Infancy and toddlerhood are life’s sponge stage, soaking up knowledge about everything they can see, taste and hear. The zero to age three stage of the lifespan is critical for developing emotional connections with others and skills in interpersonal communication.
Infants and toddlers have a faster metabolic rate than other age groups. Additional growth spurts occur in adolescence and as teenagers and the metabolic rate – how fast energy is used by the body even while asleep – increases at those stages of life also. Dr. Robert Murray discussed infant and child growth at an international Growth Summit in 2017. A video of the event is available as a Continuing Education session for dietitians and nurses. It includes risk factors to watch for that might indicate malnutrition in an infant’s or child’s diet and how it can affect their long term cognitive development – verbal and mathematical and basic intelligence – as well as impact their height and weight. The video is available for viewing by anyone, registration with the continuing education organization would be required for dietitians and nurses interested in the free continuing education certificate; Abbott Nutrition Health Institute: anhi.org. Dr. Robert Murray: Malnutrition – The Child At-Risk, Growth Summit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, March 2-4, 2017, https://anhi.org/conferences/growth-summit-2017/malnutrition-the-child-at-risk.
A summary of nutrients and phytonutrients that are important for early childhood development was included in the video – it reinforces the point that all nutrients are important not just one or a few:
- Vitamin B1 – utilize glucose, modulate cognitive language development.
- Vitamin B6, B12, choline – synthesis of neurotransmitters. (Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that activate or inhibit brain cells/neurons).
- Vitamin B12- Cognition, language.
- Vitamin C – concentrated in nerve endings.
- Vitamin D – prevents neurodegenerative disease.
- Vitamin E – membrane protection.
- Flavonoids – protect, enhance neurons.
- Iron – oxygenation, synthesis of myelin and neurotransmitters, brain development IQ. (Myelin is the insulating layer around the branching connections between nerve cells, it acts a little like the plastic coating on an extension cord – the inner part of the nerve is electrically active. Infant are born with brain cells that aren’t connected during toddlerhood the connections increase as learning occurs.)
- Magnesium – energy and ion regulation.
- Zinc – task perception, attention.
- Iodine – via the thyroid, cellular energy, metabolism.
- Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids – cognition, visual development.
- Lutein – macular protection. (Eye-sight development, the macula is part of the eye).
- By Dr. Robert Murray, from Malnutrition – the Child At-Risk.
The discussion includes several factors to watch for in assessing an infant’s or child’s health in addition to measuring their physical height and weight and comparing to standard charts of child growth. Malnutrition of some nutrients can negatively impact brain development even if the child is average size or even large or overweight for their height. Picky eating over time, for more than a few weeks or a few meals occasionally is one of the clearest indicators that the child may be receiving calories but may not be receiving enough varied nutrients and protein in their diet. Infants who start solid foods early and are breast fed a shorter amount of time may then develop an over-preference for milk, juice and other sweetened beverages and may even be fearful of trying solid foods or trying new solid foods. When that type of pickiness lasts into the toddler years it can leave the child undernourished and deficient in many important nutrients.
Complete nutrition formulas/meal replacement beverages can be helpful to support the child’s nutrient needs while also educating the parents or caregivers on healthy eating relationship tactics. Children do have favorites and stages where they eat a lot of something and then don’t want it at all but those stages in normal development typically only last a few weeks not years. Inadequate zinc can leave anyone with a poor appetite so providing a complete/fortified meal replacement beverage instead of juice or milk can help give the child the nutrients that help support a better appetite and a better mood. Stubbornness and anxiety can also be symptoms of undernourishment of important nutrients.
Helping support improved growth and better balance in the diet of a picky eater ideally should be viewed as a project for years, not for one office visit. Parents or caregivers may need to learn about being more open to foods too, a history of picky eating in the parent can also be common in the child with a growth pattern that slows over time. Ongoing education visits in an office or home-based visit program can be very helpful for providing ongoing educaiton and support of progress within the family and with the child’s eating preferences.
- See the video of the 2017 Growth Summit with Dr. Robert Murray, Malnutrition – the Child At-Risk, for more information.
