Infants and children 24 months and younger have been, well, neglected by the organizations in the government that create guidelines for nutrition. It's long been said that they're supposed to be exclusively breastfed for at least six months, then given solid food along with breastmilk (or formula if necessary) until at least 12 months. But the reality of what America's youngest children are consuming hasn't been confronted.
According to the yearlong Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Infant Feeding Practices Study, carried out in the mid-1990s, in the first month of life, 14% of infants received sweet drinks (e.g., sugar water, fruit-flavored drinks, sodas, tea and coffee), and by the age of 4 months, nearly one third of infants received these drinks.
Since then things have not gotten better. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says about 44% of all kids 1 to 2 years old consume sugary beverages daily. And recent data shows that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages before 6 months of age doubles the likelihood that as a 6-year-old the child will be drinking one or more of these sugar bombs a day. That makes the risk of being obese skyrocket, according to a 2014 study in Pediatrics. No wonder an astounding 13.9% of U.S. kids ages 2 to 5 are obese.
So we're heartened by the recommendations issued by advisory committee for the 2020 Dietary Guidelines. For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans will include advice for feeding babies and toddlers. They say unequivocally that children from birth to age 24 months should never be given sugar-added beverages, whether juice, soda or flavored milks, or any sweetened foods (nix that cupcake, Mom). Fruits and other natural sources of sugar are OK.
What goes in predicts how the future comes out! Your child's health as a youngster, teen and adult can be enhanced or damaged depending on the choices you make about the food he or she eats before age 2. As the advisory committee guidelines say, "a healthy diet during these life stages is essential to support healthy growth and development during infancy and childhood and to promote health and prevent chronic disease through childhood, adolescence and adulthood."
The best choices are pure, unadulterated vegetables, fruits and lean meats, and healthy fats prepared in kid-friendly ways (easy to chew and swallow) — even pure peanut butter on a whole-wheat cracker. And we suggest you use this opportunity to upgrade your nutritional habits too, Mom and Dad — no highly processed foods or sugar-added foods or drinks for you, either!
Healthy nutrition is essential for an infant to have a healthy future, but there are other smart ways to raise a healthy adult. It is also important to make sure your youngest has good sleep habits, gets enough activity and has good hygiene.
— Sleep recommendations: The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine say infants 4 to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours every 24 hours on a regular basis; children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours every 24 hours.
— Play/activity time: Babies aged 0 to 12 months need plenty of opportunities for movement and floor play. Before they can walk, at least 30 minutes of tummy time each day helps them grow and develop. Children 1 to 5 years need at least three hours of activity daily, including energetic play.
— Hygiene: Oral health is important, so from 0 to 12 months after each feeding gently clean an infant's gums with a clean, damp washcloth or gauze pad. As teeth emerge continue the practice. At 12 months go for a dental exam and at 24 months start using a toothbrush twice a day, gently. As for bathing, wait at least 24 hours after birth and then once home, three baths a week for the first 12 months should do it.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit sharecare.com.
(c)2020 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
King Features Syndicate