Starting Solids 101 - Introduction to Infant Nutrition
Author: Tina Rajani 0
Written by Cinthia Scott, Pediatric Registered Dietitian, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Is food before one just for fun?
Getting a head-start on nutrition will set our babies up for a lifetime of good habits, good choices, and overall good health. This is especially important in those first 1,000 days of life. According to The First 1000 Days Project:
“The first 1,000 days are a time of tremendous potential and enormous vulnerability. How well or how poorly mothers and children are nourished and cared for during this time has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and thrive. This is because the first 1,000 days are when a child’s brain begins to grow and develop and when the foundations for their lifelong health are built." - The First 1000 Days Project - https://thousanddays.org/why-1000-days/
In order to ensure this goal, make sure you offer a variety of nutrient dense foods to meet infant nutrition needs, when introducing solids. This article includes a feeding guide for infants, focusing on key nutrients.
Referencing the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ Infant Recommendations is a good place to start, for helpful nutrition information. In summary, their infant nutrition guidelines recommend:
- At about 6 months of age, infants should be introduced to nutrient-dense, developmentally appropriate foods to complement human milk or infant formula feedings.
- For infants fed human milk, it is particularly important to include complementary foods that are rich in iron and zinc. (Formula contains adequate iron to meet infant nutrition needs.)
- Encourage a variety of foods from all food groups when starting complementary foods.
Key Nutrients to Focus on When Starting Solids:
Iron and Zinc
Both of these minerals provide a range of benefits on both the body and mind of our little ones.
- Iron-rich foods help support neurologic development and immune function for infant nutrition.
- Iron is a critical component of early brain development and intelligence; it’s also tied to the proper and full development of your child’s cognition or thinking abilities.
- Zinc helps the immune system function properly by aiding in protein creation, wound healing, and basic cell division, including DNA synthesis.
Food sources of iron and zinc:
- Animal based products (chicken, beef, eggs, seafood, etc.)
- Plant based foods (tofu, nuts and seeds, lentils, beans, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, etc.)
- Fortified foods (baby cereal, cheerios, waffles, crackers, etc.)
Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, both of which are crucial to bone health. An adequate vitamin D intake during infant feeding can prevent softening and weakening of bones, growth failure, lethargy and irritability. Deficiency in littles can occur very early in life, particularly because many pregnant women have deficient blood levels of vitamin D.
You’ll find Vitamin D in food, and it’s activated by the body by exposing skin to the sun. It’s important to note, there are very few naturally occurring vitamin D sources, most of the available food sources of vitamin D, such as milk, orange juice, and egg yolks have been fortified.
Vitamin D Food Sources:
- Fortified foods
- Dairy Products
Omega-3s (DHA + EPA) are essential fatty acids that help feed the brain and keep it healthy. Infants' brains grow rapidly during this time period of 0-2 years old; we want to ensure infant nutrition needs through receiving plenty of healthy fats for brain development!
- Fats are part of the process of building new cells, which is the key to developing central nervous and cardiovascular systems and helping the body absorb nutrients.
- While it is common knowledge that omega-3’s are important healthy fatty acids, did you know that fat (yes, even saturated fat) and cholesterol are not something you need to be concerned about limiting in your child’s diet under the age of two years? Current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend fat to be unrestricted in the first two years of life.
“Children and adults need fat in their diets. It supplies essential fatty acids (EFA) and aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It is a substrate for the production of hormones and mediators. Fat, especially in infancy and early childhood, is essential for neurological development and brain function.” John A. Milner, Richard G. Allison, The Role of Dietary Fat in Child Nutrition and Development: Summary of an ASNS Workshop, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 129, Issue 11, November 1999, Pages 2094–2105
Fat Food Sources:
- Nuts and seeds (like flax, chia and hemp!)
- Butter, ghee, and oils
- Whole fat dairy products
Easy ways to ensure little ones are getting the nutrients they need
For a simple way to boost infant nutrition needs of any meal you serve with the core nutrients of importance in mind, you can add Tiny Sprouts Superseed Boosters to just about anything. Sprinkle on yogurt, mix into meatballs, add into energy bites, use in homemade purees, and serve mixed into nut butter spread onto toast!
Tiny Sprouts Superseed Boosters contain many of the most important nutrients children need during the first few years of life and beyond. They contain iron, omega-3’s, vitamin D, zinc, fiber, protein, and more! These Boosters are cold-milled and hulled for easier digestion for little bellies, encouraging maximum nutrient absorption. They are also fortified with probiotics to help promote gut health.
If you are concerned your little one isn’t consuming enough of these core nutrients, and are looking for a simple way to boost nutrition in addition to this feeding guide for infants,, we highly recommend Tiny Sprouts Superseed Boosters as a great place to start!
About the author
Cinthia Scott, RD, CLC
Cinthia Scott is a Mom, Pediatric Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) who resides in Georgia with her husband and two sons. Cinthia focuses on ensuring optimal nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life to ensure optimal growth and development as well as set the stage for long-term health. Cindy is a starting solids expert and advocate for caregivers receiving evidence-based education and support surrounding breastfeeding and starting solids. She is also co-author of 101 before one, a baby-led feeding book that guides parents as they introduce solids to their baby with family meals.
Follow her on Instagram @the.baby.dietitian
Follow 101 before one on Instagram @101beforeone