Vitamin C and second hand smoke

I'm wondering if my 5.5 month old is getting a balanced enough diet. He currently is consuming 4-5 8 oz bottles, 1/2 cup cereal, and 1/2 jar baby food daily. I'm trying to add variety to his life by getting him to sample lots of different things by giving him one food for 4 days then switching to a new food for 4 days and so on. I've been trying to alternate fruits, meats and vegetables. I also give him some diluted apple juice approx 1 day a week (I'm feeding that to him in a cup not his bottle) and he gets the occasional teething biscuit.

I've heard that a balanced diet consists of at least 3 of the 4 food groups a day -- should I be giving him both 1/4 jar fruit and 1/4 jar vegetable or meat?? I've also heard that I should increase his vitamin C intake since he's exposed to second-hand smoke when he's at his grandma's house and she's going to be the one babysitting him when I go back to work next week.

I look forward to hearing your opinion,


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Gwendda,

At five months old, your baby should still be getting the bulk of his nutrition from his formula. Formula is the main food group he needs right now. From the description of his diet that you have shared, it sounds like you are doing everything right. He is getting 32 to 40 ounces of formula each day, which is very normal for a baby his age. The other solids that he is eating now are more to get him used to the idea, and to stimulate eating development, than it is to supply any large amount of nutrition.

As he eats more and more solids, then you will want to make sure that they replace what he is no longer getting from the formula he has cut out to make room for the solids. For this reason, it is important to start including an iron fortified infant cereal into his repertoire. He should be getting used to have a daily bowlful. He will be needing a good source of dietary iron for a couple of years, and when the formula no longer makes up the bulk of his diet, you will want to be sure he is getting it elsewhere. Instant, iron fortified baby cereal can be included in his daily diet for several years. Beyond the cereal for the next few weeks, you can add fruits and vegetables one at a time as you have been doing. Then, not until 7 or 8 months does he need meat. The high level of protein in straight meat may be a little hard on his still maturing kidneys. Stick to the combination meat dinners for a while, until he is older.

Finally, and most importantly, I think you should think long and hard about having your son exposed to second hand smoke on a daily basis. No amount of vitamin C will counter the proven, negative health effects that it will have. Vitamin C is used at a faster rate in smokers, and if your son is staying with a smoker, you want to double his vitamin C intake. The need for a 5 month old is 35mg. He can easily get double that with one jar of a vitamin C fortified baby juice each day. However, this extra vitamin C will not protect your son, it will merely be fulfilling an increased need.

Your son is at a critical time in his development. Smoke in his lungs will only serve as a huge disadvantage to him, and may cause him to develop life long health problems such as allergies and asthma. If you worry about only one thing, it should not be his diet, but rather the air he will be breathing. I do know that finding economical, loving, and a safe daycare is a difficult task. However, your son's Grandma's house will NOT be safe your baby because of the second hand smoke exposure.

If there is any way to get grandma to stop smoking, at least in the house, while baby is there, it would be wonderful. Perhaps she can go outdoors for a cigarette while your son is napping. Try and ensure that the indoor air for your son is clean and smoke free. You owe it to your baby! Thank you for your question.

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