Feeding Nutritional Requirements

Remember that the first principle of infant feeding is to feed the infant. Remember also that while breast-feeding is undoubtedly best for your baby you will have to bottle-feed if, for whatever reason, you don’t breast-feed. Don’t feel guilty if you make this decision. Concentrate on the needs of your baby.

As important as any milk is the love and affection that you give your baby. The important rule to remember is to take your lead from your child, and as long as you offer a wide variety of foods she doesn’t have to have “essential” foods every day. Remember, above all, that food is a pleasure.


A baby’s growth is more rapid during the first six months than at any other time in its life. The majority of babies double their birth weight in around four months and have tripled it by the time they are about one year old. All parts of the body develop quickly and gain tremendously in size, and your baby may grow from twenty to thirty inches during the year. Your baby’s nutritional needs run parallel with this.

In order to grow, your baby needs to take food; for your baby to be healthy that food has to contain adequate supplies of protein, vitamins, carbohydrates and minerals, whatever age she is. Until she’s at least four months old your baby will receive these supplies in the form of milk. After this, when she’s started on a solid diet, you will provide all she needs if you give a sensible, well-balanced diet.


The energy needed to perform all bodily functions comes from food. The energy content of food is usually expressed in calories, and in an infant the calorie requirements are about two-and-a-half to three times those of an adult. During the first six months slightly more than fifty calories per pound are needed, and from six months to one year slightly less than fifty per pound.

A baby weighing seven pounds at birth will therefore need in the region of 570 calories a day. If the same baby doubles its weight in approximately six months, to fourteen pounds, she will need 740 calories a day. At twelve months, if the baby has tripled its birth weight, she will need about 1000 calories a day.


Most of the protein that a baby takes in is used for growth, and the protein requirements during the first twelve months are correspondingly higher than at any other time of life; they are three times as great as those for adults. Milk, as long as it is given in adequate amounts, provides all the protein that a newborn infant needs.


Breast milk is short of nothing except vitamin D. The main source of this is the sun, which stimulates the skin to manufacture it. It you live in a poor climate, or if your child has a very dark skin, you may need to give vitamin D supplements; ask your doctor for advice. If you bottle-feed your baby all vitamin requirements will be satisfied by the formula, to which the manufacturer adds supplements.


The rapid growth of bone and muscle during the first year means that babies have a greater need for minerals like calcium, phosphorous and magnesium than adults. All babies are born with a supply of iron that will last for up to four months; after this, iron has to be added to the diet, usually in the form of solids. but possibly as iron supplements. Breast milk and cow’s milk are both pretty low on iron; formula milk usually has iron added to it, but once again you should check the contents.

Trace elements

Your baby needs traces of certain minerals like zinc, copper and fluoride. The first two are present in both breast and formula milk. Fluoride, however, is not. As infants need fluoride to protect them against dental decay in infancy and childhood, you should check with your midwife or doctor about giving your baby a fluoride supplement (of about 0.5 milligrams per day). You can give it as drops until your baby is old enough to take a tablet each morning (incidentally, this is better chewed as the teeth become coated with fluoride, giving protection). If fluoride is added to the drinking water in your area you won’t have to give fluoride supplements to your children. If you’re in doubt, contact your water authority.


The body needs minute traces of fatty acids for growth and repair. The fat content of both breast and formula milk is about the same, but in human milk the droplets of fat are smaller and therefore more digestible.


These are major energy providers. Both breast and formula milk contain the same carbohydrates, although the carbohydrate level is slightly higher in breast milk.


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