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Infant Nutrition: The First 6 Months

Your baby is about to go through an amazing growth spurt. In their first year, babies triple their birth weight. To grow that much, they need a lot of nutrients -- more than at any other time in their life.

Experts say breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies during the first 6 months. But if you can't breast-feed, or your baby has special nutritional needs, formula is a good alternative.

Nutrition and Your Growing Baby

Some of the nutrients babies need to grow and stay healthy include:

Calcium . Helps build strong bones and teeth.

Fat. Creates energy, helps the brain develop, keeps skin and hair healthy, and protects against infections.

Folate. Helps cells divide.

Iron. Builds blood cells, and helps the brain develop.

Protein and carbohydrates. They provide energy and fuel growth.

Zinc. Helps the cells grow and repair themselves

Your baby also needs vitamins such as:

  • Vitamin A. Keeps skin, hair, vision, and the immune system healthy.
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine). Helps the body turn food into energy.
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Helps the body turn food into energy, and protects cells from damage.
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin). Helps the body turn food into energy and use fats and protein.
  • Vitamin B6. Keeps the brain and immune system healthy.
  • Vitamin B12. Keeps nerve and blood cells healthy, and makes DNA -- the genetic material in every cell.
  • Vitamin C. Protects against infections, builds bones and muscles, and helps wounds heal.
  • Vitamin D. Helps the body absorb calcium from food, and keeps bones and teeth healthy.
  • Vitamin E. Protects cells from damage, and strengthens the immune system.
  • Vitamin K. Helps the blood to clot.

Nutrients in Formula

Most infant formulas today are made from cow's milk. They are fortified to make them as close to breast milk as possible, and to give babies all the nutrients they need to grow and be healthy.

Most cow's milk formulas contain:

  • Carbohydrates, in the form of the milk sugar "lactose"
  • Iron
  • Protein
  • Minerals, such as calcium and zinc
  • Vitamins, including A, C, D, E, and the B vitamins

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