All of us would do whatever we could to keep our children happy and healthy. But we don’t always know the best foods and nutrients that our kids need. First and most importantly is to breastfeed your infant. Breast milk contains needed fats for brain development. Experts have found it helps your infant better fight infections, decrease the risk of allergies and develop good bacteria in his/her digestive system.
In addition to breastfeeding, the top 4 nutrients we need to give our children are:
- Iron is essential for brain development and energy. As a breastfeeding mom, make sure you are getting enough iron. Check with your doctor to see if your infant needs to be supplemented. We can find iron in avocadoes, leafy greens as well as meats, fish and iron-fortified cereals.
- Omega-3 Fats. Growing babies and children need plenty of fat, particularly saturated, monounsaturated, and omega-3 fats. These can be found in foods such as avocado, coconut, animal proteins and later in life, nuts, seeds and nut butters. Omega-3 fats, DHA in particular, are needed for brain development. You may want to talk to your doctor or nutritionist about an appropriate DHA/EPA supplement.
- Probiotics. As babies pass through the birth canal, mom’s bacteria colonizes the baby providing needed gastrointestinal and immune support. With C-section deliveries or in children who are treated with multiple antibiotics, these necessary germs may be missing. Giving an additional probiotic to breastfeeding moms or to infants can help. Talk to your doctor about what probiotic supplements may be appropriate for you.
- Vitamin D. Because of modern life and our indoor lifestyles, many mothers and infants are deficient in vitamin D. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a daily vitamin D supplement of 400IU for all breast-fed infants, starting immediately after birth. Breastfeeding mothers should check their vitamin D levels and supplement as needed.
Other nutrients our growing children may need include zinc, choline, and iodine. Zinc is needed by our cells for many enzyme functions. Foods high in zinc include peas & beans, nuts & seeds, meat, poultry and fish. Choline is essential for brain and liver function. Foods high in choline include broccoli, egg yolks, wheat germ, beef, Brussels sprouts, and fish. Our thyroids need adequate amounts of iodine to function well. Foods with good iodine content include dried prunes, strawberries and sea vegetables as well as appropriate amounts of iodized salts, such as Celtic salts.
A Healthy Start
To give our children the best start consider breastfeeding for the first six months, adding whole foods like avocado, healthy, brightly-colored fruits and vegetables around six months and talking with your doctor about supplements (omega-3 fats, probiotics, iron, zinc, iodine, etc.) that may be needed. Enjoy your baby, trust your instincts and feed them well.
Nancy O’Hara, MD, MPH is a board-certified pediatrician. Courtesy of Happy Family.
Dr. O’Hara graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and earned a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh. She has dedicated her practice to the integrative and holistic care of children with neurodevelopment disorders, ADHD, PANDAS/PANS, OCD, Lyme, allergies and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. She is a leader in the training of clinicians, both in the US and abroad.
Center for Integrated Health
Photo Credit: DRAGOLJUB NIKOLOVSKI/GETTY
Disclaimer: Happy Family is a paid sponsor for the Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM) Campaign 2015. The opinions expressed by Happy Family, Nancy O’Hara, and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of PAM or any employee thereof. PAM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Happy Family or Nancy O’hara. Always consult with your medical provider regarding any personal health questions or decisions (including nutrition, diet, and exercise).
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