Babies grow quickly in the first year of life, so they need plenty of energy (Calories) and nutrients. Children’s growth isn’t always steady and even but can be in spurts, which means that appetite and hunger can be unpredictable.
The amounts of foods eaten by your baby and their interest in food may be a little different from day to day. This is normal and shouldn’t cause any concerns if your baby is growing well.
Eating Tips for Children :
When solid foods are introduced, it is sometimes referred to as ‘weaning’. This is when your baby changes from having milk only to eating solid foods. From around 12 months on, your baby should be ready to eat normal family foods.
Introduce solids at about Four to Six Months of age
Breast milk or infant formula is an important food for babies until at least 12 months of age, but it is essential that solid foods are also introduced at the right time. By about four to six months of age, a baby’s iron stores are low and extra foods will be needed to prevent later nutritional problems such as iron deficiency. Start to introduce solids around four to six months of age – depending on the developmental needs of your child.
Don’t leave starting solids too late
It’s also important that starting solids is not left too late, as this may lead to problems including:
- Poor growth due to low energy intake
- Iron deficiency anaemia
- Feeding problems, particularly if not started before about seven to nine months of age.
Clues that your baby is ready for solids
When your baby starts to need the nutrients that solid food can provide, there will also be other obvious signs they are ready to try new foods. These include:
- Watching and leaning forwards when food is around
- Putting fingers in their mouth
- Opening their mouth when food is offered
- Ability to move tongue up and down
- Reaching out to grab food or spoons.
Signs that your baby is full
Signs that your baby isn’t yet interested or is full may include closing the mouth tightly and turning the head away when fed. They may cry when the food is offered or may push the spoon away. If this happens at your first attempts to feed your baby, relax and try again in a few days. While most babies naturally spit food out when first given solids, they soon learn to swallow if you continue.
Getting to know when your baby is hungry or full is important to having happy, relaxed and enjoyable mealtimes.
Tips for introducing solids
Food should never be placed in a feeding bottle, but given on a small, infant-size spoon. Tips for introducing solids include:
- Be calm and relaxed when you start to feed your baby.
- Make sure your child is sitting comfortably and is not too hungry.
- Stay with your baby when they are eating and let them sit with the family to watch and learn.
- Be patient. Your baby may only take a spoonful at first, but this will increase with time and practice.
- Be prepared – all babies will make a mess as they learn to eat.
- Stay with your child while eating to avoid accidents such as choking.
- Try again in a day or so if your baby refuses the first time.
- Wait several days before introducing a new food.
Suggested first foods
First foods can be prepared easily and cheaply at home without salt, seasonings and sweeteners. The foods should at first be finely mashed and smooth, but you can move on to coarsely mashed foods after a few months. General suggestions include:
- Start with a single food rather than a mixture.
- Offer soft regular home cooked foods like boiled dal, freshly cooked soft rice, boiled mashed potatoes, boiled vegetables and fresh fruit juices to start with. Ready made infant cereals are available in the market. However, they are not ideal.
- Give vegetables and fruits next.
- Introduce meats and chicken from seven to eight months. All infants should have meat or alternatives, such as lentils or beans, as part of their diet by eight to nine months.
- The main milk for babies less than 12 months should be breast milk or infant formula. However, it’s okay to introduce and use cows milk as part of custard, yoghurt and on cereal from seven to eight months of age.
- Avoid small hard foods, such as nuts and hard uncooked vegetables, because babies might choke.
- Canned fruit juice or juices with preservatives is not suitable for babies.
Introducing cows milk
- Cows milk is a poor source of iron and is never a substitute for breast milk. Continue breastfeeding until your baby is at least one year old.
- Cows milk contains higher levels of protein, salt, potassium and calcium than breast milk.
- Cows milk may be included from about seven months in small amounts as custard or yoghurt or on cereal.
- Milk should not be the main drink until after one year of age or until a range of food is eaten each day, including meat or meat alternatives.
Some foods are not suitable for babies under 12 months. These include:
- Honey – there is a potential risk of bacterial infection from honey.
- Tea – contains tannins that can restrict vitamin uptake.
- Whole nuts – should be avoided due to the risk of choking. If there is no food allergy in your family, nut pastes can be used after 12 months.
- Canned Fruit juice – contains no nutritional benefit and can reduce the amount of milk consumed.
- Reduced fat milk – is not suitable for children under two.
Children who consume high sugar foods and drinks risk tooth decay. Key principles should include:
- Baby feeding bottles should not contain sweet drinks.
- Baby feeding bottles should not be used to settle children at rest times.
- Sugary snacks should be limited.
- Children should not get sweet foods as rewards for good behaviour.
- Teeth brushing should be encouraged after meals.
Suggestions for Parents:
Changing your child’s diet can be a challenge, but remember: young children can only eat or drink what is given to them. Suggestions include:
- Avoid using a baby’s bottle to settle your child to sleep.
- Don’t keep sweet drinks in the house.
- Don’t consume sweet drinks yourself.
- If your child is already used to sweet drinks, start to reduce their intake – for example, you could offer them watered down versions.
- If your child gets upset, remember that they will get used to the changes if you continue.
- Be patient. This may take time, particularly if your child is in the habit of wanting juice or cordial whenever they are thirsty or hungry.
- Encourage your child to eat fresh fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.
- If you wish to include sweet drinks in your child’s diet, limit consumption to one small glass per day.
- Visit your local doctor or health centre if you have any concerns about your child’s health or growth.