MOTHER'S milk is best for babies and young children. Ideally, babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies for the first six months, after which their nutrition should be complemented with familly foods in addition to breast milk.
Breast milk is the natural first food for babies, as it provides all the energy and nutrients that an infant needs for the first months of life. It continues to provide up to half or more of a child's nutritional needs during the second half of the first year.
Breast milk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infants againts infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breasfreeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illlnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness.
However, breasfeeding may not be possible for all women. For many women, the decision to breasfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle and other specific medical considerations that they may have.
For mothers who are unable to breastfeed or who decided not to, cow or soya-based infant formula is a good alternative that will meet a baby's nutritional needs.
Once a child reaches a year's old, they can be transitioned to whole milk or cow's milk.
Milk is a great source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, and magnesium. It will build the toddler's bones and teeth and help his body regulate his blood coagulation and muscle control. Almost all milk is fortified with vitamin D, which helps the body absorb the calcium it needs.
Milk also provides protein for growth, as well as carbohydrates, which gives the child the energy he needs to toddle all day!
If the child gets enough calcium from an early age, there is evidence that he will have a lower risk of suffering from high blood pressure, stroke, colon cancer and hip fractures later in life.
True allergies to cow's milk are relatively uncommon. According to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), only two to three per cent of them outgrow it by age 3.
The AAP recommends children eat three servings of milk, flavoured milk, cheese or yogurt a day.
Research has shown that children who regularly avoid milk have lower bine mineral density and have bone fractures.
Parents play an important role in establishing healthy dietary habits, and this includes the practice of including dairy foods in their own diets as well.
Besides milk, there are other ways to ensure an adequate supply of milk in one's diet, and this is through dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and ice-cream.
Cheese is a food consisting of proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cow's buffalo. goats, or sheep. It is produced by coagulation of the milk protein casein. Typically, the milk is a acidified and the addition of rennet causes coagulation. The solids are then seperated and pressed into final form. Some cheese also contain moulds, either on the outer rind or throughout.
Yogurt is a dairy produces produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. Fermentation of the milk sugar (lactose) priduces lactic acid, which acts on milk protein to give yogurt its texture and its characteristic tang. Soy yogurt, a non-dairy yogurt alternatif, is madde from soy milk. It is nutritionally rich in protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.
Ice cream is a frozen dessert usually made from dairy products such as milk and cream, combined with fruits or other ingredients.
Most varieties contain sugar, although some are made with other sweeteners. In some cases, artificial flavourings and colour is also used. This mixture is stirred slowly while cooling to prevent large ice crystals from forming, the result is a smoothly textured ice cream.