Giving birth to a child is the single most fascinating thing in this world. It’s not only a huge responsibility but also its a milestone in a woman’s life. It changes her as a person as well. The wellbeing of a baby begins when it is a size of a cell. The overall growth and development of baby starts from this early stage and continues till early years. Nutrition is one of the most important factors for baby’s growth. From the time they are tiny cell to a fully form child at birth to a toddler of 3 years, they just don’t stop growing. And good and complete nutrition is what they require for a healthy today and tomorrow. Today we are focusing on first 1000 days of Infant nutrition.

A couple of days back I attended a workshop which was held by Manjari Chandra, Senior Consultant Nutritionist, Clinical Nutrition, Max Multi Speciality Centre and Founder of Manjari Wellness. This workshop focused on the nutrition needs of the first two years of a baby’s life.

I am a mother of a 22 months old baby Adya.  She is center of my universe and my life revolves around her’s. When she was born she was just 2kgs 200gms. She was very lean and tiny despite I had a very healthy pregnancy. I ate well throughout the nine months yet she was too small. Initially, it was very difficult for me as I wasn’t lactating a lot. But I took care of my diet and added many ayurvedic remedies in my diet to help with that.

The First Feed:

Babies are born with a very weak immune system and it is always insisted that a newborn baby must be fed the Colostrum, the first thick yellow milk produced by breasts. This is so high in antibodies that it’s called the first immunization of the baby. It has a high content of Protein, Minerals, Salt, Vitamin A, Nitrogen and White Blood Cells. This makes it the “liquid Gold” and an excellent ( and most important) First Feed.

The First Six Months:

I exclusively breastfed Adya for first six months. Breastmilk is the Gold Standard for babies under 6 months. They derive all the nutrition from the breastmilk. It contains carbohydrates, proteins, calcium, fat, WBCs, and many antibacterial enzymes which are required during the first six months of child’s development.

Starting with Solid Food:

Traditionally, in India, we have an Annprashan Ceremony to mark the beginning of the weaning phase a baby which happens after the completion of 6 months. Same was the case with me. We Celebrated Adya’s Annaprashan with blessings of all close family and friends feeding her Kheer. everyone blessed my baby for good health and long life.

After the completion of six months, not only baby’s digestive system is ready to take some sort of food but also the rapidly developing baby requires lots of nutrition which is not provided in ample quantity by mother’s milk.

Manjari highlighted ” When starting off on solid foods, your baby can’t take in more than a few spoonfuls of food. This, as you know, is because your baby’s stomach is incredibly small. It is the size of their tiny fist, which is only 20% of the size of an adult’s stomach.” She added “The surprising part, though, is that while their stomach size is so much smaller, they actually need more nutrition than adults to support their incredible growth rate. Babies need 5 times more nutrition than adults at this stage.”

Weaning Food:

I introduced rice gruel and lentil soup as weaning food for Adya. These two are the most palatable food items when it comes to children. I even tried feeding her Ragi porridge which again rich in many nutrients and calcium. But Adya did not accept ragi. For first fifteen to twenty days we both were in the learning phase. she was trying to adopt the new changes in taste palette while I was trying to learn how to feed a baby and analyze her hunger and needs.

Dietary requirements from 6 to 24 months:

This is the phase when babies have rapid physical and cognitive development. In the first year alone, a baby’s weight triples and height increases by 50%. What’s more, a staggering 80% of their brain and cognitive development is complete by their second birthday, with their brain size tripling from birth to two years; Babies are born with immature immune systems and it takes up to 2 years to strengthen it.

Adya’s weight grew steadily during but slowly in the first year of her life. She opened up to the concept of eating semi-solid food like lentil soup, applesauce, mashed banana, egg yolk, oranges, stewed veggies, rice, and ghee etc. During this time my concentration was on making her accept food as a main source plus develop a taste for a variety of food and stick to limited things. Before her first birthday, I also introduced green vegetables like spinach and finger food like parboiled carrots and apple sticks. She occasionally even enjoyed eating potato fries, chips, buttermilk and chocolates. Some days she was eating well while there were days when she refused to eat anything. One thing I was worried about was her intake of milk. As I never gave her a top feed during first 6 months, she never accepted the bottles and milk. But her pediatrician suggested to feed her regularly in small quantities which will fulfill the gap. He also asked me to add paneer and curd in her daily diet. On her First birthday, my baby weighed 7.3 kgs. Along with a good growth rate she had also achieved developmental milestones like walking etc.

In the workshop, Manjari emphasized on the requirements of the baby for rapid growth and development. “Your baby 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 are micronutrients. Iron, zinc, vitamin A, for example, aid in brain development and immunity.”

Adya is now in her second year. We have graduated from simple food items to more complete and complex food items like upma, poha, chila, mixed grain khichadi with veggies,  daal roti, omelette with cheese, nuts etc. Still, I struggle to feed her milk but I try to fill that gap with buttermilk, curd, paneer and cheese.

 How to we fulfill the micronutrient requirements? 

Manjari explained –

“You need to give your baby small quantities of food that are packed with more nutrients than your regular food. 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 and cognition and iron and zinc help in the development of your baby’s immunity.”

She also added “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 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.”  She told “In fact, 2 bowls of fortified cereals a day bridge the nutrition gap in your baby’s diet.By ensuring that your couple fortified foods with your baby’s regular diet of homemade foods, you can rest assured that your baby’s nutrition needs are fully met.”

A typical diet plan for an average a two-year baby will include:

  • 1 egg
  • 500-800 ml dairy (milk, cheese, paneer, curd, buttermilk)
  • 2 servings ( 150 ml cooked, each) Beans/Pulses/ lobia/lentil etc
  • 3 servings ( 150 gms cooked each) Cereals and Grains
  • 3 servings ( 150 gm each) vegetables and fruits
  • 1 serving of fortified cereals

(Phew!! and I was getting happy that my child eats well …)

Last Thoughts:

What baby eats in first two years determines its potential for rest of the life! The right food has the power to make baby reach its full potential when it comes to physical growth, learning capacity and strengthen its immune system.  Babies are the future. So to shape it right we need to provide them with best and complete nutrition during their First 1000 Days.