Nutrition for Life / Early Life Nutrition

Nutrition for infants and children with specific needs.

There are a number of common concerns that infants and children can experience during early life where the right nutrition can have a positive effect on their health outcomes. These concerns include preterm birth, atopic dermatitis, cow’s milk protein allergy and various gastrointestinal symptoms such as regurgitation, diarrhoea, constipation, infantile colic, excessive gas/fussiness and crying. At Danone Nutricia Research, we invest in research in the fields of immunity, allergy and gut health, and hence are committed to providing optimal nutritional care for infants and young children affected by these concerns.

Preterm

The final weeks and months of pregnancy are a period of rapid physical growth for an infant. Those born before 37 completed weeks of gestation miss this critical period of growth and therefore have high nutritional needs to enable the necessary catch-up growth. However, preterm infants face a number of challenges in meeting those needs, including immature gastrointestinal and metabolic systems,1,2and limited feeding volume tolerance.2

Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for preterm infants but is not always available or sufficient. Specialised nutrition for this group should meet their increased nutritional needs(e.g. increased requirements in protein) whilst encouraging and supporting breastfeeding.

Did you know that human milk is tailor-made by the mother’s body to meet the specific nutritional needs of their preterm infant? Learn more about preterm nutrition here.

Allergy

The infant immune system is vulnerable to challenges relating to modern life, e.g. C-section deliveries, the over-use of antibiotics, and pollution. These factors can trigger an imbalance of the gut microbiota. As 70-80% of immune cells are located in the gut, immune system development relies on establishing a balanced and diverse gut microbiota in early life. The right nutrition in early life supports a balanced immune system by restoring gut microbiota and so reducing the risk of allergy. In allergic infants, restoring gut microbiota has been shown to reduce allergic symptoms.

The management of allergy is moving from complete allergen avoidance towards tolerance development through controlled exposure. Learn more on the role of nutrition in allergy here.

Gastrointestinal symptoms

Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) and related symptoms are common during infancy due to the immaturity of the gut physiology and functionality. FGIDs include regurgitation, infantile colic and functional constipation and affect up to half of infants in the first year after birth. Management of these conditions includes suitable nutrition, alongside parental reassurance.

Learn more on how nutrition can help manage infant gastrointestinal disorders here.

Faltering growth

Children at greatest risk of faltering growth include those with neuro-disabilities e.g. cerebral palsy, congenital heart defects, cystic fibrosis, liver disease, gastrointestinal disease or cancer. These conditions may decrease nutrient intake for a number of reasons, for example by causing feeding and/or swallowing difficulties; affected children may also have increased nutritional needs and/or increased nutritional losses. For these infants and children, specialised nutritional support is essential in order to avoid undernutrition and its associated problems.

Learn more on specialised nutrition to avoid undernutrition here.

View References

2.
Klein (Ed.) J Nutr. 2002;132(6 Suppl 1):1395S-1577S;11.