Although supplementation and replacement of breast milk with formula milk and other forms of milk are very common, the importance of breast milk cannot be overemphasized. Breast milk is considered the best food for newborns. It is very economical, easy to access, and its nutrient value is the best you can find even when compared to other forms of milk.
Breast milk offers the best method for the appropriate absorption and utilization of calcium in babies. Although there are other methods or foods from which calcium can be acquired, the child might have to be a year old to take some. If the child has started taken supplement foods, there is a wider scope from which his mother or guardian can choose but note that the time to start giving calcium supplementation is not the same with that of normal supplement foods. However, there is no better compass than proper knowledge in this journey of child nutrition.
When Should A Baby Be Given Calcium Supplementation?
Calcium supplementation is usually given earlier than food supplementation. Usually, nutrients are supplied to babies from their mothers through the umbilical cord during pregnancy. However, during childbirth, the umbilical cord is being cut and the child has to fend for these nutrients themselves. Most times, these nutrients which include calcium are gotten from breast milk and calcium supplements that are to be given three days after birth. This is why babies who take breast milk, hardly have deficiencies of calcium. If these supplements are not given during the first six months of life but the infant is breastfed, the deficiency symptoms will not manifest until the next six months of life.
Which Supplementary Foods Supply Calcium to Babies?
Apart from breast milk being the best source of calcium due to its absorption and utilization capacities, there are other sources from which calcium can be gotten. However, these sources might not aid in the absorption and utilization of calcium like breast milk. They can be used in calcium supplementation foods, or alongside them. These other sources of calcium include:
- Milk. This is the most ideal natural food for babies. It has a very appropriate ratio of calcium to phosphorus which makes the absorption of calcium from milk extremely efficient.
- Yogurt. Closest to milk, yogurt is a very good source of calcium. Together with its numerous nutrients, the amount of calcium supplied by yogurts to the body is mind-blowing. A cup of yogurt gives one-third of the calcium required for a child under 10 years old and one-fifth of calcium requirements in adults.
- Cheese. Compared to other dairy products, cheese contains the largest amount of calcium. It is prepared by the fermentation of milk, and its salts are those in the bones and teeth as it contains calcium and phosphorus. It is therefore the best choice for calcium supplementation in foods. In terms of quantity, the calcium quantity in 40 grams of cheese is equivalent to the calcium quantity in 250ml of milk and 200ml of yogurt.
- Calcium-containing orange juice. Orange is known to be a healing fruit as it contains many nutrients. Such nutrients include vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, etc. although when compared to dairy products, orange juice has a very much lower calcium content, it can still be used as a calcium supplement food. The calcium in 8 ounces of orange juice is equivalent to the calcium content in one glass of milk.
- Beans. Which can be soybeans that are used to make to make soymilk or any other types of beans that have a great nutritional value which includes calcium. Babies older than a year old can take soymilk but care should be taken to prevent protein allergies.
- Dark green leafy vegetables. Vegetables with these characteristics are also rich in calcium. They can be canned, fresh, or frozen. Different leafy vegetables like spinach, kale leaves, turnips, and mustard greens should be given as food or in food collaborations. When being served, serve with butter to taste.
- Kelp. Kelp is a vegetable with high nutritional contents. It is rich in iodine, calcium, and it has components that help in the synthesis of thyroxin. It contains saturated fatty acids and very high-quality protein.
- Shrimp skin. Shrimp skin is also called the calcium storehouse. It is exceedingly rich in protein and minerals. Most people use it to supplement calcium for people with calcium deficiency. It is very good as a calcium supplementary food for babies.
What Groups of Babies Are Prone to Having Deficiency in Calcium?
Deficiency of calcium is seen in children mostly with its major symptom rickets. They are seen in different kinds of dresses; some might be genetic, or disease but others might be for other reasons. The groups of babies that are very print to a deficiency in calcium are:
- Premature babies
- Babies from diabetic mothers
- Babies that are given cow’s milk as a replacement or supplement
- Babies that received a poor supply of oxygen during delivery
- Babies that have bacterial infections like Gentamicin that affect calcium levels.
- Babies that have DiGeorge syndrome
- Babies that have congenital hyperthyroidism
- Babies that are not being breastfed
If the child has a calcium deficiency, it is advised that the mother should take calcium tablets so that calcium can be transferred to the child during breastfeeding. The mother can either do this or give the child calcium supplements directly.
What Are the Signs of Calcium Deficiency in Infants?
Typically infants who are breastfed do not develop calcium deficiencies (a condition known as hypocalcemia). However in certain vulnerable populations such as those mentioned above they can develop. Even among these rare cases, most infants with low calcium levels show no symptoms. However, here are some common signs of calcium deficiency in infants:
- Tremors and twitches
- Slow heart rate
- Low blood pressure
While hypocalcemia is rare in infants, it is a serious condition and should be treated immediately. Any child who demonstrates any of the above symptoms should be taken to a pediatrician for further evaluation and treatment if deemed necessary by the doctor.
What Measures Are Important During Calcium Supplementation?
When giving calcium supplements, if the child already has other disease talent is best to contact a doctor to give the appropriate supplement. However, when giving calcium supplements or foods by yourself there are certain measures to take to ensure proper health which involves:
- If you’re giving vegetables that have oxalate, wash them very well with enough water to remove the oxalic acid. This washing is very necessary as it prevents the calcium form non-absorbable carboxylate with oxalic acid. This carbon oxalate prevents proper absorption and utilization of calcium. Proper washing of leaves prevents this compound from forming.
- As you are supplementing with calcium foods, bring the baby out in the morning for early morning sunlight. This sunlight helps the body to synthesize vitamin D. It ensures better absorption of calcium in the body thereby aiding calcium supplement foods. Enough sunlight is a necessity for calcium supplementation.
What Are Some Other Important Micronutrients for Infants?
Calcium is not the only micronutrient that is important for the optimal growth and development of infants. Some other important micronutrients include:
This micronutrient is also known as folate. It is important for tissue growth and repair because it promotes normal cell replication.
This helps in the formation of red blood cells and is also necessary for proper brain development. It is usually found in inadequate amounts in breast milk.
It helps cells grow and heal properly, especially epithelial cells such as those lining the digestive tract. It is also important for optimal immune function.
We all know vitamin A helps in the development of good eyesight, but most people don’t know it’s important to the body’s immune system and also keeps the skin in good shape.
The B vitamins are a group of chemical distinct micronutrients which perform very important roles in the metabolism of various macronutrients and cell replication. Some important examples include vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and vitamin B12 (cobalamins).
Vitamin C helps in the production of collagen, an important protein that maintains the integrity of the different body tissues. It also ensures proper wound healing, is an antioxidant , and is an immune booster.
This is an important factor in the absorption of calcium from the intestine. It also keeps the bones and teeth healthy. Vitamin D is generally deficient in breast milk, which is a very important fact for breastfeeding mothers to remember.
The importance of calcium in the development of bones in newborns is very obvious. Therefore, three days after childbirth, calcium supplementation should start. Breast milk can be supplemented, but should never be stopped totally as this is the best source of calcium for babies. For the growth and development of a baby to be feasible, calcium is a very necessary component; therefore it should always be replenished.