Expert Baby Nutrition Guidelines: What & How Much to Feed?

Drinks tagged as “baby and children’s drinks” are not necessarily ideal for the young. These solutions usually contain a lot of sugar. American and German scientists have compiled guidelines on what children up to the age of five should drink instead.

The health of a baby or a child is directly defined by what they eat or drink. In this vital and early stage of physical and mental development, the right choice of baby nutrition is a parent’s important responsibility. As a parent, you should educate yourself regarding important baby nutrition guidelines provided by field experts.

In this DIYmam post, we will be looking into the nutrition guidelines offered by both American and German scientists and baby nutrition experts.

Various US health and nutrition organizations have jointly published recommendations on what babies and children up to the age of five should drink. These institutions include the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, and the research project Healthy Eating Research.

The experts recommend parents breastfeed their babies. If breastfeeding is not an option, parents should choose a good breast milk substitute that is doesn’t contain plant-based milk substitutes such as oat or soy milk drinks.

Introduce Healthy Food at an Early Age

Early childhood is an important time to develop first eating habits. Proper nutrition at this stage also influences a child’s physical and mental growth.

In the first five years of life, beverages are an important source of nutrients and calories. They can have a major impact on health well into the future, says Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Besser, who also helped develop the new baby nutrition Guidelines believes families need clear and consistent guidelines on what their young children should and should not drink.

Safe Drinks for Babies & Children

Important guidelines from the abovementioned experts are presented in the table below. Please note that these nutrition recommendations only apply to healthy children. They don’t apply to babies and children with certain conditions like milk intolerance.

Age recommendation
0 to 6 months Babies only need breast milk or infant formula.
6 to 12 months As soon as complementary foods are introduced, a small amount of pure drinking water should be offered in addition to breast milk so that babies can get used to the taste. A few sips while eating is sufficient.
12 to 24 months Whole milk and water are recommended at this age.
2 to 5 years Milk and water are still recommended at this stage. However, the milk should contain less fat than whole milk.

According to experts, children should not drink juices until they are one year old at the earliest. This should consist of 100 percent fruit and contain no added sugar. Parents are recommended to dilute the juice with water to make a spritzer. Even healthier is to give the child chopped fruit instead.

Baby Nutrition Guidelines: The German Nutrition Society

The German Nutrition Society (DGE) generally recommends calorie-free drinks for children. These include water, and unsweetened herbal, fruit, and rooibos teas. Water is the first choice because it quenches thirst well, contains no calories, and tastes neutral. Teas offer variety in the diet. When brewing the tea, make sure that they are lightly brewed as children taste intense.

Juice spritzers (one part juice, three parts water) are acceptable drinks. Parents are advised to offer spritzers from time to time.

The Federal Center for Health Education also rejects fruit juices as healthy food items as they contain a lot of calories.

Here is what the DGE recommends:

Age recommendation
0 to 5 months If possible, all infants should be breastfed up to at least 5 months of age. If the baby is not breastfed or not fully breastfed, the baby should be given industrially manufactured infant formula.
5/7 to 9 months No other drinks are necessary while breastfeeding or feeding with ready-to-use milk formula. This also applies to the first few months when complementary foods are introduced. The exception is if the infant sweats heavily or has a fever on hot days. In these cases, some additional water can be given in consultation with the pediatrician. Infants who are breastfed are created more often in this case. Only when the third meal is replaced by a porridge (cereal-fruit porridge) does the baby need liquid in addition to breastfeeding or baby food (approx. 200 ml per day). Infants should preferably be given calorie-free drinks with complimentary food. The best drink for babies is drinking water; Unsweetened fruit and herbal teas are also suitable for thirst quenchers. However, instant infant teas are not recommended. They often contain maltodextrin or other sugars.
10 to 12 months We recommend around 400 ml of liquid per day, preferably in the form of water or unsweetened tea.
up to 4 years 820 ml of fluid per day is recommended.
4 to 7 years 940

DGE Recommendations for Milk

According to the DGE, normal milk is not suitable for feeding babies in the first year of life. The reason is its composition. Normal milk/drinking milk has a high protein and mineral content and is low in polyunsaturated fatty acids, iron, and iodine.

Milk meals in the first year of life should consist of breast milk or baby milk formulas, says one DGE expert.

  • Small amounts of drinking milk (up to around 200 ml per day) can be used to prepare a milk and cereal porridge. When the porridge meal is replaced by a bread meal towards the end of the first year, the same amount of milk is safe to feed.
  • Children between the ages of 1 and 3 need around 300 to 330 ml of milk and dairy products a day. It is preferable to divide the diet into three servings. For instance, a small glass of milk for breakfast, a small mug of yogurt in the afternoon, and a cheese sandwich for dinner.
  • Milk is not suitable as a thirst quencher due to its energy content.
  • Raw milk and milk harbors can pose significant health risks to infants as they are easily contaminated by bacteria. Many of these bacteria can cause serious illnesses in infants and young children alike. For this reason, only heat-treated (pasteurized or ultra-high-temperature) milk should be used.
  • Plant milk beverages are not an alternative to cow’s milk. They are not nutritionally valuable because they provide fewer nutrients.

Milk Intolerance in Children: Expert Advice

Some children cannot tolerate cow milk as they react to the protein it contains or because they have trouble digesting the lactose.

If the child shows symptoms of milk intolerance, parents should seek advice from a nutritionist. The expert may recommend Lactose-free dairy products as an alternative. Lactose-free dairy products contain just as many vitamins, minerals, and protein as conventional dairy products.

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