Guide to Healthy Eating: Children 0 – 12 months
From the moment your child is born, it is essential for them to receive the right nutrients in order for them to grow and develop at a healthy rate. Often parents are bombarded with information about what is best, when to start and what to provide. Below is a guide to healthy eating for children from 0 – 12 months.
Newborn – 6 months
One of the biggest decisions new parents will have to make is choosing whether to breastfeed or formula-feed their new baby. Health experts believe breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants, but this may not be an option for all women. For many, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical situations.
Breastfeeding is a natural and beneficial way for children to receive nutrients in their first few months of life. There are many benefits for you as well as your baby, these include:
Your baby’s growth and development depend on the food he/she gets and breastfeeding will provide all your baby’s essential needs for growth, development and protection from illness and disease. Breast milk naturally contains many of the vitamins and minerals that a newborn requires and contains antibodies that fight against germs. It also lowers the risk of obesity and diabetes in childhood and adulthood.
Milk can take on various subtle changes in flavour, depending on what new Mums eat. This exposes breastfed children to a variety of different tastes through their mother’s breast milk, often allowing them to enjoy a greater variety of food and flavours as they begin to eat solids.
Breastfeeding encourages skin-to-skin contact which can enhance the emotional connection between mother and infant. It often regulates the baby’s heart rate and breathing, helping them to better adapt to life outside the womb.
While the cost of formula can quickly add up, breast milk is completely free!
If you are considering on breastfeeding your child while they are in child care, check with your provider to see when they allow you to visit for feeding times, and if they have a policy and procedure around expressed breast milk.
Breastfeeding may not come easy and can be a painful and stressful experience for new mums, which is why they often choose to formula feed. Formula feeding your baby will still provide the nutrients that your baby requires and offer additional benefits as well, including:
This method of feeding allows for the entire family to share in on the feeding experience. This allows new Mums to share the feeding duties and helps her partner to feel more involved in the crucial feeding process and the bonding that often comes with it.
Formula feeding doesn’t require mothers to feed or pump on a set schedule and doesn’t demand parents to plan their lifestyle around their baby’s feeding times. They also don’t need to find a private place to nurse in public. If you plan to put your child in child care, simply give them instructions of your feed times and routine and the educators are more than likely to take care of the rest.
Mothers who are formula feeding don’t have to worry about what they are eating or drinking and how it will affect their baby. This is particularly useful when a mother is sick and requires medication or a glass of wine!
6 – 12 months
By the time your baby is about five to six months of age, breast milk or formula will no longer provide all the nutrition your child needs for healthy growth. While both remain an important source of nutrients, your child will be running low on iron and zinc. Solids are needed to replenish these and other nutrient levels so your baby can continue to grow.
When your baby approaches 6 months, there are 4 signs to look out for to suggest they are ready to add some solid food into their diet. These include:
- Holding their head steady and sit without support
- Searching for food and putting items in their mouth
- Ability to bite and swallow food without pushing it out of their mouth with their tongue
- Demanding more milk or having an increased appetite
What solids to introduce:
When considering what foods to offer your child as their first foods, consider preparing ingredients that are high in iron and zinc like rice cereal, meat, fish, chicken and tofu. There is no set order for introducing food as long as it is easy to digest. Babies will be able to manage a variety of textures ranging from smooth, mashed, grated or foods that can be cut into soft pieces.
It is key to observe your child’s reactions to food and the possible complications of introducing solids early.
What about liquids:
The only drinks your baby needs are breast or formula milk. Avoid offering juice, cordial or soft-drink, as these drinks can damage growing teeth and cause a baby to gain too much weight. From around 6 months, small amounts of cooled boiled water can be given in addition to breast milk or formula.
At Bliss, we allow parents to visit our centre to breastfeed as many times as they think necessary. Alternatively, we offer children under 6 months their formula based on instructions from parents.
Children in our junior discoverers room who are 6 months and older are offered purees approved by Nutrition Australia and made daily by our in-house chef.