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Understanding Newborn Nutritional Needs

Updated on November 13, 2016
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Whitney is a mom trying to evoke a healthy, happy life for herself and her family.

At birth, your baby's stomach can comfortably digest about one to two teaspoons, but within the first week after birth, the baby's stomach grows to hold about two ounces.

Most of the nutrients your baby needed to grow inside your womb are the same ones that he needs now in the outside world. So the nutrients that your baby received through his umbilical cord must now be consumed from breast milk or formula. If you're planning on breastfeeding, the quality of your diet affects the quality of your breast milk, so it's important to maintain a well-balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and healthy fats.

You should also consider continuing your prenatal vitamins while you nurse to ensure that you're consuming proper nutrients.

In addition to protein, calcium and iron, make sure that you consume or supplement yourself with vital nutrients for healthy baby growth and development.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for bone health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants have a minimum daily intake of 200-400 IU of Vitamin D.

Sources: Sunlight. Salmon. mackerel. Mushrooms exposed to UV light. Tuna canned in water. Fortified milk or yogurt. Beef. Egg yolks. Cheese.

Deficiency: Increased risk for respiratory infection and type 1 diabetes in children, poor bone growth, bone deformities, rickets, developmental delays, muscle weakness, bone pain

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is involved in nervous system functions and blood cell development. Most adults have sufficient B12 levels, but nursing mothers require more. The Mayo Clinic recommends that babies zero to six months consume about 0.4 mcg of B12 each day.

Sources: Animal products including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk. Some nutritional yeast products. Some fortified foods.

Deficiency: Movement disorders, developmental delays and anemia. Anemia caused by a B12 deficiency in babies can be characterized by fatigue, diarrhea, decreased appetite, irritability and paleness.

Nature Made® Multivitamin Prenatal Tablets w. Folic Acid, Iron, Iodine & Zinc Value Size 250 Ct
Nature Made® Multivitamin Prenatal Tablets w. Folic Acid, Iron, Iodine & Zinc Value Size 250 Ct

These vitamins are a little large, so if you have a problem swallowing larger pills, you may want to slice these in half. But, these pills are high in folic acid, zinc and iron and contain Vitamins B12, E and D3, and calcium which are all vital to baby. Plus, this particular prenatal vitamin is USP certified, which means that it passes a dissolution test, proving the vitamins within the pill will be available for your body to absorb and utilize for your growing baby.


Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant found in cells of the human body. It's important in protecting cells in the baby's developing eyes and brain. Vitamin E is essential for structure and function of the nervous system, retina and muscle growth.

Sources: Nuts including almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts. Vegetable oils such as sunflower, wheat germ safflower, corn and soybean oils. Sunflower seeds. Green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. Fortified grains and cereals.

Deficiency: Rare, but can cause anemia, skeletal myopathy, nerve damage, retinopathy, impairment of the immune system.


DHA and ARA are special fatty acids that concentrate in the brain and retina. After your baby is born, brain and eye development continue rapidly for the first year and beyond, so sufficient DHA and ARA levels are important.

Sources: Pink salmon. White tuna (albacore). Blue crab. Light tuna canned in water. Enriched eggs. Large shrimp. Chicken. Flaxseed. Walnuts. Algae.

Deficiency: Learning disabilities. Depression. Eczema. Obesity.

Nordic Naturals - Prenatal DHA, Supports Brain Development in Babies During Pregnancy and Lactation, 90 Soft Gels
Nordic Naturals - Prenatal DHA, Supports Brain Development in Babies During Pregnancy and Lactation, 90 Soft Gels

These DHA supplements are easy to take and do not have a strong odor. Nordic Naturals recommends a daily serving to be two 500 mg capsules, but according to the EFSA Scientific Panel pregnant and nursing women should consume an additional 350-450 mg a day. Check with your doctor, but with the standards being half the Nordic Naturals recommended dose, I stuck with the standards and only took one 500 mg capsule a day.



Lutein is a carotenoid that may protect the eyes by filtering out harmful blue light. As an antioxidant, lutein also stabilizes free radicals in the eye, protecting the lens from damage. In a 2014 study in the "Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition," it was found that lutein is the main carotenoid in tissue samples of infant brains, accumulating in areas that control cognition, vision, hearing and speech. There is no recommended dietary consumption of lutein, but for breastfeeding moms, you want to consume at least three servings of vegetables and two of fruits so your baby gets his share in your breast milk.

Sources: Dark, leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, swiss chard and arugula. Peas. Winter squash. Yellow sweet corn. Brussels sprouts. Lutein is found in colostrum and breast milk.

Deficiency: Macular degeneration. Lens damage.

Other Cartenoids

Other Cartenoids also play a part in cell health. The carotenoi beta-carotene can help support eye health.

Sources: Spinach. Kale. Turnip and mustard greens. Tomatoes. Carrots. Sweet potatoes. Plums. Apricots. Mangoes. Cantaloupes. Pumpkin. Broccoli.

Deficiency: Unknown


Nucleotides help support your baby's ability to make important antibodies.

Sources: Naturally found in breast milk. Beans. Peas. Lentils. Asparagus. Cauliflower. Mushrooms. Meats. Yeast.

Deficiency: Unknown


Prebiotics are special carbohydrates that help stimulate growth of beneficial bacteria and can help soften baby's stool. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that already lives inside the large intestine, but there are foods that are high in prebiotics, and the more prebiotics in your body, the more efficiently probiotics work and the healthier your gut is.

Sources: Naturally found in breast milk. Formulated baby formula. Raw Chicory root. Raw Jerusalem artichoke. Raw Dandelion greens. Raw Garlic. Raw Leeks. Raw and cooking onions. Raw asparagus. Raw wheat bran. Baked wheat bran. Raw banana.

Deficiency: There is no conclusive evidence, but a lack of prebiotics may cause eczema, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and colic.


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