Nutrition and Child Development
Proper and adequate nutrition is essential for a baby’s growth and development. Nutrition affects not only physical growth, but also cognitive development during a child’s early years. Nutrition is especially important to a developing fetus to ensure its proper growth and development and to minimize the risks of infant mortality.
In the United States, low birth weight, along with prematurity is the second leading cause of infant mortality. Low birth weight in a baby who is not premature is “generally a result of inadequate prenatal nutrition, which slows fetal growth” (Papalia, 2008, p. 128). Babies with even moderately low birth weight “are more than 5 times more likely to die” than babies of normal weight (Papalia, 2008, p. 129). Some stillbirths have also been attributed to malnourishment in the womb because many of them “are small for their gestational age” (Papalia, 2008, p. 133). Therefore, it essential that pregnant women receive the proper nutrients to ensure fetal development and lessen the risks of infant deaths.
Breast milk is the best food for babies and could be considered the “ultimate health food” (Papalia, 2008, p.147). Not only does breast milk supply an infant with the proper nutrients, it also helps to prevent illnesses and infections and “may reduce the risk of postneonatal death” (Papalia, 2008, p. 147). Breastfeeding has a positive impact not only on an infant’s physical growth, but also on their cognitive growth, and it benefits the nursing mother as well.
Proper nutrition in infancy boosts a baby’s immune system and helps the child develop healthy eating habits. Feeding a baby a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, protein, fats, and dairy products, and avoiding “sugar-loaded snacks and beverages” will keep a baby healthy, help him or her grow strong, and may prevent obesity later in life (Sears, 2010).
Some of the nutrients that are crucial...