Infant Nutrition – The Lactation Stage

Infant nutrition is possible through good nutrition from the mother. Infancy is defined as the period of a child’s life between birth and one year. This is a time for the child of rapid growth, and nutritional needs are higher than for any other time in the child’s life cycle.

Human milk at this stage provides all of the nutrients an infant needs and is the model for infant formulas. By 4-6 months the infant has reached a stage of physiological maturation that signals the child’s readiness for solid foods to be added to the diet.

Energy and Nutrient Needs During Infancy

To determine what nutrients newborn and infant needs are the composition of human breast milk is used as the standard.

The energy needs of an infant are based on the amount of energy that is required such as for respiration and metabolism. An infant’s energy needs relative to the infant’s size are about twice that of an adult, these energy needs vary for activity throughout the first year of life, increasing as the child becomes more mobile. The infant needs about 100 kilocalories/kilogram of body weight. The best diet for infants taken from the model for human breast milk is high in fat and moderate in carbohydrate, a diet that is high in fat is necessary for normal brain growth, which continues until about 18-24 months of age.

Protein needs are also higher than at any other time in the life cycle, these protein needs during the first six months of life are nearly twice as high as an adult’s needs.

Carbohydrates and triglycerides are the major energy sources for infants. The primary form carbohydrate in human milk and in infant formulas made cow’s milk is lactose, which infants digest easily and tolerate.

Since triglycerides are the major energy source in human milk providing about 50-55% of calories. These fats in milk also enhance a baby’s sense of fullness between feeding; therefore it recommended that infants get at least 30 grams of fat. Breast milk is rich in essential fatty acids, which have a role in neurological development. Human milk is rich in cholesterol which is needed for brain development.

The water in the infant’s body is higher than adults since infants need more fluids. Human milk fulfills not any fulfills nutrient needs for the infant but also the infant’s fluid requirement as does properly prepared infant formula and actually during the first 4-6 months a healthy infant doesn’t need supplemental water it is not necessary.

Infant Nutrition - Vitamin and Mineral Needs

Vitamins and minerals are also provided in human milk.

Vitamin D is a key nutrient for the absorption of calcium and mineralization of bone to prevent rickets in the event of insufficient exposure to sunlight in infants and children.

Vitamin K is necessary for the production of prothrombin, which is needed for blood clotting. Intestinal bacteria which synthesizes vitamin K is absent in the gut of an infant, because an infant’s gut is sterile. Therefore the recommendation is that a single dose of vitamin K be given at birth.

Vitamin B12 is essential for cell division and normal Folate. When the mother includes meat, fish, and dairy products in their diets can then produce breast milk that has an adequate amount of vitamin B12.

Iron is a mineral essential for growth and development with iron deficiency anemia being the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S. Although human milk is not rich in iron it doesn’t need to be. Because the mother consumes iron rich foods in her diet, this allows the fetus to buildup iron reserves which don’t begin to diminish until the infant’s fourth month of life, and the infant begins to need supplementation by the sixth month.

Fluoride is low in human milk, and since fluoride is needed for dental health supplementation needs to begin for the infant by six months of age.

As long as the mother’s nutrition is adequate, the infant can obtain its nutritional needs from breast milk or properly prepared infant formula since formula is based on the contents of human milk.

For a great video and slide series about infant nutrition click on the link to

Infant Solids Nutrition - Introducing Solid Foods Into The Diet

For more information about infant nutrition click on the link to

For other information on nutrition including infant nutrition some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

Nutrition and Pregnancy
Nutrition During Pregnancy
Nutrition After Pregnancy
Alcohol and Diet
Chronic Disease
Nutrition Eating Disorders
Exercise and Vitamins
Nutrition and Exercise
Cooking and Nutrition
Nutrients In Food
Energy From Food
Water and Nutrition
Dietary Minerals
Cooking Recipes
Cooking Easy Recipes Home