Your baby is growing faster during the first year than at any other time of their life. On average, their birth weight will triple and she will grow about 25cm (10in) in length by the time they turn one. By their second birthday their brain will have tripled in size. This is why making sure your baby is getting enough protein in their diet is so important. As they begin to try solid foods, there are several other key nutrients to keep in mind to promote her growth and development. Offer your little one a variety of foods from all the food groups to ensure that she gets enough of the following necessary nutrients:
Three vital minerals
Breast milk is naturally low in iron, which is essential for the proper development of your baby’s brain. By six months the iron stores your baby was born with are running low, so it’s important to offer her foods rich in iron. Iron also helps their blood carry oxygen around their body to where it’s needed. Research has shown that many six to eight-month-old babies do not meet the recommended intake of iron. Not getting enough iron can result in anemia, which causes fatigue and weakness. Worldwide, approximately 43% of children aged six months to five years have anemia—that’s the equivalent of 273 million children!
Your baby needs zinc for healthy growth. It plays an important role in keeping her immune system strong and helping her fight off infections. Zinc is also essential in cell growth and repair, so it’s a key mineral for your growing baby.
Calcium is also vital for building your little one’s bones, as well as their teeth. It helps their nervous system and muscles work properly. Getting enough calcium can be challenging for some babies at this age so keep breastfeeding and offering your little one foods that are high in calcium.
Two important vitamins
Our bodies produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunshine. Vitamin D is essential for bone, tooth, and muscle growth. Since young babies need to be kept out of the sun, or wear sunscreen at an appropriate age, they are not able to make vitamin D and need to get it from another source. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that babies who are breastfed receive vitamin D supplements of 400 IU per day. Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to rickets—a softening of bones that can occur as children grow.
Vitamin A promotes healthy growth and vision. The World Health Organization recommends a vitamin A supplement for babies and children aged six months to five years in areas of the world where vitamin A deficiency is high. If you are unsure, ask your healthcare provider if you are in an area where low vitamin A levels are common.
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Godel J. Canadian Paediatric Society, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Health Committee. Vitamin D supplementation: Recommendations for Canadian mothers and infants Paediatr Child Health 2007;12(7):583-9
Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, & Breastfeeding Committee for Canada (2014) Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from six to 24 months. Accessed July 2021.
Finn K, Callen C, Bhatia J et al. Importance of dietary sources of iron in infants and toddlers: lessons from FITS study. Nutrients 2017; 9(7): doi: 10.3390/nu9070733.
World Health Organization. The global prevalence of anaemia in 2011. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2015.
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