What should I feed my baby? A question on every parent's lips…
As well as all the other roles that accumulate during the first 6 months of parenthood, you suddenly become a chef, and are expected to be an expert in child nutrition, it can be really overwhelming!
But please don’t worry or stress about your child’s meal times, as long as you know the guidelines they should be absolutely fine.
We have talked with Valentina Grizner, who’s not only got a diploma in child nutrition, but has worked on the recipes for nurseries all over London. She’s given us the do’s and don'ts of weaning and an outline on how to introduce certain foods.
The first stages of weaning
From around 5-6 months old (but not sooner than 4 months old), babies should start to be introduced to solid foods as they need more than just breastmilk to get the nutrients they need.
In the early stages, babies can only eat soft, cooked food because they are still teething. You can whizz up different vegetables to make purees. It is best to introduce both orange and green blended foods to give your baby a variety as soon as possible. Make sure they get used to the green, less sweet vegetables, like broccoli, kale & cauliflower, as this will help stop them becoming fussy eaters later down the line.
You should try all different types of vegetables to make the purees and you can even pair them with fruits; such as parsnip with pear, spinach with banana or carrot with apple. Also mashing avocado and banana together always seems to be a winner, and is full of nutrients.
Eventually, you will be able to experiment with three or four new flavours at a time, depending on what they like.
How should I introduce potential allergens into my baby’s diet
It is best to introduce one food at a time to catch allergic reactions, if they are common allergy-inducing foods, they should be introduced in small amounts.
These foods include cows’ milk (in cooking or food, for example white sauce), eggs, foods with gluten like wheat, barley and rye, nuts (crushed), seeds (crushed), soya, shellfish and fish.
- Eggs: boil, mash and mix into breast/formula milk. Once your baby doesn’t show any reactions, crack on with all eggs’ in as many variations!
- Gluten: half a Weetabix softened with breast/formula milk. Add mashed banana for extra vitamins and a delicious breakfast! Gluten can be introduced around 4-6 months of age, but no sooner than this.
- Nuts: a small scoop of smooth peanut butter, almond butter or cashew butter on banana, bread or porridge (please always avoid offering crunchy nut butter because they are considered choking hazards for babies and young children)
- Fish: fish fingers can be introduced at 6-7 months, but only if homemade. You should wait till 9 months to introduce shop bought fish fingers, due to the high salt content.
If your baby has no issue with these foods then keep giving them each of the food groups in small amounts to avoid them developing an allergy later down the line.
Introducing solids & avoid choking
By around 7-9 months, you can move on to mashed, lumpy or finger foods.
But be careful, finger foods are a choking hazard. Avoid foods such as uncut cherry tomatoes, pieces of raw fruit or veg like carrot or apple, uncooked dried fruit like raisins, and round fruits such as grapes, blueberries or melon balls. Make sure these are all cut up as small as possible so they are easier to swallow.
Smoothies can be introduced around 8-9 months and are a delicious and fun way to get those extra nutrients in! You can mix both fruit and vegetables: spinach and mango, or kale and banana - yummy and healthy! You can also add some nuts, such as Brazil nuts for healthy fats, selenium and calcium or chia seeds for an omega-3 boost.
What foods should I avoid during the weaning process?
- Added salt (bacon, sausages)
- Refined sugar (such as sweets, chocolate)
- Saturated fat (crisps, cakes, biscuits)
- Honey - not before 12 months old - it contains bacteria that can produce toxins in a baby's intestines, leading to infant botulism, which is a very serious illness
- Whole nuts - only crushed, ground or offered in a smooth nut butter
- Some cheeses - babies can eat pasteurised cheese from 6 months old but mould-ripened soft cheeses and unpasteurised cheeses should not be given for young children because they might carry a bacteria called listeria
- Raw and lightly cooked eggs
- Raw shellfish - high risk of food poisoning
Why should I avoid added salt or sugar
Added salt should generally be avoided as too much can damage their kidneys and increase blood pressure, so it’s best to keep their salt intake as low as possible, about 2 grams a day.
Remember, babies don’t need sugar added to their food. Sugar lacks nutrients, it can increase the chances of obesity and most obviously it can cause tooth decay.
Start them on proper meals
Anytime from 8 months it is time to start introducing proper meals, if you haven’t already. Give them balanced meals with a variety of vegetables, dairy, gluten and protein.
Be creative and add 4 or 5 different vegetables into a pasta bolognese (you can use little pasta stars if they don’t have many teeth yet). Add a layer of spinach into a Veggie Lasagna, it’s a great way to get in the Iron they need as well as gluten, dairy, legumes and lots of other vegetables - we actually have our own Vegetable Lasagna, so have a look at our menu!
What nutrients does your child need
From 1 year onwards you can start to feed your child similar meals to what you eat yourself, minus the salt and sugar. However, remember to make sure they continue to get a balanced diet. There are nutrients they should get on a daily basis.
- Protein (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, quinoa, amaranth)
- Carbohydrates (wholewheat bread, potato, rice, pasta, couscous, spelt, buckwheat)
- Fats (whole milk dairy products, nuts, avocado, oily fish)
- Calcium (milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, spinach, egg yolks)
- Iron (red meats, beans, nuts, spinach, kale, whole grains)
- Fiber (pulses such as chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans; grains and seeds)
- Vitamin A (carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, apricots, cabbage)
- Vitamin C (oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, melons, cauliflower, mangos)
Hopefully this has given you a good guide to what you should be feeding your little ones.
As long as you start with a variety of vegetable purees and move onto solid food, while avoiding the choking hazards, you should be fine. Try to avoid saturated fats, salt and sugar and stick with real whole foods. Make sure you include all the different food groups in their diet and they should get the nutrients they need to grow and develop.