Basics of baby nutrition: foods to include/avoid

What foods should I start with?

  • Fruits: avocado, banana, pears, steamed apple, blueberries, strawberries
  • Vegetables: sweet potato, beetroot, cauliflower, butternut squash, peppers, carrots
  • Protein: egg, quinoa, hummus, pulses, beans, tofu 
  • Grains: porridge oats, amaranth, buckwheat, pasta
  • Fats: full fat dairy such as plain yoghurt or coconut yoghurt

What nutrients should I focus on?

Iron – all stores become depleted after the first 6 months of life, so it is really important to focus on foods that contain iron such as lentils, red meat, eggs, beans, and nut butters – early on. 

Omega 3 – important for brain development. This is best from oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines & trout, but not more than twice per week. Other plant sources include omega 3 enriched eggs, ground walnuts, soya beans and linseed oil.                                                                                                                         

Calcium- helps build strong bones and teeth – most will still come from breast or formula milk, but you can introduce small amounts of pasteurised full-fat dairy if you choose. Or there are lots of plant-based sources such as chia seeds, tofu, tempeh, figs, soybeans, okra, broccoli, almond butter and tahini

Iodine- needed for making thyroid hormones, which contribute to normal growth. Main sources are white fish, dairy and eggs, and sea vegetables such as seaweed.Fibre- important for the digestive system; it’s a good idea to use a combination of white and wholegrain carbohydrates because some grains can be very filling and not leave enough room for other nutrients.

What foods should I avoid?

  • Salt – less than 1g a day
  • Sugar – contains no useful nutrients and can fill babies’ tummies leaving little room for more nutritious foods 
  • Additives – such as monosodium glutamate, e numbers (E102, E104, E110, E122, E123, E129, E211) – may be linked to hyperactivity in children (Rapley)
  • Honey – even if cooked until they are over 12 months as it can be a source of an infection called botulism
  • Certain fish – shark, swordfish, marlin and tuna due to high levels of mercury, which can affect the development of the nervous system
  • Undercooked eggs – due to risk of salmonella

Image by Tanaphong Toochinda

What about allergens?

There are 14 major allergens that are the most likely foods to trigger an allergic reaction. 

Babies are more likely to develop allergies if there’s a history of eczema, asthma, hay fever or food allergies in the family.

When you start weaning, introduce the foods that can trigger allergic reactions one at a time so that you can spot any reaction and not before 6 months. Symptoms include; hives, skin rashes, swelling, and in very rare cases anaphylactic shock. Seek medical advice if concerned.

What about gagging and choking?

Babies often gag, which is different from choking. Gagging occurs when food is too large or chewed insufficiently, and this triggers a gag reflex, which pushes the food forward so they can spit it out. Some babies are sick after this occurs. If your baby is gagging, make sure they are upright or leaning forward so they can get the food out, but don’t hit them on the bank. 

If your baby is choking they may go blue and be silent – in this situation you will need immediate help; going on a baby first aid course can help boost your confidence with what to do, but ALWAYS

  • Stay with your LO when they are eating
  • Ensure baby is upright, not leaning back
  • Cut large round foods such as grapes, tomatoes, sausages into quarters
  • Remove tough skin, pips, stones and bones where needed
  • Lightly cook hard food such as carrots and apples
  • NEVER allow your baby to eat in the back of the car 

Babies are born extremely intuitive eaters, and weaning is a journey of discovery and exploration, which should be positive and fun for all involved! Follow their hunger and fullness cues. Never force or encourage them to eat something they don’t want. Our most important job as parents is to honour that, and try to relax and enjoy the experience!

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