Health drinks for babies have been around for a long time. They have been used by mothers of different generations; as a child, you too may have grown up sipping these malt-based protein powders mixed with hot milk. Today, there are many more options for health drinks available in the market. Most of them claim to be the best and most trusted source of nutrition for your baby, to help him become taller, stronger and more immune. However, how safe are these drinks for your baby? Before you decide to feed one of these to your child, find out the important advice that most paediatricians give on this subject.
As mothers, we want our baby to grow up into a healthy and happy adult. For this, we ensure he gets the right nutrition, first through breastfeeding and eventually through other solids and semi-solid food. One of the top recommendations we as mothers receive to boost our baby’s growth is a ‘Health Drink’. These are very popular protein-based drinks for babies that are available in powder form and can be mixed with the milk. It is believed that these drinks are excellent to boost growth and development and make our kids taller, stronger and healthier.
However, we need to be double sure about anything that we feed to our baby. This is why we checked with paediatricians and nutritionists on their opinion about these drinks and whether they are safe and necessary. This is what we have concluded.
What Are These Drinks Made Of?
As per the World Health Organization’s (WHO) nutritional recommendations for babies, there are some nutrients that are essential for the proper growth and development of a child. Broadly speaking, baby health drinks are formulated to contain these nutrients so they can fuel your baby’s growth. Based on an assessment of popular baby health drinks in the market, these are the main components:
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid – an essential fatty acid)
Since these drinks are formulated keeping babies in mind, they do not contain cholesterol. However, they may contain some amount of saturated fatty acids.
Do Babies Need These Drinks?
Going by the above list of nutrients that baby health drinks contain, they seem like a great idea! Many popular brands have rich amounts of Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Vitamins. When combined with milk, they can become a good way to make sure your baby is getting all these nutrients in the right amount. In fact, one of the main reasons these drinks are so popular is the fact that most kids are fussy in their early years. They would rather be lured by flavouring and colours than chug down plain old white milk.
However, there are some very important things every parent must remember.
- Do not feed these drinks to babies below 2 years of age. They can expose your baby to allergies and even be hard on their kidneys, which are still developing.
- If your baby is underweight or undernourished, the paediatrician will recommend a suitable supplement. Only then should you administer this and never without consultation.
- These drinks are not adequate to fulfill your child’s requirement of protein. Infants and babies require about 13 -14 grams of protein in a day. A glass of whole milk provides about 8 grams of protein. When you add a cocoa or malt based powder to the milk, it does increase the protein intake – but by only a very small margin. Your child will still require protein through food sources.
- It is not advisable to feed these drinks in excessive amounts. While protein is a vital nutrient, excess protein can lead to obesity and related disorders such as insulin resistance in kids.
- Be very careful about the amount of sugar in the drink you choose. Too much sugar can put your baby at risk for obesity and lifestyle disorders at an early age. Increased sugar and chocolate can also increase the danger of cavities and tooth decay.
Avoid feeding these drinks to children below 2 years of age. It is best to stick to homemade purees, breastmilk and lighter foods. For babies below 2 years of age, if a nutritional supplement is needed, your paediatrician will advise a product formulated specially for that age group. Always go by the doctor’s advice in this regard.
For a toddler (above age of 2 years), you can consider making health drinks a part of his diet. By this time, he has developed a strong enough digestive system to handle more complex foods. Plus, it can be difficult to get a fussy toddler to eat or drink anything healthy, and these drinks can at least ensure they get adequate milk intake. However, keep in mind that while health drinks are not unsafe for older kids, they do not make a very significant difference in their protein intake either. You will still need to ensure they get sufficient protein for their overall growth through food sources such as soya, fish, chicken and legumes. You can check out some protein-rich foods for kids here, with recipes to try them out at home.
Bottomline – baby health drinks have a number of benefits, the main one being their rich nutrient content and their ability to make kids finish their glass of milk. But make sure you keep these facts in mind when picking a health drink for your child and never compromise on the goodness of nutritious homemade food. We’re sure your little ones will grow up healthy and happy getting the right nourishment and love from their mom!