This month Brittany Darling from Wholefood healing chats to us about all the baby food we eat before we turn 1 years of age.
We have also talked to Britany about a baby recipe for pear porridge, boosting your immunity especially during times like Coronavirus/ Covid-19, starting solids and baby products you should avoid and why.
So getting back to todays topic-food before ONE- is it just for fun?
The phrase ‘food before one is just for fun’ gets thrown around casually, usually by well-meaning people trying to diminish the stress and anxiety surrounding mealtimes with little ones. Unfortunately, this phrase may end up doing more harm than good. Hopefully there will be many food-related fun times experienced by both you and your baby in that first year of their life. However, there are significant health-related reasons why you should be aiming to introduce your child to a vast array of nutritious foods from about six months of life. (1) This article examines the evidence behind these health-related reasons and discusses the most important considerations when introducing your baby to the exciting world of solid baby food.
In the first months of life, babies can meet all their nutrient and energy requirements from milk alone, but at around the six-month mark, milk will no longer be enough to address all of their dietary needs. (1, 2, 3) At around this time your baby’s appetite will also surpass that which milk alone is able to satiate, and the introduction of complementary solids during this time will help to reduce the risk of stunted growth or development, by meeting these increased energy requirements. (2) Whilst breast milk will continue to provide your infant with beneficial bioavailable nutrients and is still highly recommended for at least twelve months, introducing your infant to a variety of solids during this time will help them to meet their energy and nutrient requirements. (1) This should include a variety of foods from a range of the five recommended food groups, for example, vegetables, fruits and full-fat dairy. (1)
From around six months of age many infants will experience a significant decline in stores of nutrients, such as iron and zinc. (1) Sufficient iron is especially important due to its crucial role in the cognitive and motor development of your baby. (1) It is therefore recommended that the first solids you introduce are iron-rich foods, such as pureed meats, fish, or iron-fortified cereals, cooked tofu, or legumes. (3)
As your child gets used to the idea of solids, it is important to increase the variety of tastes and textures they are exposed to, as this has been shown to decrease fussy eating behaviours and food rejection. (4) This is considered a ‘critical window’ of opportunity to avoid future feeding issues, and to develop oral motor skills. (1, 5) In fact, the most significant developments in oral motor skills for chewing the more solid textures occurs between six and 10 months, and a delay in the introduction of these textures (after 10 months of age) is associated with increased feeding problems at seven years of age. (2) As well as this, openness to trying new foods has been found to be greatest in the first 12 months of life, with fussiness and food rejection tending to increase with age after this. (5) Since infant feeding practices have been shown to be predictive of adult dietary practices, it is vital to include flavor profiles that are not considered natural preferences (for example, bitter vegetables) during this time, when novel flavor acceptance is at its highest. (6) This will hopefully help to encourage tolerance for more healthful and nutrient-dense foods for the rest of their life.
Advice on the introduction of common allergenic foods, such as eggs, peanuts, dairy, soy, wheat and tree nuts, has changed drastically over the last few decades. Current recommendations from The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy state that the introduction of egg and peanuts should occur in the first year of life. (7) Research has also shown that the early introduction of gluten does not appear to increase the risk of developing celiac disease. (8) In fact, introducing allergenic foods before 12 months appears to decrease the risk of allergy to these foods, even for those individuals at high risk of allergy due to genetics, and should be considered an important benefit of including these foods in your infant’s diet. (7, 8)
Once your baby is eating solids, and even prior to this, it is beneficial for them to sit and eat at the table with the family if possible. (1) Infants model their behavior on their parents and siblings, so creating a positive mealtime experience will help your child to learn the nuts and bolts of family mealtimes. Benefits may include, learning how to use cutlery by watching others, interacting socially with family members, and an increase in the consumption of nutritious foods due to the act of imitating family members. (1)
Food in the first year of your child’s life will hopefully include many special moments and lots of enjoyment, but it is also vital for your little one’s development and growth. Expanding your child’s food repertoire in that first year so that they are able to join in with the family meals by their first birthday will offer a range of potential rewards, from encouraging a less picky eater, to a decreased risk of allergies, and will help to encourage more enjoyable family mealtimes for all.