Good nutrition is important for young children to help them grow healthy and strong.
Nutrition needs change during early childhood. For example, exclusive breast milk is the recommended source of nutrition for babies for about 6 months of life. As children grow older their nutrient needs increase. Feeding solid foods, in addition to breast milk or infant formula, helps to meet these needs.
Important Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin D is needed to support healthy bone development and to prevent rickets, a condition that causes weak bones. Vitamin D deficiency rickets is rare, but it can occur if your child does not receive additional vitamin D from his or her diet, a vitamin supplement, or from adequate exposure to sunlight.The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight and protecting them with clothing and hats to decrease their risk of skin cancer.
Sunlight is not a consistent source of vitamin D, and there are a number of factors that determine the amount of vitamin D a child will synthesize from sunlight. Factors that interfere with vitamin D production include:
- Living at high latitudes (closer to the Polar Regions), particularly during winter months.
- Air quality conditions: high levels of air pollution.
- Weather conditions: dense cloud covering.
- The degree to which clothing covers the skin.
- Use of sunscreen.
- Skin pigmentation: darker skin types.
Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse if you would like help making sure your child is getting enough vitamin D.
In the event of a natural disaster, be prepared for challenges, which may include power outages, unhealthy living spaces, and unsafe water. Always check with local authorities on the status of the drinking water and follow boil water advisories. Learn more about how to feed your child safely after a natural disaster, common questions about infant feeding during emergencies, special considerations, and how to be prepared for an emergency.
Although many medications do pass into breast milk, most have no effect on your breast milk supply or on your baby’s well-being.
You can search for more information about a specific medication at LactMed®. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have questions or concerns about taking medications while breastfeeding.
Visit CDC’s Breastfeeding Prescription Medication Use page to learn more.
If you are breastfeeding your baby, you may want to wait to use a pacifier until breastfeeding is well-established. At that time, using a pacifier for naps and at bedtime can help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Yes. Breastfeeding is great for toddlers too. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans [PDF-30.6MB] recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months, and then continuing breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods until your child is 12 months old or older. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization also recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months, with continued breastfeeding along with introducing appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years of age or longer.
For babies who are receiving both breast milk and infant formula, how much and how often a baby eats may be different than for babies who receive only breast milk or only infant formula. If you have questions about your baby’s feeding patterns, talk with his or her doctor or nurse.
There are several ways you can tell if your baby is getting enough to eat. Having regular wet and dirty diapers are signs your baby is eating enough. In addition, your child’s doctor or nurse can check his or her weight and length to make sure he or she is growing well. These measurements are usually done at the well-baby visits. If you have questions about your baby’s growth, talk to his or her doctor or nurse.
If you are interested in learning more about how growth is assessed for breastfed babies, how to continue to provide breast milk after returning to work or school, or which rights are available for breastfeeding mothers and more, learn answers to frequently asked breastfeeding questions.
Introducing Solid Foods
No, putting infant cereal or other solid foods in your baby’s bottle will not make him or her sleep longer and could increase your baby’s risk of choking.
Here are a few key signs to look for to help determine if your baby is ready for solid foods:
If you notice your baby:
- Sits up alone or with support.
- Is able to control head and neck.
- Opens the mouth when food is offered.
- Swallows food rather than pushes it back out onto the chin.
- Brings objects to the mouth.
- Tries to grasp small objects, such as toys or food.
- Transfers food from the front to the back of the tongue to swallow.
Have concerns about your child’s developmental milestones? Learn more about talking to your child’s doctor and sharing your concerns.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that for most children, you do not need to give foods in a certain order. Your child can begin eating solid foods at about 6 months old. By the time he or she is 7 or 8 months old, your child can eat a variety of foods from different food groups. These foods include infant cereals, meat or other proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, yogurts and cheeses, and more.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you start by introducing one food at a time and waiting 3 to 5 days between each new food. This helps you see how your child reacts to a new food.
Foods and Drinks for My Child
If your child is eating infant cereals, it is important to offer a variety of infant cereals such as oat, barley, and multi-grain instead of only rice cereal. Only providing infant rice cereal is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration because there is a risk for babies to be exposed to arsenic.
Visit the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to learn more.
It can be hard for your child to try new foods. Do not be discouraged if your child does not like a new food on the first try, or even the second or third. It may take time to get used to some foods. Babies may need to try some foods more than 10 times before they like them. We have some great tips to help you now.
100% juice means that the juice comes directly from fruits and/or vegetables. 100% juice does not have added sugars. Check the Nutrition Facts Labels and ingredients list to make sure it is 100% juice. Drinks labeled as juice drinks, fruit drinks, and fruit-flavored drinks have added sugars and should be avoided.
Babies younger than 12 months should not have any juice. Children older than 12 months can have 4 ounces or less of 100% juice a day.
Fish provide key nutrients that support a child’s brain development and immune system. Once your child starts eating solid foods, you can introduce fish as one of those foods. Fish contain an element called mercury, and it is important to choose fish that are lower in mercury. Mercury can be harmful to your baby’s brain development. For more information on the best choices of fish, see the FDA and EPA’s Advice About Eating Fish.