What are the Nutritional requirements of infants?

Recommended daily requirement of nutrients for infants is given in Table 7.1. It subdivided in two age groups, i.e., 0-6 month and 6-12 months because the age of the infants effects his nutritional requirements.

In the first six months, there is a rapid growth and hence more nutrients are required. After is months the nutritional requirement is reduce because of slow growth rate.

Energy

The first year of a child's life is| the period of rapid growth therefore, energy requirement is maximum in this age infant requires double the amount of calories per kg body weight as compared to an ad doing heavy work. This requirement maximum during the first six months

Protein

Because of rapid growth of till sues in the body of the infant, the requirement of protein is greatly enhanced. This requirement depends upon the body weight and is maximum in the first six months.

Minerals

The requirement of calcium and phosphorus increases due to skeletal growth. With the increase in the amount of blood more iron is required for the formation of hemoglobin in blood cells.

Vitamins

An infant requires sufficient vitamins for proper growth of his body. The requirement of thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin largely depends on energy requirement. Sufficient amount of Vitamin 'C' is also re­quired for body formation and to provide im­munity.

Water

Generally infant's requirement of water is met by the mother's milk. But in summers he should be given boiled water at j regular intervals.

Diet planning for infants

It is now clear that the requirement of nutrients is more in infancy. But how these requirements should be met?

Normally mother's milk is the first food given to infants. Nutritional requirements of an infant can easily be met if he is getting on an average 850 ml of mother's milk. Milk is deficient in iron but at the time of birth, child has sufficient stores of iron in his body which may last for four months.

Other nutrient, Vitamin C is also insufficient in mother's milk but it is enough to meet the requirements of an infant up to 4-6 months. But after 4-6 months the mother's milk is not sufficient to meet the growing requirements of the infant. To meet these requirements supplementary foods are to be given. But you must learn the importance of milk before proceeding further.

Importance of breast milk

1. Breast feeding by mother to the infant is an old Indian tradition. After giving birth to a child, clear yellow coloured liquid called colostrums is secreted for 3-4 days from mother's breasts. Mostly mothers don't feed this milk to the in­fants. But this milk is very useful for infants:

(i) Colostrums contains sufficient nutri­ents and has vital protective qualities.

(ii) It contains large amount of anti­bodies and white blood cells to pro­tect the child against infections.

(iii) It also has some growth inducing nutrients.

Hence breast feeding for the infant be­comes very important from the very first day of his birth. After 3-4 days of infant's birth mother's breasts start secreting milk. It is the best for infant.

2. Mother's milk is the most nutritive and balanced food for an infant. It has all the required nutrients in adequate amounts and proportion for the infant.

No doubt mother's milk has lesser amount of nutrient than animal's milk but still it is the best for an infant as it is in accordance with his nutritional requirements.

3. Mother's milk is suitable for the delicate digestive system of an infant. Lacto al­bumin protein present in it is easily di­gestible.

4. In the beginning mother's milk is light to suit the delicate digestive system of the infant. But with the growth of the organs of an infant, it also starts getting thicker and more in quantity.

5. Breast milk is free from contamination as the infant gets it directly from mother's breast.

6. It is safe, easily available, and free from any adulteration.

7. Mother's milk is neither hot nor cold. The infant gets it at an appropriate tem­perature.

8. Mother's milk is economical as mother does not spend additional money on feed­ing the infant.

9. It protects the infant against infections and food allergies.

10. It also provides emotional satisfaction to both the mother and the child. The infant feels secure during breast feed­ing by the mother.

Mother's milk is not suitable for the in­fant in certain circumstances like:

(i) If the mother is suffering from some serious disease like TB, cancer, heart problem, anemia, etc.

(ii) Pregnancy of mother.

(iii) Lower nutritional status of the mother.

(iv) Inability of child to breast feeding like, weakness in infants, mouth disability, etc.