Eating patterns of infants and toddlers are different from those of
For their size, they require more calories and different types, textures, and
portions of food for good health and proper growth.
What is best for feeding infants?
For the first few months, breast milk or formula provide for a baby's
nutrient needs. Health professionals recommend that whole cow's milk be fed to
infants when breast milk and formula are no longer offered, usually when the
infant turns one year.
When it is time to introduce solid foods to the baby, parents should first
offer plain, single-ingredient foods, watching for symptoms of food allergies or
sensitivities such as diarrhea or skin rashes.
Babies grow so rapidly that, for
their size, they need more iron, calcium, and zinc than at any other time. At
this time, you can add fortified infant cereals to the baby's diet to help
provide these minerals. When introducing solids, first try iron-fortified
cereals, followed by a variety of pureed vegetables and fruits such as peas,
carrots, peaches, or applesauce.
For older infants, other sources of iron include meats, poultry, and cooked
dried beans and peas. Offer a variety of whole-grain breads, fortified cereals
and crackers, milk, yogurt, and cheese.
To help babies and toddlers accept new foods, offer the same new food for
several days in a row. Practice and patience by parents are key ingredients to
help children develop healthful eating habits.
More on food variety
Offering a variety of foods at an early age sets the stage for life-long
healthful eating habits. No one food ensures a healthy eating pattern. Parents
can help balance older infants' and toddlers' nutrient intakes by offering a
variety of foods. Include foods from all of the food groups every day to help
supply the energy, vitamins, and minerals growing children need.
Special tips for feeding toddlers
As toddlers become more independent, they enjoy feeding themselves and often
develop their own food likes, dislikes, and eating habits. "Food jags"
are common. A food jag is a short-term eating habit in which toddlers select the
same food for every meal. Toddlers may choose these favorite foods for one week
and ignore them the next. Since food jags are usually short term, the toddlers'
nutrient intakes are balanced over time.
After 12 months of age, serve about two cups of whole milk in place of
formula each day to be certain toddlers eat enough foods that contain calcium.
After age two, gradually switch from whole milk to lower-fat milk, such as 2
percent, 1 percent, or skim. If fruit drinks or juices are offered in place of
formula or milk, the toddler may not get the calcium and other minerals needed
for proper bone growth. Serving other calcium-rich foods like yogurt and cheese
either as snacks or with meals will also help meet calcium needs and build
Use appropriate portion sizes of foods to meet infants' and toddlers'
nutritional needs. A general guide for providing adequate portion sizes is to
offer one tablespoon of each food for every year of age. Allow infants and
toddlers to eat until they are full. It is unwise to force a child to eat or to
use food as a reward.
Keep mealtime a pleasant time for everyone.
Adult dietary guidelines are not for infants
Adult dietary guidelines are for adults only. Adults usually need to lower
the amount of fats and sometimes calories in their own eating patterns. However,
efforts to limit fat intake for infants and toddlers are unwise. Infants and
toddlers under two years need fat and calories to fuel their rapid growth.
Physical activity = playtime for infants
Plan times of active play with your infant or toddler every day to encourage
a healthful lifestyle. Some active games include pat-a-cake, hide and seek, and
duck, duck, goose. Help your toddler develop the habit of making regular
physical activity a fun part of a healthy lifestyle.
Every baby is different, with different food likes and dislikes. Registered
dietitians or other health professionals can help answer specific infant
feeding or nutrition questions.
For more information
The American Dietetic Association/National Center for Nutrition
and Dietetics Consumer Nutrition Hotline
For food and nutrition information or for a referral
to a registered dietitian in your area, call 800/366-1655. For customized
answers to your food and nutrition questions by a registered dietitian, call
900/CALL-AN-RD (900/225-5267). The cost of the call will be $1.95 for the first
minute and $.95 for each additional minute.
Gerber Products Company
445 State Street
Fremont, MI 49413
This fact sheet is provided by American
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