In my experience working with families with young children I found that they often had success with ending extreme picky eating simply by providing water for thirst and limiting milk to the recommended amount for the age and providing less juice or other sweetened beverages. The current American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation is to provide no juice to infants under age one. (aap.org) Our brains and taste are trained to want the sweet taste of breast milk but otherwise our digestive system expects water as a beverage. In nature there is no juice or other calorie beverage after we are weaned from mother’s milk as a toddler. The typical age for weaning an infant completely off breast milk was around age two to three years old – not three months or three weeks. Infant formula has improved but a century ago it was not a healthy substitute for breast milk.
Whole fruit provides the digestive system fiber and a physical sense of fullness that fruit juice doesn’t provide. the fiber slows down digestion slightly so the sugar contained in the fruit isn’t being absorbed into the bloodstream as rapidly where it can cause hormonal and mood changes – a rush of energy and a rush of insulin that may make us hungrier for more sweet food.
In my counseling experience parents often had success when they followed the recommendation to limit milk to the recommended amount (about 24-32 ounces per day depending on the age of the infant or toddler) and to limit fruit juice to 2-4 ounces per day (the recommendation at that time) and to provide water for thirst. Within three to six months frequently the picky eating problem, not wanting solids or only wanting a few favorites, was no longer a problem.
Our bodies are roughly 70% water and water helps us digest food more easily and excrete toxins more easily. Too little water can increase risk of constipation. No water is recommended on average for infants however a few ounces (2-4 ounces unsweetened water/day) offered as occasional sips is likely safe. We need a daily intake of ounces of water equal to about half our body weight in pounds, (Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, Batmanghelidj) so roughly a 30 pound toddler might benefit from 15 ounces of water per day – around four four ounce servings. Water recommendations are only estimates because in hot weather or when more physically active the body may lose more fluid as sweat and an increased amount of water should be available to replace the lost fluid. General recommendations for children based on age and gender are available at eatright.org.
Guidance for measuring infants and children and use of biochemical/laboratory tests, physical symptoms to look for and use of food history and other questions to ask parents is reviewed in an additional video from the Growth Summit with Dr. Margaret Aw. (anhi.org/Assessing Growth and Nutritional Status) She includes in the discussion of food history and use of food diaries a rough guideline for what might be considered a limited diet – or a more severely picky eater. Eating fewer than 15 types of food on a regular basis may not provide enough variety of nutrients to support a balanced intake for optimal development.
As an example of how a dietitian might count food variety compared to how a parent who eats a limited diet and may not realize it might count food variety – a week’s menu that includes spaghetti with cheese, tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, cheese pizza are all meals that include the same three foods – wheat, tomatoes, and cheese. Adding chopped garbanzo beans to the spaghetti sauce and a side salad with lettuce and grated beets would add three more food types. Adding carrot and celery sticks and a bowl of popcorn to the tomato soup meal would add three more foods. Adding a white bean side salad with oregano, basil, and olive oil to the cheese pizza meal would add four more food types. Different vegetables, herbs or beans may contain slightly different amounts and types of phytonutrients.
BPA and plastic vs glass bottles, article covers many toxins linked to causing diabetes. Gestational diabetes risk increased with exposure to ____ this article is long and all categories of lifespan affected by info in it – spend more time with it. http://www.naturalnews.com/023701_diabetes_food_exposure.html
3Mothers: The following link is somewhat unrelated to infancy except that a fierce desire to protect an infant may be an underlying difference between women and men. The hormone oxytocin increases in women after having a baby and frequent touch and cuddling with the baby increases the level in the mother and the baby. It helps with growth and positive mood for the baby and the mother. It can also cause a protective instinct in the mother that can leave her more ready to fight an attacker to protect her baby. In the wild it is always safest to not approach a mother and her babies as she will be ready to fight to protect them.
3G: a good place to start with infant care is with the basic recommendations for feeding and parenting.
