Provision of adequate energy and nutrients is needed in the first year of life to support the most rapid growth and development period in a person's life. From birth to six months of age about 108 calories per kilogram per day are needed; by twelve months a baby needs about 100 calories per kilogram per day. Since babies can eat only a small volume of food to support rapid growth, they require nutrient-dense, highly caloric foods. Fat must contribute at least 30 percent of total calories to meet the demands of growth and development. Babies should double their birthweight by four to six months of age and triple it by one year. On average, their length will increase by 50 percent in the first year of life.
Mother's breast milk is the best source of nutrients for a newborn. A full-term infant's digestive system has been specially designed to digest breast milk. Whether by breast or by bottle, feeding on demand is best. Infants can self-regulate their food intake to match their nutritional needs, based upon internal hunger and satiety cues. Parents need to pay attention to their baby's cues and feed them accordingly. If a baby is bottle-fed and signals that he is full by pulling away or easily becoming distracted, consumption of the entire bottle is not necessary.
For the first four to six months, babies should be fed only breast milk or correctly prepared infant formula. Children under the age of twelve months should not have cow's milk. Between four and six months of age, children are usually developmentally ready to try moist, soft foods. To easily identify allergies, one food should be introduced at a time, with a three-day wait before the introduction of another new food. Parents should encourage the child to try new foods, one at a time. During the first year or so, children will learn to chew, swallow, and manipulate finger foods; drink from a cup; and eventually feed themselves. Of course, they will make lots of mess while learning these skills, so patience is important. Bottle-fed infants should be weaned from the bottle by twelve to fourteen months of age. There is no specific time to wean a breast-fed child; the longer a baby is on breast milk, the better it will be for her health and well-being.
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