Calcium for your Baby

Everyone needs calcium…

Calcium is one of the most important minerals – for babies and adults alike. It plays an important part in many functions of the human body. Good tooth and bone strength and development are its major role, but it is also stored and used in the muscles, in the blood, and in the fluid between cells – where it ‘carries messages’ for the central nervous system.

Human bodies continue to add bone mass until about the age of 30, when bones begin to break down (resorption). Over time, resorption exceeds the rate of formation – leading to bone loss – but strong bone-building early in life will help to delay bone loss later.

A lack of calcium may also possibly contribute to hypertension, kidney disease, heart disease and even colon cancer.

Calcium for your baby…

Calcium deficiency in your baby can lead to rickets, which is a condition that causes the bones to soften – they may break easily or become deformed, with the legs becoming ‘bowed’ for instance.

Calcium-rich foods are very important, but certain other factors affect how much of the calcium your baby’s body actually absorbs:

  • A supply of vitamin D is necessary for efficient calcium absorption.
  • Offer small amounts of calcium-rich foods regularly, rather than lots at one meal – calcium absorption decreases as the amount of calcium eaten at one time increases!
  • Avoid plants containing oxalic and phytic acids, which bind to any calcium in the plant and prevent it from being absorbed properly.

Milk – some facts:

  • Breast milk or formula will meet your baby’s nutritional requirements – including calcium – for most of his or her first year.
  • Your baby’s body is able to absorb around 60% of available calcium – meaning good bone formation!
  • There actually are lower amounts of calcium in breast milk than in formula – but the calcium in breast milk is much more easily absorbed by your baby’s body, so baby gets all the calcium that he or she needs (this is the same with the iron levels in breast milk and formula).

Solid foods:

As your baby moves toward one-year-old,  he or she will be getting more nutrition from solid foods and less from milk. From now on, you must be sure that the foods you provide contain enough calcium for his or her needs.

Calcium sources for your baby:

  • Milk will always be a great source of calcium – it is easily absorbed, and most babies and children like milk and milk products.
  • Soy milk (check the label to find the most suitable brand.)
  • Cheese – an excellent calcium source, and easy to include in many meals. Sprinkle some over cooked vegetables, put it in a sauce with fish… (People who have an intolerance of other dairy products often do better with cheese, because the milk protein that causes the problems breaks down in cheese as it matures.)
  • Yogurt – the calcium from yogurt is easily absorbed, and yogurt is popular with most babies. (It’s also often better than other dairy foods for those with dairy intolerance problems.)

Other good sources include:

  • amaranth (a grain)
  • blackstrap molasses (treacle)
  • black eyed peas
  • broccoli
  • calcium-fortified orange juice
  • calcium-fortified cereal
  • chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • cottage cheese – try mixing it with fruit puree
  • kale
  • lentils
  • leafy greens and spinach (these are high in calcium, but it is less easily absorbed)
  • okra
  • oranges – if baby is over 1 year of age
  • pinto beans
  • parsley
  • prunes
  • raisins
  • sardines – try them well mashed on toast
  • salmon
  • summer and winter squash
  • swede (rutabaga)
  • tofu – but only if processed with calcium sulphate (a calcium salt), and firm tofu is a better calcium source than soft.
  • watercress
  • water – if you live in a hard water area!

Loss of calcium by the body…

  • Calcium can be lost in the urine, in sweat and in faeces.
  • Too much sodium (salt) in the diet will increase calcium loss.
  • Too much protein can cause calcium loss. When protein is digested, acids are released into the bloodstream and the body draws calcium from the bones to neutralise these acids. Protein from animal sources is believed to cause this more than protein from vegetable sources.

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