Looking after your baby or toddler
Breast or formula feeding
There is a multitude of advice out there with regards to the best nutrition and wellbeing of your baby. The Department of Health recommends breastfeeding until your baby is six months old. During this time your baby is receiving important nutrients through breast milk and/or formula feeding. Did you know that Omega-3 DHA occurs naturally in a mother’s milk, which is why it’s often added to formula milks?
After six months, breast milk alone doesn't provide your baby with enough minerals and nutrients, so other foods are needed. During this time vitamins A, C and D are particularly important.
Whilst they are still young, get them interested in new and exciting foods. Colours and textures can be explored. It’s a whole new world opening up for those little taste buds. Whether it’s homemade purees or ready-made jars of vegetable or meat dinners, there’s a fair bit of experimentation that goes on before your toddler’s favourite foods emerge. When this happens, you’ll probably breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve actually found something they like. But make sure you vary their diet a bit, too. After all, a healthy diet is not a diet of just one or two things.
One of the advantages of waiting until 6 months to introduce solids is that it will reduce the likelihood of your baby developing adverse reactions to certain foods. This is even more important if you have a family history of allergies.
However, no two babies are the same. If your instincts tell you that your baby needs to start solids before six months, discuss it with your health visitor first. This timing is particularly relevant if your baby was born prematurely. The Department of Health states that solid foods should not be introduced before the end of your baby's fourth month (20 weeks). If you decide to wean your baby onto solids before six months, remember there are a number of foods that need to be avoided, such as those containing gluten, wheat, liver, eggs, soft and unpasteurized cheeses, fish and shellfish.
Blink, and your baby will have become a toddler. Day by day they’ll become more active and aware of their surroundings. During this time they’ll continue to learn, become more inquisitive and begin to absorb what is happening around them.
Having been on solids for some time and because they are now much more active, the demands on their body and mind are increasing as well. Toddlers need about 1000 calories a day (just to give you an idea, the daily intake for adult women is 2000 and 2500 for men) from across all the major food groups:
- three to four servings a day of starchy food, such as potato, bread and rice
- three to four servings a day of fruit and vegetables
- two servings a day of meat, fish, eggs, dhal or other pulses (beans and lentils)
Toddlers vary quite a lot in the amount they eat – anything from a quarter to half an adult portion size. As their stomachs are small, they may prefer to eat little and often rather than have three larger meals a day.
Getting your toddler to eat a balanced diet is advisable and more exotic foods can be introduced as they grow and develop. It’s all about giving your child access to a wide variety of foods that over a long period of time will give them all the goodness their body needs. Foods that have high amounts of salt, sugar and saturated fat should be avoided, whilst fruit and vegetables are a definite must for your child’s growth and development.
During this time you may experience periods when your toddler is fussy about what they eat and however much you try, it is sometimes difficult to get your child to eat a balanced diet. A comprehensive range of vitamin and mineral supplements can never replace a balanced diet. However supplements can provide mums with peace of mind that they are giving their child additional nutritional support when their child is not managing to eat a balanced diet.
is essential for strong bones and teeth. Milk is the most important source, which should be full fat up to the age of two years old.
play a vital role in providing energy, carrying vitamins around the body and helping build cell membranes. A low-fat diet is not appropriate for toddlers, it’s important to include good fats. Good fats are unsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats which should make up the majority of fat intake and include oily fish; olive and vegetable oils and spreads.
helps the body to absorb calcium. The most well known source is sunlight (from May to September); food sources include oily fish, eggs and spreads.
helps support the immune system. It’s found in citrus fruits, berries, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and green leafy vegetables.
Without iron, the body can’t make haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body. Red meats contain plentiful supplies of iron, but getting younger children to eat red meat may be difficult, so supplements may provide a good alternative for mums with fussy kids*.
*If taken in excess iron may be harmful to very young children.