Why does Fiber Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama?

AndieM.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200

Read time: 4 minutes

What to know about fiber in your and your child’s diet

  • Learn why fiber is critical for your health

  • How much fiber you need by age

  • What foods contain fiber

Why is fiber important?

Dietary fiber, a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest, comes from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Fiber is often best known for its role in the regulation of our bowels. Studies indicate that it can be very helpful in both preventing as well as managing constipation, as well as maintaining regularity.1,3

However, fiber has been found to do so much more! Diets higher in fiber can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes.2,3 In fact, in epidemiological studies, populations with higher dietary fiber intakes tend to have lower chronic disease rates overall.4

Types of fiber

There are two categories of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Most plant foods contain both types.

Soluble fiber dissolves in liquid and forms a gel in our stomachs, which helps to slow down digestion.5 It can bind to fats and can help reduce cholesterol, in addition it slows down the absorption of sugars, helping normalize blood sugar levels.6,7,8

Good sources include oat bran, barley, peas and beans, nuts, seeds, and most fruits and vegetables. In addition, psyllium husks and chia seeds are especially high in soluble fiber—if you’ve ever stirred them into a liquid, you know just how gelatinous they get!5,9

Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, doesn’t dissolve in liquid but rather stimulates the large bowels to increase stool water content, making stool easier to pass.10

Good sources include wheat bran, whole grains, and vegetables.5

How much fiber is needed?

Both soluble and insoluble fiber are considered together in dietary fiber recommendations. Your daily recommendations for adequate intake of dietary fiber vary by age, gender, and life stage.

While these recommendations apply to most people, if you have certain digestive or bowel disorders your healthcare provider might have asked you to reduce the amount of fiber in your diet.

The recommended daily intake of fiber is 14 grams per 1,000 calories.11 This amounts approximately to the following dietary fiber recommendations.

*Note that the number for children are based off their Daily Value (DV), or the amount of fiber needed based on average calorie intake at this age range.

Child and adolescent fiber recommendations:

  • Children* 1 to 3 years: 14 g

  • Girls 4 to 8 year: 17 g

  • Boys 4 to 8 years: 20 g

  • Girls 9 – 13 years: 22 g

  • Boys 9 – 13 years: 25 g

  • Adolescent girls 14 – 18 years: 25 g

  • Adolescent boys 14 – 18 years: 31 g

Adult fiber recommendations:

  • Women 19 – 30 years: 28 g

  • Men 19 – 30 years: 34 g

  • Women 31 – 50 years: 25 g

  • Men 31 – 50 years: 31 g

  • Women 50 + years: 22 g

  • Men 51+ years: 28 g

Pregnancy and lactation fiber recommendations:

  • Pregnant women ages 19 – 30 years: 1st trimester: 28 g; 2nd trimester: 34 g; 3rd trimester: 36 g

  • Pregnant women ages 31+ years: 1st trimester: 25 g; 2nd trimester: 31 g; 3rd trimester: 34 g

  • Lactating women ages 19 – 30 years: 34 g

  • Lactating women ages 31+ years: 31 g11

Wondering how to boost your fiber intake? Reach out to our team of registered dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am - 6pm (ET), and Saturday – Sunday 8am - 2pm (ET). Chat Now!

Fiber in your, your baby, and your toddler’s diet

Fiber for you

Fiber (and extra fluids!) are particularly important during pregnancy and postpartum when constipation can be a common complaint.12,13 In addition to dietary sources, fiber supplementation may be very useful. Chat with your health care provider about whether a supplement may be helpful for you.

Including plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes in your everyday diet will help you get to your fiber intake goal. Try to include vegetables at both lunch and dinner, fruit at snacks and breakfast, and choose whole grains when possible. Top salads and yogurt with nuts and seeds, include veggies such as kale or spinach in smoothies, and you can give chia seed-packed overnight oats a try.

Read more: 6 Tips to help Manage Prenatal and Postpartum Constipation

Fiber for your baby and toddler

To help get your little one into the habit of enjoying fiber-rich foods, begin introducing these tastes once your baby starts eating solids. Studies indicate that the more often you introduce foods, including vegetables, the more likely it is that your baby will accept them both now and in the future.14,15

Offer vegetables and fruits every day; choosing and preparing foods that are a texture your child can handle. Beans and legumes are a great weekly addition to their diet as well. Getting your child used to eating whole grains is also important for fiber and nutrient intake.

The good news is that these foods are not only sources of fiber, but also many other vitamins and minerals as well.

Read more:

How Can I Get My Baby to Love Veggies?

Helping Your Child Learn to Love Healthy Foods

Tips for getting enough fiber

Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains as part of a healthy diet

Unless medically advised to reduce your dietary fiber, use the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as your guide for quality and portions of your food choices. This will make it easier for you to get ample dietary fiber without having to pay much attention to specific fiber amounts.

Here’s a cheat sheet of foods with amounts of fiber by serving:

  • Beans (White, navy, lima, black, chickpeas): ½ cup have between 7.5 to 9 g

  • Lentils: ½ cup has about 8 g

  • Raspberries, blackberries: 1 cup has about 8 g

  • Ready-to-eat whole grain kernels: ½ cup has about 7.5 g

  • Read-to-eat cereal, wheat, shredded: 1 cup has about 6 g

  • Pears, apples, grapefruit, orange: one fruit has about 3.5 to 5.5 g

  • Popcorn: 3 cups has about 6 g

  • Bulgur, spelt, teff, and barley, cooked: ½ cup have between 3 and 4 g

  • Brussels sprouts, sweet potato: ½ cup has about 3 g

  • Oat bran: ½ cup has about 3 g

  • Broccoli, cauliflower: 1 cup has about 5 g

  • Kale, spinach, cooked: 1 cup has about 4.5 g

  • Green beans, corn, cabbage, cooked: 1 cup has about 4 g

  • Pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, pistachios: ½ oz has about 1.5 to 2.5 g

  • Flax and chia seeds: 1 tsp have about 1 g16

Recipe and meal ideas to help increase fiber

Here are some new recipes to help boost your and your child’s fiber intake! Remember to offer your child foods in the texture they can handle.

Southwest Black Bean Stew

Whole Ancient Grain Baby Cereal

Sweet Potato Hummus with Pita

Mango Cauliflower & Ginger Baby Food

Drink enough fluids

While increasing fiber is normally a good thing, without increasing water at the same time you or your child may experience gas, bloating, or more constipation.17

Be sure to increase fiber in your or your child’s diet slowly and drink plenty of fluids to help keep your bowels moving regularly.

Read more: How Can I help Relieve Constipation for my Baby and Toddler?

Consider fiber supplementation if needed

If you need fiber supplementation because you are experiencing constipation or need extra fiber for other reasons, you have options.

Fiber supplements on the market include those with psyllium, methylcellulose, and wheat dextrin. You can also simply add wheat bran, oat bran, or ground flax seeds to your salads, oatmeal, or smoothies. Be sure to always increase fluids when you increase fiber to help prevent more constipation.

Always consult with your healthcare provider before taking anything new.

Let's Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am - 2pm (ET). Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Dehydration in Kids: How to Keep your Baby or Tot Hydrated

Meal Plan for Constipation Relief during Pregnancy

How can I Relieve Constipation for my Baby and Toddler?

Meal Plan for Increasing Whole Grains

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