Tips On Infant and Child Nutrition ~
An Interview with Hazel Ng, R.D.
Part 1: Nutrition and Feeding Guide for infants 0 – 12 months
Q: When should I introduce my baby to solid foods?
A: From newborn to 6 months old, breast milk and formula have an adequate amount of nutrients for your baby’s growth and development. Beginning at 6 months, babies are able to adapt and adjust to introductory solid foods like fortified rice cereal and Chinese congee. At 6 months, chance of allergic reactions is much reduced. It is also beneficial to add foods that are fortified with iron because baby’s storage of iron will start depleting.
Q: Are there big disadvantages/advantages between breast milk and formula?
A: Breast milk has a good proportion of major nutrients for a baby’s growth, development, and digestion. As your child grows, the composition of your breast milk changes as well—fitting the needs of your child. We encourage mothers to exclusively feed their child breast milk as long as possible. This not only benefits your child’s health, but studies have shown that a longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with reduced risks of breast cancers in mothers.
However, formula is the best alternative for breast milk. If mothers decide not to breastfeed due to medical reasons (remember “not enough milk” should not be the reason for not breastfeeding), give formula. Never give regular cow’s milk to infants less than 11 months old.
Q: Should I introduce fruits or vegetables first to my baby?
A: Many mothers tend to introduce fruits first because of its sweetness and babies like it better. However, I advise to introduce vegetables first because some babies tend to have preference of sweetness. Getting them to try less “tasty” vegetables such as peas and broccoli and then introduce carrots and squash and lastly fruits will help babies to adapt to the bland taste of veggies. Introducing less flavorful foods will actually allow the baby to be more accepting of all kinds of food when they grow up.
Q: How much solids should I feed my baby at this stage?
A: Do not worry about giving your baby enough “quantity” of solids at this age; his/her main source of nutrition should still be coming from milk. The idea is to let your child to explore different tastes and textures, and get used to sitting down and eating with a spoon or finger. Just keep in mind that solid food introductions should be made one at a time, with a 3-day trial period. This will allow you to find out if your baby has an allergy to a certain type of food—usually foods containing protein or citrus.
Q: Are homemade baby foods better than store brands?
A: I do encourage mothers to make your own baby food—if possible, this way, you can tailor the nutrients of the baby food, and also make the food more nutrient-dense. However, busy mothers who can’t find time to cook can rest assured that bigger brands of baby food are perfectly fine as long as you do provide a good variety of food from different food groups.
Q: What is the next stage of solid food feeding?
A: At 7 months, babies can begin eating foods with protein such as meats, fish, egg yolks, as well as crackers or teething foods. Foods do not only contain nutritional benefits, but provide training and practice for coordination as well. Their little fingers can learn how to grab these crackers while practicing chewing with their teeth.
Never ever be forceful about feeding your child! This only leads to your child associating eating with bad feelings. We encourage mothers to be calm and relaxed when feeding children to encourage a more positive, enjoyable attitude.
Q: Why is 12 months an important benchmark for babies?
A: At 12 months, milk is no longer the main source of nutrients. Babies are now ready for table foods (foods that we eat at the table for dinner) and no longer need items to be blended. They can also transition into regular milk. However, be wary of giving your child 2% or reduced fat milk. Babies should drink whole milk until the age of 2.
Q: What about fruit juices and soups?
A: Fruit juices found at supermarkets are unnecessary because they are usually just regular juice diluted with water—something you can do at home! For most Asian families, soups are fine for children as a beverage. However, make sure there is no sugar or salt added. Also, try to serve soups to your child after a solid meal.
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Part 2: Feeding Picky Eaters
Q: My child is a very picky eater and it drives me crazy, why is that?
A: Almost all 2 to 3 year old children are picky eaters. At this age, they have a very strong desire for independence and can find a sense of power through choosing what they eat. Parents who try to control what and how much their children are eating, actually might encourage a power struggle and motivate the child to rebel even more. It is suggested that, as parents, we should control “what” they eat and let them decide “how much” to eat.
Q: What if I don’t think my child is getting enough nutrients?
