Let’s get started with weaning
It’s important to start confidently as you introduce your little ones to the joys of having a healthy diet. Here we’ll give you the knowledge that you require to make informed choices about the food that you provide your growing baby.
The BNF Healthy Eating Week
The British Nutrition Foundation’s Healthy Eating Week 2018 is on 11th – 15th June. As this initiative encourages and helps people make confident choices about the food they eat and the food that they give to their children we’ll be joining in, answering the questions that you may have about healthy weaning.
How do we know how much of each nutrient we need at each stage of life, from birth to older age? The BNF help here, they have a fantastic explanation of the nutrients found in food.
Most people should be able to get all the nutrients they need by eating a healthy, varied diet, although there are a few exceptions. For example, if you are pregnant or likely to become pregnant, it is recommended that you take a folic acid supplement daily until the 12th week of pregnancy to help prevent deformities such as spina bifida developing in your baby.
When to start weaning?
The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. This is based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines because of the strong evidence of the benefits for both mother and child.
Breast milk (or infant formula) will usually provide all the energy, nutrients and fluids that your baby needs to grow and develop healthily during the first 6 months of life.
Wean your baby at the right time – around 6 months
What’s the healthy way to start weaning?
The BNF advises that you begin by mixing a teaspoon of one of the following foods with your baby’s usual breast or formula milk:
- Non–wheat cereals, such as baby rice
- Mashed or puréed fruit: soft fruits such as banana or avocado, or cooked fruit such as pear or apple
- Mashed or puréed cooked vegetables, such as carrot, potato, sweet potato, or parsnip
You can also try finger sized pieces of soft/cooked fruit or cooked vegetables. The best finger foods are those that can be cut into pieces that are big enough for your baby to hold in their fist. Pieces about the size of your own finger work well.
After 6 months babies can be introduced to dairy foods*, foods containing wheat and varied sources of protein.
Carrying On with a Healthy Diet for your Baby
The BNF suggest that from around 9 months your baby should be moving towards having three meals a day, in addition to healthy snacks as well as breast or formula milk. Although this varies from child to child, please don’t worry if your little one isn’t quite ready. Water should be offered in an open cup or a free-flow lidded beaker with each meal. Water is the best alternative to milk as a drink and should be offered with every meal. Give your baby tap water, rather than bottled water, as the mineral content can be too high in some bottled waters (if giving tap water to a baby under 6 months old, it should be boiled and cooled first). Drinks containing added sugars, like squashes and fizzy drinks, are not suitable for babies. They should also avoid energy and diet drinks.
Offer your growing baby a wide range of foods to make sure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need. Encouraging your baby to try a wide range of foods will also make them more likely to accept new flavours and textures later in life.
Foods to Avoid
We’re mostly aware that salt and sugar should be avoided but there’s a few more that the BNF recommend should be avoided: Honey, Shark, marlin and swordfish,Raw or undercooked eggs –Infants from 6 months old can safely eat raw or lightly cooked hen eggs, or foods containing them, that are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice, Whole nuts, Raw shellfish, Soft or unpasteurised cheeses.
Keep it Up
As your child decides what foods are nicer than others keep encouraging the healthy option. Of course, we’re predisposed to prefer chocolate to sprouts, in fact Rose Gerber of the University of Pittsburgh says “Kids need lots of energy, way more than adults. As such, they instinctively turn towards the food which can provide them with lots of energy (especially in the form of glucose, the body’s preferred fuel).” Children tend to associate processed foods that are high in fat and sugar (ice cream, cake, candy) with positive memories such as parties, holidays, celebrations, and rewards it’s our job, as parents, to cultivate a love of healthy nutritious food as we teach the next generation.
You can find advice and tips on how to put healthy eating and an active lifestyle into practice, for life on the British Nutrition Foundation website.
*Note, cows milk is not suited to children younger than 1 year of age.