“Continue to teach your children in regard to their own bodies, and how to take care of them. Recklessness in regard to bodily health tends to recklessness in moral character." Child Guidance, page 104

The diet of the pregnant woman dramatically influences the health of the newborn, either positively or negatively. And the eating habits developed by the child—if good ones—will hopefully remain with him throughout life. So, start today to help your child eat good food and develop other good eating habits.

Habits established from birth to age 6 are vitally important (the results may even be irreversible). A good diet in this stage is essential for the ideal growth and development of the child (Amaya, M, 2016).

“Never forget how important food is for the growth and development of the child. As you ensure adequate nutritional intake, also take time to train and educate the child to make healthful choices himself” (Rosado, 2012).

Health education specialists promote the voluntary adoption of eating habits to achieve health, with a variety of nutritious foods while respecting traditions, cultures, and social environments (FAO, 2014).

General considerations for nourishment in the first stage of life

Nutritional needs of children change as they grow, depending on the speed of growth, diet, sex, and even their state of health. Therefore, the main goal of parents, caregivers, and teachers should be to provide maximum nutrition for  children, especially because they are so suspectible to the effects of poor nutrition (Serafin, 2012).

General recommendations have been given for proper diet and nutrition through life, but now we will focus on the official Mexican standard 043, emphasizing the first stages of the human being.

Birth to 6 months
Breast milk is the ideal food for the baby. Its multiple benefits include immune system strengthening, stimulation of the senses, weight increase, and bonding of mother and baby.

It has been shown that children who were breastfed have a long-term lower incidence of obesity, hypertension, asthma, diabetes, and other diseases. The mother, of course, must have a proper diet because the quality of her milk depends on her nutritional condition.

From 6 to 12 months
At around 6 months the baby's nutritional requirements change, and exclusive breastfeeding does not meet them, so it is necessary for solid food to be introduced. At this point, we can create the foundation for healthy habits in adult life.

The addition of solid food may even start at 4 months, depending on the physiological maturity of the child. The objective  is to both nourish the infant and educate his sense of taste.

4 to 6 months 
Preferably start with fruits and vegetables. The ideal preparation is pureed or mashed. It can also be mixed with a little broth. Baby is ready to take semi-solid food with a spoon, provided 2 or 3 times per day.

5 to 7 months 
Continue with fruits and vegetables, mixed with milk or water, with the consistency of puree. Start to include cereals and cooked tubers (corn, oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.). Do not give artificial juices or purees.

6 to 8 months
Continue with cooked legumes  (lentils, chickpeas, fava and other beans). You may also introduce tortillas or bread. At this age, the child is probably able to eat small pieces of food. Be ready to help, however, if the baby seems to choke or develop a stomach ache from the food.

8 to 12 months 
Include corn and wheat by-products (such as bread and biscuits). If you choose, you can add organic eggs and grass-fed dairy products. The preparation can be in small pieces, and the child may use his own fork and spoon. After 12 months, the child may eat most of what the rest of the family eats.

The following food additions are recommended after 24 months of age: oil-containing foods (almonds, peanuts, other nuts, etc.), cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries, kiwis, peaches, eggs and dairy products (if you wish), and  condiments. The foregoing foods may produce food allergies if eaten by a child of less than 24 months of age.

1. Do not add two new foods at the same time to the child's diet, and do not force him to accept them.
2. Do not add salt or sweetening to the food.
3. Gradually increase the amount of solid food offered to the child; because as you introduce new foods the baby drinks less milk.
4. Try to adapt the feeding schedule of the child to that of the rest of the family, especially to the mother. Three meals per day are recommended.

Take into consideration
The child may need to try a food at least ten times before he will accept it.   Candies and sugary drinks SHOULD NOT BE OFFERED, not even occasionally.

References, all in Spanish
Amaya, M, A. Y. (2016). Impacto de intervenciones educativas sobre el estado nutricional en pre-escolares. sector Wichanzao - Trujillo. 2015. UVC-Scientia, 29-32.
Norma oficial mexicana 043-SSA2-2010.   Servicios básicos de salud en materia alimentaria, criterios para brindar orientación.
Rosado, C. I. (2012). La nutrición y el comedor: Su importancia contrastada sobre el rendimiento escolar. Madrid: Ergon.
Serafin, P. (2012). Manual de alimentación escolar. 6-7.
Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura (FAO, por sus siglas en inglés: Food and Agriculture Organization), 2012.
Villares, J. M. (2015). Alimentación del niño preescolar, escolar y adolescente. Pediatría integral, 269-270.

Alejandro Chimal Chimal, Mexico

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