Identify, using current government guidance, the nutritional needs of babies until they are fully weaned and using information from carers plan a programme of weaning.
Babies have very specific nutritional needs to be able to develop through the first stages of life healthily. They require milk that is high in protein for the essential amino acids to aid growth. The milk must also have a high fat content to support the quick growth rate of babies. They also require a combination of vitamins and minerals; Iron, for growth and healthy blood
Zinc, for enzymes and immune function
Calcium, for healthy teeth and bones
Vitamin D, for calcium and phosphorous absorption to support healthy teeth and bones Vitamin A, for vision Vitamin C, for healthy connective tissue, antioxidant protection and iron absorption Fluid is also very important for babies as the kidney and other organs are not developed enough at birth to function fully. The Department of Health recommends that babies are breast fed for the first 6 months before any solid foods are slowly and individually introduced. Breast milk is the best nutrition for babies for several reasons. It carries the mother’s antibodies helping the baby’s immunity from disease and infection. The milk will be tailor made for the babies particular nutritional needs and will change according to the baby’s changing needs. It is easier for a baby to digest than any other type of milk. It will be sterile and at the right temperature.
At about six months old, when a baby can sit up and hold its head steady, solid food can be slowly introduced in stages in addition to the baby’s milk. The first stage would be to give very soft food for example, pureed fruit or vegetables, baby rice or porridge or plain dhal. Finger food may also be introduced, such as bread crusts or soft fruit. This is more for the baby to practice the motions of eating and to start using the relevant muscles, than for nutritional value. It is important to introduce foods individually in case the child has an allergic reaction to something. This allergen can be identified more easily if it is a new food.
The second stage at about 8 months old starts to expand on the variety of foods and textures. It is important to add foods with soft lumps to encourage the use of muscles in the mouth. This is early preparation for speech. Foods may be introduced such as meat, fish and eggs. Harder finger food such as raw vegetables can help with teething and exercise the jaws and chewing muscles.
The third stage of weaning at about 10 months children can start to eat the same sort of foods as the rest of the family. Meals can be chopped or minced and finger foods such as toast and biscuits can be given.
It is important that children under one year old still continue to have some form of milk in their diet. They also need plenty of other fluid. Water and some cool herbal teas are preferable to juice and squash as they are high in sugar content.
As a practitioner involved in a child’s weaning it is important to do so according to the parent’s wishes. They may have cultural or religious practices to be adhered to or may want their child to fed organically or on a vegetarian diet. Some families prefer to let the baby wean themselves. This is known as ‘Baby led weaning’ and is done by giving the child a choice of finger foods and letting them choose what and how to eat.
Food and eating can become a psychological issue and difficulty for many children. Parents can become frustrated and concerned about eating habits and children can use food as a tool for getting what they feel they want. It is important to try to make eating a pleasurable and fun experience for children and to not make meal times stressful for everyone.
Evaluate the benefits of different types of formula that are commonly
There are different types of formula milk for different stages of babies’ development and different types of diets. Babies require different levels of nutrients as they grow. Some babies find digestion of proteins difficult and some families prefer not to give their babies animal products. Most formula milk is based on cow’s milk that has been changed to resemble breast milk more closely. Vitamins and minerals are supplemented and the levels of carbohydrates and proteins adjusted. This type of formula is suitable for most babies, although the proteins in cow’s milk are the most difficult to break down. This difficulty manifests in many children as eczema. Goat’s milk formula may be used as an alternative as the proteins are less complex. Soya bean based formula may be given to babies but is not recommended for those younger than six months old.
Children can have severe allergies to soya and may also have difficulty breaking the proteins down if their digestive system is not yet developed enough. Some babies have allergies and intolerances to certain substances from birth. If breast feeding is not possible, or sometimes in addition to breast milk, they may be prescribed a Hydrolised-protein formula. This formula already has broken down protein and therefore should be easier for the baby to digest. Children that are not gaining weight and developing sufficiently or ‘failing to thrive’, may also be prescribed an extra fatty formula, sometimes in addition to breast milk.