitamin K is administered to newborns at birth to help prevent bleeding into the brain. Infant formula meets needs through age 1 for vitamins A, D and E. To get enough vitamin D, breastfed babies should take a supplement, such as Tri-Vi-Sol (which also contains vitamins A and C), that provides 400 IU of vitamin D daily until they are weaned from the breast or are taking 15 or more ounces of formula daily. Otherwise, if you offer your baby a variety of foods from the food pyramid -- fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, healthy fats -- and your doctor says she is growing appropriately for her age, she is likely meeting her needs for these fat-soluble vitamins.

Serve it up
Beyond breast milk, formula and cow's milk, good sources of vitamin A include carotene-rich fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli. Vitamin D occurs in few foods -- which is why the AAP recommends a daily supplement for breastfed babies -- but your baby can get some from fortified cow's milk, egg yolks and fish. Vitamin E-rich foods include vegetable oils, cereals and grains. Cow's milk, leafy vegetables, fruit and soybean oil are full of vitamin K.

Good to know
A recent study found that 40 percent of infants and toddlers have low levels of vitamin D, which can weaken bones. Make sure you talk to your pediatrician about starting your baby on a vitamin D supplement if you are breastfeeding.

VITAMINS C AND B

Why babies need them
Vitamin C improves iron absorption and helps prevent scurvy, a condition that causes large bruises on the body. B vitamins, including folic acid, enhance the immune and nervous systems, maintain healthy skin and muscle tone, promote cell growth and regulate metabolism.

Daily dose
If you offer your baby a variety of foods from the food pyramid -- fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, healthy fats -- and your doctor says she is growing appropriately for her age, she is likely getting enough of these water-soluble vitamins.

Serve it up
Vitamin C is in citrus, tomatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe and potatoes. Folic acid is in green vegetables, and fortified cereals and breads. The other B vitamins are found in whole grains like brown rice as well as in bananas, beans, eggs, meat, poultry and fish. Good to know: Don't give up on the green stuff or other nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables! Most toddlers have to try a food -- as in, put it in their mouths and spit it out -- an average of eight to 10 times before they start to like it.

Tags: 

comments