Your baby goes through many periods of growth and change in their first year of life. To support brain health, strong bones, and a healthy immune system, they’ll need plenty of nutrients. While you may know vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, and vitamin C are important for baby to get, you may not know why. Here are some often-surprising facts about nutrients your newborn needs (and how to incorporate them into baby’s diet).
Hemoglobin is an important part of red blood cells because it transports oxygen throughout the body. Most people have hemoglobin A, but newborns are born with mostly hemoglobin F. This type of hemoglobin better attracts oxygen so when baby is growing in mom’s belly, they will get plenty of oxygen. Hemoglobin F lasts until baby is about six months old – then baby has more hemoglobin A. The body uses iron to make hemoglobin, including hemoglobin A. This is why a baby’s iron stores can sometimes drop after six months of age. For this reason, babies need plenty of iron – and they may not always get it through breast milk. Sometimes, doctors will recommend iron supplements or eating iron-fortified cereal or formula to ensure baby takes in enough of this important mineral. Babies also need iron to prevent symptoms like weakness, fatigue, and irritability.
When your baby is born, they’ll receive a shot of vitamin K. While this may seem unusual, vitamin K is an important nutrient because it prevents the likelihood for brain bleeding. It works to promote blood clotting in the body – making it a very important nutrient! As your baby gets older, vitamin K-rich foods like spinach, soybeans, blueberries, and raspberries can all provide important sources of vitamin K.
You already know why your little one needs iron to grow. But zinc is another important mineral your baby needs. First, zinc helps to prevent diarrhea – and any parent who’s ever dealt with a poo-splosion can appreciate zinc for that. Zinc also helps to build needed immune system cells. The good news about zinc is that many iron-containing foods have zinc too. That’s a bonus for you when you’re trying to find foods for your little one.
Vitamin D and calcium are two nutrients that go together well to help the body absorb the maximal amount. Your newborn needs calcium to build strong bones and teeth (when they come in!) and vitamin D to promote bone growth and prevent the incidence of rickets, a condition that causes the bones to be weak. The good news is that both breast milk and formula will typically provide the needed calcium. However some breastfed babies may not get enough vitamin D. Ask your child’s pediatrician if you should consider a liquid supplement that can be easily mixed into a bottle of breastmilk.