As first-time parents, it can be highly stressful to understand a newborn’s needs. Despite reading through multiple parenting books and guides, there is always uncertainty about what a child needs in their growth years. In their developmental years, nutrition plays a very important role. Wholesome nutrition & physical activity enables children to have a healthy and active life with lowered risk of ailments in adult life.
Nutrition means to give an individual what their body needs. When we speak of a newborn’s health, first-time parents need to understand that every child’s physical and nutritional needs have to be customized and no one size fits all. When nutrition is customized, it can work wonders for both the parent and the toddler. Nutrition is a critical part of health and development. Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child, and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and longevity.
“ Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” – G.K. Chesterton
True to the quote, an individual’s complete health can be analyzed with the help of what is being ingested. Nutrition is spoken of in two major subdivisions i.e. Autotrophs and heterotrophs. We fall into the heterotrophic nutrition category. Apart from these forms of categorization, we also define nutrition as the consumption of nutrients like Carbohydrates, Fats, Vitamins, Minerals, and Proteins.
These nutrients help us to achieve a balanced diet. As adults, we need to make sure that these five kinds of nutrients are given to our toddlers for them to have the required nutrition for complete growth.
Children and Nutrition
For the achievement of complete nutrition in children, consult your pediatrician. From the newborn up to 2 years, it is only in the best recommeneded for the child to be breastfed by their mothers as breast milk is proven to be a complete food. Breast milk is uniquely suited to the human infant’s nutritional needs and is no replacement for infant supplements. It provides the best immune support and anti-inflammatory properties that protect against various illnesses and diseases for mother and child.
Benefits for Infants
Infants who are breastfed have reduced risks of:
- Type 1 diabetes.
- Severe lower respiratory disease.
- Acute otitis media (ear infections).
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Gastrointestinal infections (diarrhea/vomiting).
Benefits for Mothers:
Breastfeeding can help lower a mother’s risk of:
- High blood pressure.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Ovarian cancer.
- Breast cancer.
When the child is reaching the age to walk and stand towards the 6 month onwards, it also starts teething. At this stage, they can be introduced to semi-solid foods. This will help them get started to eat whole grains, pulses, and green leafy vegetables. These semi-solid foods, at the advice of a pediatrician, can be fed to the child, while making alterations with the feeding of breast milk. Here the parents can try out different recipes and spices that are added to the food can make them adapt easily while giving the nutrition they require.
Once all the milk teeth start to appear, finger foods like Carrots, cucumbers, and boiled pulses can be introduced to the child, along with the introduction of whole foods like rice or chapati. Here is where greens and other veggies, curd, and pulses must be incorporated into the meal. The plate that has all the nutrients, and is uniform, make it a balanced diet. The required nutrients for kids include macro ingredients like, Carbohydrates, proteins and fats along with micronutrients- Calcium, iron, Vitamin A, D, E, K, Zinc, etc., Along with all the food mentioned above, they also need to be introduced to dry fruits as they have a high content of good fat and other vitamins and minerals that will aid their well-being.
For a child’s well-being, nutrition plays an important role that enables them to have a disease-free life along with other factors like genetic disorders.
What happens if nutrition is not provided?
If less nutrition is provided to the child in their growing years, it can lead to multiple health concerns affecting both physical & mental growth. Good nutrition for children is vital for achieving their optimal developmental milestones. Undernutrition has serious consequences for physical & cognitive growth and development. Malnutrition leads to decreased early physical growth, delayed motor skills, and cognitive and behavioral development.
It diminishes immunity and increases morbidity and mortality rates. It has repercussions as an adult. This might lead to a child having Malnutrition, which means to have a deficiency of various vitamins and minerals in the body. Effects of poor nutrition in developmental years, delays the cognitive and motor functions, impaires school performance, leads to poor memory, causes learning disorders, reduces social skills and lowers IQ scores
These deficiencies lead to comorbidities that affect the several, function of the body. This also affects the mental and emotional state of the child. Some of the concerns that can be seen are loss of appetite, low energy and concentration, and drier skin and hair. When these symptoms are seen with your child, please ensure to consult your child’s pediatrician. A healthy wholesome diet meets the energy requirements and supplies both macro and micronutrients taking care of the essential functioning of all vital processes.
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