While breastfeeding can be one of the best parts of motherhood and a great way to bond with your infant, it may not always go smoothly. Some mums find it challenging and struggle with questions and concerns about their baby’s nutritional needs in the coming weeks and months.
Nursing mums need all the help and clarity they can get, so let’s explore a baby’s nutritional needs from birth to 12 months in two semesters:
The first six months
During the first few months of a baby’s life, exclusive breastfeeding is essential as it provides an infant with all the needed nutritional needs. It is highly recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) that a baby be fed exclusively with breastmilk for at least the first six months of life, after which you can introduce complementary food. Exclusive breastfeeding protects your infant from various chronic and infectious diseases, including eczema and asthma.
As a breastfeeding mum, it is advisable to maintain a healthy diet for your well-being and that of your baby. For this reason, you should abstain from taking alcohol, certain herbs and spices, highly-processed food, and fish that contain high mercury. Instead, substitute with dairy products, green vegetables, seafood, and poultry.
The second six months
After the first six months, breastfeeding is still essential, but now you can introduce solid foods. As babies grow, they require more nutrients, and breastmilk nutrients alone cannot do justice. However, some signs show that your baby is ready for solid food. What are those signs? Your baby is ready to be weaned when they can properly digest food, react to actions with good reflexes, and hold their head steady.
Then you can introduce solid foods, but your breastfeeding routine should continue, to maintain your breastmilk supply. You can introduce iron-rich foods like baby cereal and mix your breastmilk or baby formula into the food until your baby gets used to the flavour. At this stage, you should not be surprised when your baby starts to show interest in what you are eating.
At 8 months, you can introduce mashed fruits and vegetables, while maintaining your breastfeeding routine. At 9 to 11 months, you can introduce foods such as mashed meat, fish, or poultry. Foods that can cause allergies like fish and eggs should be introduced to your baby one after the other.
By 12 months (1 year), your baby will be able to eat different foods and can drink dairy products like cow’s milk as a beverage. When your baby is a year old, you may decide to continue breastfeeding alongside a healthy diet that suits your baby.