As a nutritionist working in a busy health shop I am faced daily with overwhelmed parents confused about what to give their babies to eat. Weaning your baby can be a time of confusion. Questions that are asked include ‘Are they getting enough food?’, ‘Are they meeting their recommended daily allowances of certain nutrients?’.
The questions I like to ask are ‘Are they eating real food?’, ‘Are you cooking your babies meals from scratch?’. The food industry is loving this era of jarred and pureed ‘baby food’ while I’m not convinced. Popular baby yogurts are heavily marketed as having ‘added vitamin D and calcium for bones’ while failing to mention almost 2tsp of sugar per pot. This is fuelling childhood obesity and increasing the risk of childhood diabetes in Ireland.
What if your child’s transition to solid foods were to be a more enjoyable (and messy) venture. A venture with less stress on parents and more focus on getting your child to eat wholesome foods together with the family. Baby Led Weaning is rising in popularity yet it is not a new concept. Prior to the invention of blenders and ‘baby foods’ in supermarkets, babies had been weaned onto foods that were eaten by the entire family. Aileen of Babyledfeeding.com has made this transition an easy and enjoyable way of weaning, designing recipes packed with nutrients, while encouraging the baby the learn more about what food is.
The main aim of the game is to enable your baby to know what foods look like in their natural state so they develop a healthier relationship with food going forward. A diet low in salt, additives and excess sugar and high in nutrient dense vegetables that will fuel their bodies.
The first year of life is a time of phenomenal growth and development. An infants’ birth weight doubles by 6months and triples by one year, a process not repeated at any other phase of a life cycle. A nutritious and adequate diet is required to support this huge growth spurt.
As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. An introduction of complementary foods and continued breastfeeding thereafter is recommended (WHO 2001).
By 6 months of age, an infant’s stores of minerals such as iron, zinc and some fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin D) are decreasing while nutritional requirements are increasing. Neither breast milk nor infant formula milk intake alone is enough to meet your child’s needs (FSAI 2011).
Iron is essential for healthy growth and development and is widely distributed in foods. Iron is found in large concentrations in dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli), red meats, chicken, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chickpeas and dried apricots.
Phytates reduce iron absorption which is found in fibre containing foods such as bran, wholegrains and beans. While wholegrains and beans should be included in small amounts in your child’s diet, bran is not to be given. Bran can impair absorption of iron and calcium and also decrease a babies appetite due to the high fibre content.
Zinc is a component of over 70 enzymes needed for the body to function optimally while also being involved in cell growth, immunity, would healing and bone formation. Zinc is found in legumes, seafood, beef, chicken, wholegrains, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
With regard to Vitamin D, it can be made naturally when our skin is exposed to the sun. Due to babies sensitive skin however, it is advised that a baby isn’t exposed to direct sunlight due to the risk of burning. Vitamin D supplements are recommended in Ireland of 200IU per day. Food sources include oily fish like salmon, mackerel and eggs.
There is a world of information out there on nutrition that can be overwhelming. Keeping meal times simple, nutritious and delicious will benefit the entire family☺
By Laura Slattery (firstname.lastname@example.org)
BSc, Dip NT.
For more information on Nutrition and Baby led weaning come to the Elbowroom Saturday 1st October 2016 from 13:30 – 16:30 with Nutritionists Laura Slattery and Fiona McEnroy of Healthy Ever After and Aileen from Baby Led Feeding.
Tickets available: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/home?studioid=1638
World Health Organisation (2001) Optimal Duration of exclusive breastfeeding, Switzerland: World Health Organisation
Food Safety Authority of Ireland (2011) Best Practice for Infant feeding in Ireland, Dublin: Food Safety Authority of Ireland