A: Children have a very interesting way of balancing their nutritional intake naturally. Though parents worry about, for example, their child only wants to eat bread all day, he/she will then eat more from other food groups, like meats and protein on another day to make up for the lack of intake on the day before. Therefore, parents need to make sure different food groups (visit mypyramid.gov for the Food pyramid) are provided at each meal to allow children to at least have something nutritious that we like them to eat. This allows your child to have a sense of choice to satisfy their need for independence, as well as provide you with a peace of mind.
If you are really concerned about your child’s intake, or if you see your child’s growth start to slow down, you should consult a dietitian to assess the nutritional intake of your child. The dietitian will usually ask you to bring a 3-days food journal of your child and other growth data for assessment.
Q: Why is stopping picky eating so important?
Your child suffering from obesity in the future can be connected to an early childhood of picky eating. Eating habits begin from day one and can greatly affect your child’s future—either in a positive or negative way—this depends on how early you begin intervention. We recommend that you see a dietitian to evaluate your child’s nutrient intake and eating habits if your child is neglecting a certain food group habitually.
Additional readings & links:
www.Kidshealth.org – kids and teens health and fitness information
www.Eatright.org – nutrition resources and to find a dietitian near you
www.Smarteater.net – Nutrition articles in Chinese by Hazel.
Disclaimer: La JaJa Kids forms an advisory board that consists of physicians, medical specialists, academics and teachers, to share professional advice on voluntary basis. Information provided above is for reference only, our publication and member of the advisory board will not be liable for the content in any legal manners.
Hazel is also a mother of a beautiful 3-year-old girl.
Hazel graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Nutrition & Clinical Dietetics in 1995. She was the supervising nutritionist at the Women, Infants, & Children program and the clinical dietitian at the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles after she graduated from her internship program. She then relocated to Hong Kong as the Vice-president of Diet Asia Nutrition Consultation Center.
Hazel has co-authored the first multimedia Weight Management Tools in Hong Kong. She is also a Certified Lactation Educator and she was actively teaching maternal & infants nutrition in the prenatal classes at the hospital.
While she is running her own nutrition clinic inMonterey Park, Hazel is also the College Dietitian at Cerritos College. Recently, she started a new joint venture “HeatlhyCuisine" which is a unique health & weight improvement program utilizing freshly gourmet Asian cuisines to help people achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Q: What is the best parenting advice you ever got?
Looking at things from my child’s perspective of the world allows me to re-experience childhood like his, and helps me better understand her feelings and needs.
Q: What are your best parenting resources?
Parenting books, websites and experience shared among friends.
Q: Do you have any family traditions or routines? What are they?
Visiting her great-grandmother’s home every Friday; The capability to clearly and courageously express herself through language, music, painting and art. Q: What present will you give your child on his/her 10th birthday? A record of her daily life: from 0 to 10 years, including photos, video, combined into an album, and review it together with her. Q: Name a recent children’s book or movie/program. Why is it rewarding? As she went to see a movie with her classmates for the first time (Toy Story 3), and she was the only one who could sit still throughout the film. The most rewarding part was to see that she knows to treasure her toys. Q: What is the most impressive thing that happened between you and your child lately? She watched me in an aerobics class and followed all my dance steps, surprisingly well! 采– – a colorful life, 嵐– – being close to nature; Carissa is derived from Carlo, her father’s name
Q: A talent that you wish your children possessed is…
Q: What inspired you to give your child the name that you did?
Visiting her great-grandmother’s home every Friday;
The capability to clearly and courageously express herself through language, music, painting and art.
Q: What present will you give your child on his/her 10th birthday?
A record of her daily life: from 0 to 10 years, including photos, video, combined into an album, and review it together with her.
Q: Name a recent children’s book or movie/program. Why is it rewarding?
As she went to see a movie with her classmates for the first time (Toy Story 3), and she was the only one who could sit still throughout the film. The most rewarding part was to see that she knows to treasure her toys.
Q: What is the most impressive thing that happened between you and your child lately?
She watched me in an aerobics class and followed all my dance steps, surprisingly well!
采– – a colorful life, 嵐– – being close to nature; Carissa is derived from Carlo, her father’s name