How we feed our children in their earliest years of life can play a big role in their dietary success and health down the road. Because of the importance of those choices, the upcoming 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for the first time will include recommendations for infants from birth to 24 months.
On this edition of DataDish: Your Trusted Serving of Science, we talk with Anna Maria Siega-Riz, PhD, who is a professor and Associate Dean for Research in the School of Nursing at the University of Virginia. An expert in nutrition and maternal and child health, she brings us up to speed on “complementary feeding” and why the first foods introduced to babies are vital to setting up healthy dietary patterns for life.
Some highlights from our conversation:
- Current expert recommendations on infant feeding, including exclusive breastfeeding or infant formula as an acceptable substitute if breastfeeding is not an option. Dr. Siega-Riz talks about when “complementary foods” (anything besides breastmilk or infant formula) should be introduced and what different health authorities advise.
- Changes in recommendations over time about the types of foods to introduce and when.
- The importance of complementary feeding, which provides important nutrients, as well as the physical development of a baby’s facial muscles and oral cavity, which in turn can benefit eating skills and even speech abilities.
- First foods to introduce to babies, how they should be prepared, which nutrients and foods to seek out, and which ones to limit or avoid. Dr. Siega-Riz also discusses current recommendations about whether and when parents might choose to introduce potentially allergenic foods.
- The evolution of healthy eating recommendations, especially the timing of introducing foods, the importance of iron, issues around food allergies, and the limiting of juice for infants.
- What the current science says about first foods and links to health and eating patterns later in life. Dr. Siega-Riz also says one focus of future research will be the microbiome.
Enjoy the podcast!