Written by Registered Nutritionist and mum-of-two; Rhiannon Lambert
After the first few weeks of weaning your baby will be getting used to all the exciting new textures, flavours, and of course the concept of eating foods for the first time. At this time there’s a few things that parents should be thinking about to help make this an enjoyable experience for themselves and your little ones too.
As your baby grows and develops, they will gradually progress to having 3 regular meals a day, but for now it’s important you continue to offer a wide variety of foods. This helps make sure that they are getting all the energy and nutrients, such as iron and healthy fats, that they need to support healthy growth.
What should parents be thinking about?
Here are some of my key considerations once your baby reaches 7 months of age!
Try to eat as a family where possible
- Eating together as a family where you can, can really help encourage your baby to learn and develop how to chew and swallow foods as they watch you. This also provides a positive setting for your baby to enjoy their meal in to help them to build that healthy relationship with food as they get older. Babies and young children will model how you chew and swallow too so show your baby how to do this and exaggerate a bit when sitting with them.
Avoid added sugars and salts
- It’s important to remember not to add any additional salt or sugar into your little ones' foods or to the water used to cook their foods. This is because salty foods are not good for small kidneys and too much sugar can cause dental problems, such as tooth decay. For this reason, we recommend that your child does not suck directly from the pouches.
- Whilst there are no guidelines for how much sugar babies should eat in a day; the NHS recommends that sugar-sweetened drinks and any foods with added sugars in them should be avoided up until the age of 4 years old.
- For salt intakes, babies under the age of 1 years old should not be having any more than 1g of salt per day.
- Babies under 12 months of age don’t need to have snacks in between mealtimes. If you feel your child getting hungry then why not try offering a milk feed, either with breastmilk or infant formula.
Be mindful of the language spoken and the body language used when talking about food
- Where possible, try to keep it positive at all times and try not to offer rewards with it for eating certain foods or certain amounts.
- Give encouragement and praise using your words, facial expressions and hand actions too, such as smiling and clapping.
- Children may be up and down with the food they eat with things like teething, sickness, changing sleep routines which can all have an impact on their appetite, but try to ensure they have a wide variety of food with no foods being seen as good or bad.
Creating a relaxed environment to eat in
- Remember if you're calm your baby will tend to be calmer too, so try to make sure that when feeding your baby you’re relaxed and calm.
- A relaxing, calming, and positive environment to eat in is important for helping to develop a good relationship with foods and mealtimes. One way of doing this, which I have done with both of my children, is using soothing music. If this is part of your weaning routine, then when this plays your baby may also recognise that it’s time to eat and will get them ready to have their meal. Make sure you use the same soothing music, e.g., classical, each time for consistency.
- Babies starting their journey towards solid foods will be an exciting time for them, but it may also be a little overwhelming too. It may take them a while to get used to all the new flavours and textures that they are being exposed to, and they may not be eating three meals a day from the beginning, so it’s important that you are patient, do not worry if they aren’t quite getting three meals a day, and keep offering a variety of foods throughout this time. Did you know that for some babies, it can take over 10 attempts to start accepting a new food. They may pull a face but don’t let this make you think they don’t like it!
What sort of foods should I be giving my child?
Try to encourage your baby to eat mashed, lumpy foods and finger foods as soon as they can manage them. Cook them so that they are soft and you are able to mash or blend them or offer them as finger foods depending on the preferences of your little one.
Fruits and vegetables
- Make sure to offer a variety of vegetables and fruits, including ones with bitter flavours, such as broccoli, spinach, avocado, cauliflower, butternut squash, asparagus, and kale.
- These can help form the bases of your baby’s meals and can help provide energy and important vitamins and minerals too. Include foods such, potato, sweet potato, baby rice, rice, oats, pasta, bread and other wholegrains. The NHS suggests these can be mixed with breast milk, infant formula milk, or pasteurised full-fat (whole) milk once they’re older than 6 months.
- This macronutrient helps with the growth and development of your baby and can be found in both animal and plant sources, such as chicken, beef, pork, fish without bones, eggs, lentils, beans, chickpeas and other pulses, and meat alternatives such as tofu.
- Although there are no specific guidelines regarding the protein intake for babies, a rough recommendation is that they should be consuming approximately 11g of protein per day. Our pouches provide the perfect introduction to foods naturally high in protein and will help support this 11g recommendation.
- When looking at dairy options such as yoghurts, cheeses and milks, it’s important to choose the pasteurised, full-fat, and unsweetened options, as these will be safer for your baby to eat/drink, and the higher fat content will give them the energy they need to support their rapid growth.
- Keep an eye out for the sugar content too, as you want to keep sugar intakes low to avoid dental problems.
- It should be noted that the NHS recommends that whole pasteurised (full-fat) cows' milk, or goats' or sheep's milk, can be used in cooking or mixed with food from around 6 months old, but not as a drink until your baby is 12 months.
- If your child has a dairy allergy or you are raising them as plant-based, then the NHS suggests they can have unsweetened calcium-fortified alternatives, such as soya, almond, and oats drinks from the age of one as part of a balanced and healthy diet. In terms of fortification, also keep an eye for other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, iodine, and vitamin B12, to help bring up the levels so that they are similar to that of cow’s milk.
- Rice milks should not be offered to babies and children under the ages of 5 years old, due to the arsenic content that they may contain.
Other vitamins and minerals
- From 6 months old your baby’s natural iron stores will run out so it’s important that they are getting enough from the diet and fortified foods, so this is where weaning and the introduction of food arises.
- The UK government also suggests that all children aged 6 months to 5 years should be given daily vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D.
Continue with the milk feeds
- In terms of hydration for your little ones, breast milk or infant formula is still important for energy and nutrients during the first year and should be their main drink until 12 months. As they grow up and your baby eats more solids, they may naturally want less breast milk or first infant formula.
- When your baby is eating their meal, offer small sips of water from an open cup or a free-flow cup with a straw. This will help protect your baby’s teeth and will help with developing the skill of sipping water.
- Drinks that have a higher sugar content, such as squash, fresh fruit juices, and fizzy drinks, should be avoided to help prevent tooth decay. Be careful of the marketing surrounding some baby and/or toddler drinks (and foods) too though as these can sometimes be higher in sugar than you might think!
This is the period where your baby will really start to explore their foods, and express what they like or dislike, as they grow and develop both physically and mentally. You know your baby, so it’s always best to go with what works for you and your little ones. If you’re concerned about your child’s nutrition or if you think they’re not eating enough, then it’s always advised to speak with your GP and a specialist paediatric dietitian as they will be able to help with specific nutritional needs.