Nutritional needs vary during the first year of life according to the infant's individualized pattern of growth and amount of physical activity. After delivery, the infant must make many physiologic adjustments, develop immunologic defenses, and take in adequate nutrients for survival. The type and consistency of foods change as the gastrointestinal system matures and becomes able to metabolize the components and excrete the needed metabolites of increasingly complex foods. The recommended dietary allowance for infancy is based on the amount of nutrients provided to healthy infants in human milk during the first six months of life and on the consumption of formula and increasing amounts of solid food during the second six months. The introduction of solid foods should parallel the developmental changes that occur within the central nervous system throughout the first year; these provide a level of readiness for the infant to manage foods of various textures from full liquid to soft.
Even though significant technologic advances have led to changes in the way infants can be fed, human milk is still the optimal choice. Most women can be encouraged to breast-feed regardless of their own nutritional status or dietary intake. Contraindications can be managed on an individual basis. If women do not elect to breast-feed, suitable commercial formulas are available. The important issue in feeding is that of providing a variety of appropriately prepared foods offered in a nonjudgmental atmosphere so that the foundation is laid for the development of good food habits.