Once your little nipper has progressed to solid food, she’ll not be able to simply rely upon breast milk as her primary source of nutrients. In fact, breast milk is known to be the perfect baby food; she’ll now have to get the nutrients she needs from the food that she eats.

To promote physical and cognitive development, babies need a balanced source of vitamins and minerals. With a little planning, meeting these nutrient requirements should be a breeze for the average, healthy baby. Getting them to love eating these foods, well, that’s a challenge left for another writing.

babies boy and girl wearing a chef hat with healthy  food vegeta

Iron – The Blood Mineral

Iron is a key nutrient for making hemoglobin, which allows our blood to carry oxygen. Unsurprisingly, therefore, babies need this too.

Your baby’s iron requirements increase with age: between 0-6 months, 0.27 mg/day is sufficient, whereas between 7-12 months, a higher intake of 11 mg/day is recommended. At this point, babies tend to begin the transition to solid food, so it’s extra important to ensure your baby has a good source of iron from her meals. Good sources of iron are eggs, meat, and dark green leafy vegetables. Mix these into her food to make it easy to swallow and digest.

Fussy eaters may not hit the recommended iron consumption levels in their daily diets. In this case, your pediatrician may recommend iron supplements instead, or to incorporate iron-fortified infant formula and cereal into their diets.


Zinc – The Growth Mineral

Your child’s digestion and metabolism depends on a host of enzymes, and these enzymes depend on – you guessed it – Zinc! Pre-natal zinc deficiency is associated with genetic abnormalities, and can lead to stunted growth in children.

For children from the ages of 1 to 3, the recommended amount of zinc is 3mg per day. Great sources include peas and beans, almonds, lentils, yogurt, wheat cereals. Exert control over the amount of zinc that your child ingests, though, as too much zinc can lead to nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.


Vitamin C – The Miracle Mineral

Vitamin C is needed for tissue growth and repair, maintenance of cartilage, bones and teeth, heal wounds and form scar tissue, and make tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. On top of this, vitamin C has antioxidant properties, is touted as a remedy for the common cold … need we say more? Our bodies are unable to manufacture vitamin C, and does not store it as well, therefore all our vitamin C requirements have to be through our diet.

Newborns need 40mg of vitamin C per day, and this increases to 50mg from 6 months to 1 year. Fortunately, most babies will not need vitamin C in the form of supplements, as infant formula and breast milk contains all the vitamin C that your baby needs.

For breastfeeding mums, ensure that you’re eating well and getting sufficient vitamin C through your diet, so this can be passed on to your baby. Citrus fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and tomato are excellent sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin D – The Bone Mineral

Vitamin D regulates the levels of minerals such as phosphorus and calcium in our bodies, and is important in maintaining proper bone structure. This mineral helps to build strong teeth and bones, and is also used for boosting the immune system, reducing the risk of autoimmune diseases.

Only small amounts of vitamin D is transferred from mum to baby in breast milk, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that breastfeeding babies get a supplement of 400IU per day of vitamin D. This extends to babies who are partially or fully on a formula diet, but drink less than 32 ounces of formula in a day.

Excellent dietary sources of vitamin D include fresh salmon, canned tuna, fortified yogurt or cheese. Thankfully, vitamin D can be obtained through exposure to sunlight, and this is a bonus in a tropical country like Singapore.


DHA – An Essential Fatty Acid (EFA)

What’s that you say? A fatty acid? Heck no! Get that away from me!

Despite what its name may imply, DHA will not cause your baby to pile on the pounds and become a suckling ball of fat. Conversely, DHA is important for brain and eye development / function throughout life, and especially so for growing babies in their first two years of life.

DHA is commonly found in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, but these are not staples in the diet of babies. Rather, DHA can be passed on to your baby through breast milk, so make sure you feast adequately on those fatty fish. If you happen to be a vegan mum, your pediatrician may recommend DHA supplements to ensure adequate levels of DHA intake.

Nonetheless, most infant formulas and fortified foods contain this critical nutrient, making it easier for people of all ages, and babies especially, to obtain DHA in their daily diets.

There are a few more caveats to consider when considering supplemental vitamins for your baby. Consult your pediatrician if these conditions apply to you or your baby:

  • Your baby was premature or has health problems.
  • Your baby is a fussy eater or has milk allergy/lactose intolerance.
  • You’re breastfeeding and you’re a vegan, which may mean that you're not getting enough iron, zinc, or calcium.
  • You’re breastfeeding and you think your diet is lacking in important vitamins and minerals.

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