Importance Of Nutrition In Infancy And Toddlerhood

Good nutrition is essential to staying healthy. Healthy eating means eating a variety of foods that are rich in nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Many children are overweight mainly due to the proliferation of junk-laden diets. Food provides the energy and nutrients an infant and toddler needs to be healthy. A healthy diet helps children grow and learn. It also prevents obesity and other weight-related diseases such as diabetes.

Growth and mental development is greater during the first year of life than any other time after birth. In four to six months, the baby’s weight will double, and will triple by the time it reaches its first birthday. Good nutrition during this period of rapid growth is essential to ensure that the infant develop both physically and mentally to its fullest potential. For infants, breast milk is the best feeding choice in the first year of their life. It has all the necessary vitamins and minerals, proteins, and fats needed by infants for growth and development.

It is easily digested and the nutrients easily absorbed. Constipation is rare among breast-fed infants. Breast fed infants have fewer illnesses compared to bottle-fed infants because human milk contains antibodies and protect infants from illnesses such as diarrhea, stomach illnesses and respiratory infections. If a parent opts for bottle feeding, due to medical or other reasons, iron-fortified infant formula is the best alternative for the first year of life to prevent iron-deficiency anemia.

Low intake of iron during infancy may put the baby at risk for more illnesses, physical and mental development, and impaired energy metabolism. Infant formulas are adjusted to be nutritionally similar to breast milk and nutrients are added to promote optimal infant growth. Fresh or powdered milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk and goat’s milk are not recommended for infants because the immature digestive system of infants are not adequate to break down these type of milk. They are also poor sources of iron.

They also contain very high levels of proteins and minerals which will put stress on the kidneys of infants. NUTRITION FOR TODDLERS A study by Nolan, Schell, Stark, and Gomez of infant diets in the United States, identified the change from infancy to toddlerhood (9 to 18 months) as a critical period. Infants from low-income, urban families were found to have insufficient intakes of zinc, iron, and vitamin D. Diets of infants to 24 months were found to have sufficient calories but excessive amounts of proteins.

As the children grow, their diets became less sound nutritionally and their protein consumption increased significantly. The results of the study reflect a larger, nationwide survey of infant diets in the United States and emphasize the importance of parental influence on a child’s nutritional preferences. By the time babies are able to chew foods from six months onwards, parents need to give them the best kind of nutritional diet. Giving them good nutrition is giving them the nutrient building blocks that will support their growing bodies and brain development.

The transition from infancy to toddlerhood means that the child will be exploring a new world. First steps and first words bring in increasing independence. Preferences for food will be one of them and it would be sometimes hard to please their palate. One way of giving toddlers a chance to receive all the nutrients needed is to give them a variety of foods. And a good way of getting variety into their diet is by including them in family meals. Children learn by imitating those around them.

If the rest of the family is eating something, the better chance of the kid tasting the food as well. Since we are in an age when parents work and have busy schedules, it is not surprising that most couples stop for fast or home-delivered foods, rather than taking time to cook for their family. Other couples allow their children to eat while watching television or while running. This will be the beginning of setting poor eating habits for the toddlers. The best way to avoid unhealthy food choices is not to have them available at home.

It is therefore important for parents to remember that a healthy eating habit will reap life-long benefits for their children. They need to remember that parental influence on a child’s nutritional status and the development of food preferences can shape their eating behavior later in life. Giving the children a good nutritional foundation is one way of showing how much parents love their children and how much they are devoted to their children’s well-being.


Boppana, Ranu, MD (2006). Parenting at source ABCD Lady Magazine.Retrieved http://www. abcdlady. com/2006-03/art2. php. Accessed 21February 2008. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (2000, May). http://www. nal. usda. gov/wicworks/… /CO/COlevel_2infantnutritionmanualp1to81 . pdf. Accessed 21February 2008. Lockyear, Patricia L. B. , PsyD (2004, February 2). Childhood eating behaviors: development and socio-cultural considerations at source Medscape OB/Gyn and Women’s Health 9(1). http://www. medscape. com/viewarticle467523_print. Accessed 21February 2008.

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