Infants experience an exceptional rate of growth and development in their first year of life which requires ideal nutrition. The incomprehensible infant formula shortage has brought the conversation on infant feeding front and center. Now seems like the perfect time to discuss infants’ unique nutrient needs. Here is an overview of important nutrition considerations for the first year of life.
Birth to 6 Months
For the first time ever, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) offers guidance for infants and toddlers under the age two. The DGA recommends human milk for infants, particularly in the first 6 months of life, and longer if possible. Breastfed infants should be supplemented with vitamin D and possibly iron, as these nutrients aren’t present in breast milk. Of course, there are many reasons why a family may not breastfeed their baby. An iron-fortified, FDA approved infant formula is uniquely prepared with a blend of nutrients and bioactive compounds for the needs of infants and is an safe alternative to breast milk.
Did you know that Guiding Stars has unique guidance for Infant and Toddler foods?
Why breast milk or formula?
It’s critically important that infants are only offered breast milk or formula. Infants cannot metabolize cow’s milk, goat milk, or a dairy alternative. There are several reasons why these milks aren’t appropriate for infants, including that their protein and mineral composition is inadequate and unsafe for infants, likely leading to digestive (and possibly renal) issues. Infant formula is carefully composed to match an infant’s needs and includes nutrients that sustain shelf life and a protein composition that’s easier on the baby’s digestion. It’s also, as recent news highlights, highly regulated by the FDA to keep babies safe.
Infant formula is not evaluated by the Guiding Stars program. The composition of infant formula is highly regulated and is considered more of a medical food for this reason. We also feel strongly that the decision about the use of formula or breastfeeding is a personal one that should be made by individuals with the help of their child’s pediatrician.