A baby leaves an adult in awe with her ability to learn and grow rapidly each passing day. To elaborate this from a technical viewpoint a baby’s growth in the first 1000 days is more than the entire remainder of their life. In the first year alone, a baby triples her birth weight and her height increases by 50%. 80% of their cognitive development takes place in the first two years, with the brain size tripling in those two years.
How do we ensure that our baby’s growth takes place at an optimum level in these crucial years?
The only way to ensure that a baby’s growth and development takes place to the best of it’s potential is to ensure that the baby is given nutritionally adequate and wholesome meals in the first two years of her life.
I recently attended a workshop conducted by a renowned nutritionist Dr. Zubeda Tumbi who guided us on how to ensure ideal growth through and ideal diet. This session was truly enlightening and I am going to be sharing my learnings here.
Why does a child need nutritionally rich food in the first 1000 days?
• The right kind of food have the power to ensure that a baby reaches it’s full potential in terms of physical growth, mental growth, and immunocompetence (reduced suspectiblity to infections or illness in childhood and later years)
• If your baby doesn’t get the right kind of nutrition that meets all their requirements, there are very real risks of irreversible damage to their brain development and physical growth.
What does your baby need for optimum growth and development ?
A baby, just like an adult needs two kinds of nutrients:
Macro nutrients and Micro nutrients.
Macro nutrients are responsible for providing energy and aid physical growth and development. For example, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Essentially this is development we can see with our eyes.
What you can’t see developing within the baby are the brain & immunity growth and development. These are fueled by the micronutrients which your baby needs & are very important during this phase. Vitamins and minerals, Iron, zinc, vitamin A for example are micro nutrients that aid in brain development and immunity.
Micronutrients need special attention in the first 2 years because any micronutrient deficiencies during this time could lead to impaired cognitive development and affect immunity. This affects brain growth and immunity and leads to reduced learning capacity later in life and can also make your baby more susceptible to infections throughout life.
Even though a baby’s stomach is very tiny, almost 20% the size of an adult’s stomach, she needs as much as five times more nutrients than an adult to support her rapid growth rate.
How do we ensure that the baby gets the right nutrition?
Now that we know a baby needs complete foods, let us discuss how can we meet the nutritional requirements of a baby.
• WHO recommends breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. Thereafter mother’s milk can be complimented with other foods in a slow and gradual process.
Indian foods are majorly rich in carbohydrates and we tend to ignore the need for other nutrients that a baby needs for growth.
98% of your baby’s iron and 72% of your baby’s zinc needs should be fulfilled through complementary food but the Indian diets are insufficient to do so.
A baby eats very less amount of food, only a few spoonfuls initially. Hence the complimentary foods have to packed with nutrients. We must offer nutrient dense foods or complete foods that are fortified with minerals & vitamins like iron, zinc etc. so that your baby can get all they need in the amount of food that they can actually eat.
Iron plays a very important role in your baby’s brain development
Iron and Zinc help in the development of your baby’s immunity
Fortified cereals and foods have been found to be the most effective way of ensuring that there are no micronutrient deficiencies in children.
In addition to fortified/complete baby foods, you need to ensure diversity of food groups in your baby’s diet by including foods from all food groups on a daily basis for a balanced diet.
Significant point to remember:
• In today’s world the two lines on the pregnancy test kit are planned and well thought of. If you are planning to conceive, get yourself examined for any kind of nutritional deficiencies, and if the counts are not up to the mark, take supplements as suggested by the doctor. Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle throughout your pregnancy.
• Breastfeed your baby till the first six months of your baby’s life. Dr. Zubeda suggests, incase there is a situation where a mother is not able to breastfeed she can introduce solids like a spoonful of orange juice, rice or mashed banana between 4-6 months (however, you must check with your peadiatrition if your baby is ready for solids)
• At six months of age you can begin with fruits and khichadi instead of only rice to provide adequate proteins to a baby along with carbohydrates
• Add mint and coriander leaves to your baby’s khichadi to make it rich in minerals. You can also add different vegetables like spinach, pumpkin, carrot, peas etc to increase the micro nutritional value of your baby’s meal
• Adding a few drops of lemon to the khichadi to makes it rich in Vitamin C. This also ensure that the others nutrients are absorbed better. Other rich sources of vitamin C are Amla, mango, papaya, peach, lime, kiwi etc. incorporate these foods in your baby’s diet.
• Soaking, sprouting, germinating, grinding, roasting or boiling are important procedures in preparing a baby’s meal. Soaking and boiling the pulses triplify the vitamins in it and break down the antinutrients in them to make the other nutrients more available.
• Non-vegetarians must include fish, chicken and egg in a baby’s diet at 10 months of age. They are a rich source of proteins
• Rice rava is a better source of nutrients than wheat rava
• While making porridge for older babies, you must roast the nachni, rava, dalia well and add whole milk with cream. Cream in milk is required for Vitamin A absorption.
• Avoid salt and sugar in the first year of baby’s life and opt for natural sweetners like fruits, jaggery, dates etc.
• Dr. Zubeda also encourages extended breastfeeding uptill the age of two years. Breastmilk contains immunoglobulin which builds the immunity of a child.
I hope this post has given you an overview of why and how to help your baby develop in the most crucial phase of her life.
What your baby eats in the first two years, determines your baby’s potential for the rest of their life. So you must make healthier and wiser choices to make the most of these foundation years of your baby’s life.
About Dr. Zubeda Tumbi
Dr.ZubedaTumbi specialises in Preventive Nutrition, Weight Management , Nutrition Counselling, Community Nutrition with over 28 years of experience. She has an exemplary academic career with a gold medal at BHSc (SNDT University), MHSc ( merit holder), NET- SET (UGC) and special grants from IDRC Canada and Tata Chemicals for PhD work. Her academic experience includes Senior College Lecturer Ship for 8 years at SVT College of Home Science (SNDT) , Research Guide and visiting faculty at Institute of Hotel Management and Catering
For more information on this topic or about our expert visit Dr. Zubeda Tumbi’s website here