Infants are children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months and are usually unable to “speak or speechless”. While Toddlers are children between 1 and 3 years and can walk unsteadily and have great cognitive, emotional and social development.
As infants and toddlers are at a critical and vulnerable developmental stage, special care and attention should be given to them to enhance their proper growth and development.
If you have a child, niece, nephew, grandchild etc. who is age 3 or younger, this article is meant for you. The information below will help you learn how to give your child a healthy start to life.
- Breast feed new born babies and infants exclusively for 6 months, as required by the World Health Organization. There are however exceptions in extreme cases such as mothers living with HIV/AIDS who may not be able to breast feed. Breast milk contains antibodies that protect your baby from infections and diseases, lowers mother’s risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer, and builds a strong physical and emotional bond between a mother and her baby.
- Share a room with your baby. Place your baby’s crib in your own bedroom instead of in a separate nursery. This helps with the baby’s feeding especially at late hours and also allows the infant to be close to you to hear, smell and sense you. Sharing a bed with your baby increases his or her risk of suffocation or strangling and in some instances, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Choose skin care products specially made for babies such as fragrance-free and tear-free bath gels, shampoos and lotions for your infant. With each one you use, look out for any signs of allergic reactions in the little one.
- Introduce one new food at a time for infants during weaning (transition from milk only diet to a mixture of drinks and solid foods). This will enable you to identify any foods that may cause allergies in your baby. Timing of weaning is important to achieve a successful transition to a healthy eating pattern.
- Do not take something off the menu if your toddler doesn’t like it. Kids are slow to accept new tastes and textures, so if he spits out the fish in the stew the first time, make them again the following week as you may be surprised rice and fish stew is his new favourite food.
- Offer toddlers nutritious foods in the form of fruits, vegetables, milk, fish and meat during meal and snack times, as they will provide them with lots of nutrients and ensure normal growth and development. Instead of giving your toddlers fizzy drinks, cakes, chocolates and biscuits for snacks, give them fruits and yoghurts. Refrain from giving toddlers foods high in fat and sugar, they contribute to tooth decay and childhood overweight/obesity thereby increasing a child’s risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life.
- Eat together as a family and make meal times relaxed, happy occasions for toddlers. Toddlers eat better in a relaxed, happy atmosphere and do not eat well if they feel anxious, rushed or forced to eat foods they don’t want to try. Toddlers learn to eat a variety of foods and improve on their self-feeding skills as they watch adults and other family members eat. This way, they also get to exercise a little independence.
- Teach your toddler the importance of hand washing, and how to properly wash hands with soap and water. Ensure they wash their hands properly before handling food and when they come inside from playing. This will help to prevent the spread of germs and will keep toddlers from getting sick from common colds and infectious diarrhoea.
Promoting the health of children is essential as children’s experiences in their early life are central to shaping their health and well-being in the long term. Good nutrition is important for everyone but particularly important for infants and growing kids as it is directly linked to all aspects of their growth and development. Instilling proper nutrition trends in your children will help to promote a better quality of life for them and help them to take part in more activities with greater enjoyment.
Related article: why parents need to keep their infants and toddlers active
Last page review: 22/03/2016
Next page review: 22/03/2018