Feeding Patterns of the Child during the First Year of Life
Feeding is an exciting period for both parents and children in the first year of life. This period is about development, nutrition, curiosity, and learning. As the parents go through a daily routine with their babies, they develop an attachment. Within the first year of life, infants’ bodies grow and develop. During that time, parents should be extremely careful to their children’s diet (Schiess, et al., 2010). It is necessary for parents to develop good eating habits for their children to set the recommended eating patterns for life. The feeding patterns for infants, in addition, are assumed to be highly influenced by family characteristics.
Definition of Concepts
Within the first six months, mothers are advised to breastfeed their babies comprehensively. This is because breast milk is useful since it has the right amount and quantity of nutrients that the baby needs. Breast milk is the most appropriate food for the digestive system of the babies and a good supplement of vitamin D. Babies should be exclusively breastfed before they are introduced to other foods. Continuation of the breastfeeding should go on until the baby is two years old.
According to Regnault, et al. (2010), babies should be introduced to complementary feedings to supplement breast milk. Complementary feeding refers to supplying food to a child apart from the breast milk (Shiess et al., 2010). However, early introduction of complimentary feeding results in disadvantages to the health and nutrition of the infant. In addition, it interferes with the absorption of the breast milk nutrients and increases the likelihood of allergic reactions. Complimentary feeding comprises of infant formulas that children feed on between 9-12 months (Shiess et al., 2010). Complimentary food can be bought at the stores or made at home. The formulas are very nutritious. However, they are not a complement for the breast milk. The formulas should be made from cow milk.
Due to the significance of feeding in the first year in a child’s life, it is important for parents to practice a necessary feeding guide during this period. Parents are advised to avoid introducing their children to solid foods unless the doctor recommends. Before then, children are usually unable to sit without assistance. This makes it difficult for them to consume and manage solid foods without much difficulty. Generally, an infant from one week to one month old requires feeding at least eight times within 24 hours. Three months old babies should be fed seven times a day, while babies within six months should eat six times.
As the babies grow, parents are advised to start introducing them to complementary foods in small portions. However, there is no exact period when they should be introduced to this type of food since children attain their maturity at different levels. Among the foods to be recommended after six months, include formula milk, dry infant cereal with iron, fruits, vegetables, juice, vitamin C fortified, starches, and snacks. Parents should prepare for their infants’ soupy and thick cereals and diets of a good variety (Regnault, et al., 2010).
In addition, Betoko, et al. (2013) conducted a study on the early eating patterns and behaviors of children. The authors confirmed that early eating patterns determine the eating habits and food preferences of children later in life. The first pattern labeled late CF introduction and use of foods prepared ready for the children to eat (Betoko, et al., 2013). In this pattern, the more economically stable women preferred longer breastfeeding; late CF introduction and application of home-made foods were preferable for the older and more educated mothers. while the third pattern, the use of adult foods was more preferred but the younger mothers and multiparous (Betoko, et al., 2013). The study concluded that maternal educational level, age, parity, and region were significant contributors to the variability in patterns.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Numerous studies identify personalized feeding patterns for children in the first year of life. There is, therefore, a great variability in the sample. Numerous factors affect the feeding patterns of children within this period, namely: maternal age, education level, regions, cost and availability of infant foods. Parents should, nevertheless, focus on the children’s eating habits within this period because it defines the future eating behavior of the children. Contrary to previous studies on breastfeeding, control of the dynamics of complimentary feeding patterns is insufficient. There is limited information on the complementary feeding patterns, unlike the studies on breastfeeding. This challenge shows the complexity of portraying the effects of different patterns of complimentary feeding.
Infants’ first year of life is important. It defines their feeding patterns and great part of children’s development happens in this period. Furthermore, the introduction of infants to foods defines their eating patterns later on in life. I suggest that parents should be considerate about the eating patterns of the infants and the nutritional content of the foods they take. I believe that more studies should be undertaken to determine the effect of complimentary foods among the infants as there are numerous alternatives to breast milk with minimal nutritional information and risks to the babies.
Betoko, A., Charles, M-A, Hankard, R., Forhan, A., Bonet, M., Saurel-Cubizolles, … the EDEN mother-child cohort study group. (2013). Infant feeding patterns over the first year of life: Influence of family characteristics. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 67, 631-637. Retriewed from www.nature.com/ejcn
Regnault, N., Botton, J., Forhan, A., Hankard, R., Thiebaugeorges, O., Hillier, … Charles, M. A.. (2010). Determinants of early ponderal and statural growth in full-term infants in the EDEN mother-child cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 92: 594–602.
Schiess. S,, Grote, V., Scaglioni, S., Luque, V., Martin, F., Stolarczyk, A., … Koletzko, B. (2010). European Childhood Obesity Project. Introduction of complementary feeding in 5 European countries. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 50: 92–98.