- Here is an example guide for feeding 6 to 12 month old infants: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/WIC_6-12Months-Brochure_WEB_455888_7.pdf
Guidance for care of infants and children to help promote a healthy weight and lifestyle is also available at:
- Healthy Active Living for Families (HALF): healthychildren.org/Healthy Active Living for Families Ideas for increasing a healthy, active lifestyle for families.
- American Heart Association, heart.org: What is Childhood Obesity?
- Centers for Disease Control: Childhood Obesity Statistics about childhood obesity, ideas for parents and schools.
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: https://health.gov/
Diet and physical activity guidelines, Healthy People 2020, and link to healthfinder.gov with guidance for healthy habits for individuals and families.
- The Institute of Child Nutrition: http://theicn.org/
- American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight: https://ihcw.aap.org/Pages/EFHALF.aspx Strategies to help reduce childhood obesity for pediatricians, parents and the community.
- USDA Team Nutrition: https://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/team-nutrition
A program by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to provide support for the Child Nutrition Programs with information and help for food service; nutrition education for both children and their caregivers; and information to help schools and communities promote healthy diet and physical lifestyle choices.
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association): www.eatright.org/
Healthy eating tips for kids and parents and specific guidance about obesity and other nutrition related health topics.
- Trust for America’s Health: The State of Obesity in 2017: healthyamericans.org/State of Obesity 2017
A non-profit, non-partisan organization’s report on current obesity statistics in the U.S.. The group’s goal is to help save lives by promoting health in all communities and making disease prevention a priority for the nation.
- Institute of Medicine’s Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation https://www.nap.edu/catalog/13275/accelerating-progress-in-obesityprevention-solving-the-weight-of-the
Available as a free download or as a paperback book or ebook for purchase, the Institute of Medicine’s report on Obesity includes recommendations and guidelines for preventing or reducing obesity in childhood and for adults.
- Current (2015-2020) USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes menu goals for providing optimal nutrition for various age groups including children and infants.
- Obesity Prevention Source: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/
Harvard School of Public Health provides guidance for preventing obesity for adults and children with research and articles for developing policies that promote healthy lifestyle choices within the larger community or business.
- Action for Healthy Kids: http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/index.php Child friendly activities and ideas for schools to help promote healthy lifestyles.
- List updated from resources included in Pediatric Currents: Pediatric Obesity by Michelle Doran, RN, MS, Abbott Hutrition Health Institute (anhi.org)
3L: And a guide for reducing risk of lead absorption by providing regular meals and offering foods rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C, “Well Fed Means Less Lead:”
- Lead Poisoning Flyer, English version: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdhhs/MichWIC_LeadPoisoning_Flyer_FINAL_WIC_Web_526263_7.pdf
- Lead Poisoning Flyer, Spanish version: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdhhs/MichWIC_LeadPoisoning_Flyer_FINAL_WIC_Spanish.Web_526265_7.pdf
- Lead Poisoning Flyer, Arabic version: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdhhs/MichWIC_LeadPoisoning_Flyer-Arabic_526700_7.pdf
3V: The number of vaccinations that infants and children receive in the U.S. has increased an incredible amount, from five doses for children born in 1962 to 72 doses in total for children born in 2016, see graphic:
*Graphic by LearnthRisk.org shared without permission for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use.
This greatly increased schedule is alarming considering that animal research on vaccinations and autoimmune disease found that giving the animals any number of vaccines above eight left them at increased risk of developing autoimmune disease later in life.
- Ken Tsumiyama, Yumi Miyazaki, Shunichi Shiozawa, Self-Organized Criticality Theory of Autoimmunity, PLOS one, (Dec. 31, 2009), http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0008382
The number of vaccinations given at one appointment/one day has been associated with an increased risk for hospitalization with an adverse reaction.
- Neil Z. Miller, Combining Childhood Vaccines at One Visit Is Not Safe, http://www.jpands.org/vol21no2/miller.pdf
It is important to vaccinate children against the deadly diseases but some vaccines are for milder childhood illnesses that may be annoying but which help the child’s immune system develop the cellular types of the immune system instead of just the antigen/antibody system that vaccinations affect.
Consult with your health care provider regarding recommended vaccinations.
*This is an incomplete page but it is a start.
Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.