Good nutrition is vital to optimal infant and toddler growth, development, and health. The importance of this age group has been emphasized by First Lady Michelle Obama, who said that “If our kids get into the habit of getting up and playing, if their palates warm up to veggies at an early age, and if they’re not glued to a TV screen all day, they’re on their way to healthy habits for life.” So, making sure that even the youngest infants and toddlers are on the road to a healthy life is critical, and having national dietary guidance for infants and children from birth to 24 months can help make this happen.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) provides sound advice for making food and physical activity choices that promote good health and a healthy weight, and help prevent disease for Americans, including Americans at increased risk of chronic disease. The DGA has traditionally focused on adults and children 2 years of age and older. Infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months of age have not been a focus in previous versions of the DGA because of their unique nutritional needs, eating patterns, and developmental stages.
In recent years, there has been a growing demand both within and outside of government for the DGA to include infants and toddlers, and the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, calls for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to expand to include pregnant women and children from birth to age 2. In response to these requests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have initiated the Birth to 24 Months Dietary Guidance Project (B-24) to develop guidance for this important age group using a similar evidence-based research approach as the DGA.
The goals of the B-24 project are to:
- Develop comprehensive guidance for the birth to 24 month age group
- Use a rigorous and transparent process informed by a broad range of experts in the field of infant and toddler nutrition and health
- Provide foundational guidance for the birth to 24 month age group that can be incorporated and updated in future editions of the DGA, beginning in 2020
To accomplish these goals, USDA and HHS have implemented a five phase plan. Phase 1 of the project was completed in October 2013. This phase identified high priority topics/themes, such as how a mother’s diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding impacts her child’s risk of developing food allergies, or how kids develop food preferences, that would need to be addressed to inform B-24 dietary guidance. Research needs related to this population were also identified, including the need to better understand what nutrients are in human milk. For more information on the findings from Phase 1, visit the Nutrition Evidence Library’s Birth-24 Overview page. To learn more about the rest of the project, view the Birth to 24 Months Dietary Guidance Development Project Fact Sheet (PDF, 149KB).
B-24 dietary guidance is coming your way! Stay in touch with the progress being made by checking the B-24 section of CNPP’s website.