What Is the Difference in Nutrition for Infants Versus Other Stages of Life?

Babies grow at a faster rate than people at any other stage of life. Because of this phenomenal growth, your infant's nutritional needs are different from those of an adult or older child. In addition, the rapid development of your baby's brain means he needs more of particular nutrients, but his small size requires that you provide some nutrients in smaller quantities.


Your baby needs about 116 calories per kilogram for the first three months of life and about 100 calories per kilogram for the rest of the first year. In contrast, a child between the ages of 4 and 6 needs about 90 calories per kilogram and a child between 7 and 11 needs about 70 calories per kilogram. In adolescence and adulthood, this requirement drops to 45 or fewer calories per kilogram of weight.


The composition of your baby's diet differs from that of older children and you should focus on providing higher levels of fat and lower levels of protein 1. Your infant needs to get about 40 to 50 percent of his daily calories from fat—much more than the recommendation for adults and older children, for whom fat consumption should stay below 35 percent of daily calories. Your baby needs about 10 percent of his diet to be protein and 40 percent to be made up of carbohydrates.

Vitamins and Minerals

Your baby needs all of the essential vitamins and minerals that adults do, including vitamins C, A, D, E and K, calcium, iron, potassium and folic acid. The recommended amounts of these nutrients are typically smaller than those needed by older children and adults. Breast milk or formula provides all of these nutrients, so you generally won't have to supplement your baby's diet for the first six months of life. One exception is vitamin D, which might be lacking in breast-fed babies. In addition to vitamins and minerals, you should be sure that your baby gets an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids to ensure proper brain growth. These fats are found in breast milk and many formulas, but older babies who have started eating solids might also get them from fish or in flax seed, which can be sprinkled on yogurt or cereal.

Special Concerns

During the first four to six months of life, your baby should get all of his nutrients from breast milk or formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding throughout the first six months. After you've introduced solid foods, breast milk or formula should continue to be the primary source of nutrition until at least one year of age. Regular cow's milk and solid foods do not contain enough calories or nutrients to support your growing baby during the first year of life.