Our goal is always to keep your child growing and healthy
One of the most important ways to support your child’s overall health and well-being is with healthy nutrition. From providing help for breastfeeding mothers to navigating picky eaters, your Esse pediatrician is here to help.
Nutrition for Babies
Whether you feed breast milk, formula, or a mix of the two, milk provides your baby with nearly every nutrient they’ll need for the first year of their life.
Breastfeeding: Breast milk has several advantages over manufactured substitutions, including the right balance of nutrients—and is the most gentle on your baby’s system.
Bottle-feeding: Many parents decide not to breastfeed or may be unable to breastfeed—and there are a number of healthy formulas available. Infant formulas are composed of a blend of protein, calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals ideal for your child’s growth.
Introducing Solid Foods
Wondering when to introduce your child to solid foods? Look for these common signs that signal your child is ready for the next step:
- Can sit up comfortably on their own
- Puts things in their mouth frequently
- Seems interested in what family members are doing during a meal
At this time, you can opt for baby-led weaning or the traditional spoon-fed route. Before making this decision, we recommend discussing your options with your pediatrician and other caregivers to determine what method makes the most sense for your baby and your family.
Baby-led Weaning: Baby-led weaning helps babies regulate their own nutritional intake and appetite. Instead of spoon-feeding your baby pureed food, this method lets your baby feed themselves—and gives them more control over what (and how much) they eat.
Traditional Spoon-fed Method: Start by planning to feed your baby solids once a day. We recommend oatmeal baby cereal or a pureed fruit or vegetable, such as sweet potato, green beans, bananas, or apples. When your child reaches the age of six months, they’ll need added iron in their diet—so it’s important to start introducing foods with iron, such as fortified cereal or dark green veggies.
Nutrition for Toddlers
As your baby grows into their toddler and preschool years, their nutritional needs and appetite will shift. During this time, it’s essential to prioritize two key nutrients – calcium and fiber.
Calcium: Calcium is necessary for building strong, healthy bones and teeth. One of the easiest ways to ensure your child gets the calcium they need is through milk. However, if your child is lactose-intolerant, you can try soy milk, tofu, sardines, or calcium-fortified products, such as orange juice, cereal, waffles, and oatmeal.
Fiber: The toddler years are often the start of your child saying “no thanks!” Although your child may want to eat pasta, fries, or chicken nuggets as the basis of their diet, their toddler years are a necessary time to encourage natural sources of fiber. Think fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans—all great sources of fiber.
Nutrition for Grade-schoolers
When your child reaches the age of six or seven and starts attending school, the introduction of cafeteria foods can result in nutritional challenges. Talk with your child about the importance of healthy foods.
Protein: Many grade-schoolers choose to become vegetarian after learning about where meat comes from. If your child has decided to go vegetarian, make sure you’re prioritizing other forms of protein, such as eggs, beans, milk, yogurt, and peanut butter.
Sugary or salty foods: When your child begins to have more choices in their lunch options at school, they might start reaching for sugary sweets or salty snacks. Help them understand the importance of eating healthy and dissuade them from eating only sugary or salty foods.
Pack a lunch: If possible, packing your child’s lunch is one of the best ways to ensure that they’re getting a healthy diet.
Nutrition for Picky Eaters
When you begin introducing your child to new foods in their diet, they might not immediately like them—and that’s okay. Here are some tips to help:
Offer a variety of foods from the beginning. As soon as your child begins to eat solid food, start offering a variety of flavors. This can help prevent picky eating down the road.
Keep trying. Just because your child refuses to eat a specific food on the first try doesn’t mean you should never try again. Instead, freeze the leftovers and offer them again in a few days.
Mix it up. Mix new foods with foods you already know your child likes. This can help encourage your toddler to try new foods.
Provide choices. Try giving your toddler a choice between two healthy options—and incorporate at least one healthy food into a meal each day.
Keep it neutral. If your child refuses to eat a particular food, stay calm. Never use food as a reward or as punishment—this pressure can cause more challenges down the road. Instead, trust that if your child is hungry, they will eat.
Dowloadable Nutrition Guides
Learn everything you need to know about feeding your baby, the importance of breast milk or formula, and what solid foods to start with.
Once you’ve started your child on solid foods, here’s what you need to know about the next steps.
Curious about what baby-led weaning is? Here’s everything you need to know about this method.
Here’s everything you need to know about feeding your child and nutrition when your baby turns one year old.
Wondering the best way to promote healthy eating habits for your child? Here are our recommendations for developing healthy eating foundations for toddlers.
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St. Louis, MO 63126