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Introducing Solids

Facts

    • Solids should be introduced at around six months of age as this is when your baby’s nutrient needs will have increased (e.g. Iron) and their swallow reflex will be sufficiently developed  
    • It is now recognised that food introduction does not need to be in any specific order just as long as foods are the correct texture for your baby’s development stage and first foods include some that are rich in iron. The more variety the better. 
    • When introducing solids it is best to continue to breastfeed until 12 months and then beyond as long as you and your baby desire.

Tips

When feeding your child try to avoid the following bad habits:

    • Feeding frequently just to calm your baby when it is crying or fussing  
    • Offering preferred foods just because you know they’ll eat them and it is easier 
    • Using pressure or rewards to encourage your child to eat certain foods

All of these practices promote eating in the absence of hunger and therefore your baby will be more likely to eat more than they need. Rapid weight gain and growth can occur which increases their risk of obesity later in life.

Food and beverages for children under the age of 12 months

Solid foods

Beverages

Vegetables, fruit, grains and meat of correct textures

Main beverage is breast milk/ formula milk

No reduced fat foods

Water

No added salt or sugar.
Avoid processed foods (tuna in brine, stock cubes, chips, desserts, lollies etc)

Delay fruit juice due to high sugar and low fibre content.

No honey (bacteria content)

No cow’s milk as a drink (can be eaten in small amounts in food from 9 months e.g. custard)

For more information see: Foods not suitable for under 12 months

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Risk of allergies

    • About one in ten infants will have a food allergy. This halves by five years old and goes down to less than one in 50 by adulthood. Milk, egg, soy and wheat allergies are usually outgrown however allergies to nuts, sesame and fish tend not to be outgrown.
    • ASCIA recommends the same methods for introduction of solids for children with and without known allergies or a family history of allergies; to introduce foods according to the NHMRC infant feeding guidelines.
    • It has been found that delayed introduction of common allergenic foods can increase any allergy symptoms and decrease your child’s tolerance to allergenic foods.
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Fussy eaters

Facts

    •  Humans do not need to learn to like salty and sugary foods so your children are highly likely to be very accepting of these. Vegetables on the other hand are normally initially rejected by children leading to a premature label of being a ‘fussy eater’. ‘Initially’ can mean even after 10 times of offering the food. The more familiar with a food and its flavours a child is the sooner they will happily eat it.
    • It is your job as parents to ensure your child becomes familiar with the best foods for them through repeated exposure. This requires serious persistence!

Tips

This familiarity can be provided through eating a healthy diet including a wide range of vegetables:

    • During pregnancy. This flavours the amniotic fluid which your child swallows and tastes when in the womb,
    • During lactation. This flavours the breast milk,
    • Around your child as a role model. See more about role modelling
    • Offering the vegetables to your child regularly without pressure.

Employing these methods of food familiarity may make introduction of these foods an easier task.
You can also check out SENSE-ational Mealtimes. It has strategies for managing tricky mealtime behaviours and more.

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Role of meal times

Facts

    •  Meal times do not simply just satisfy hunger, they play a much bigger role that can positively impact in a number of ways on you and your family.

Tips

When I’m in the kitchen doing food prep I try to have my baby in the kitchen with me. It is nice to have the company but I also use it as an opportunity to expose him to cooking – I usually just talk to him about what I’m doing like chopping the carrots or grating the cheese. I think any stimulation is good for him and if it means he’ll be more likely to help out in the kitchen then that would be great too!

I found that once our baby came along, my partner and I were so exhausted that we’d just eat dinner in front of the TV and zone out. One day it just clicked that by doing that we were missing out on valuable time together plus as our baby gets older I want us to all enjoy eating together as a family. Now we sit at the table over dinner chatting, laughing and planning – it’s really been nice

One thing I’ve tried to do is actually ask the bub if she’s hungry – she’s only young but I think she does understand. I just want her to grown up being aware of her own hunger and when she wants to eat rather than eating just for the sake of it

I’ve found that it’s been really good for the baby to eat her meals with the family where possible rather than just being fed alone. Like at breakfast it’s nice to have her eating with us all including her big brothers because she’s been learning a lot from us. I just make sure that unhealthy foods aren’t eaten around her because she’ll probably end up wanting it! One day sooner or later she’ll find out about lollies and stuff but the later it is the better.

Restricting certain foods as your baby gets older may increase their interest in the restricted food (e.g. high sugar or salt foods). This is different to delaying their introduction to these foods which can be more effective at fostering healthy food preferences.

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Parents as role models

Facts

    • What you ate during pregnancy and eat now (whether you are breastfeeding or not) shapes your child’s food preferences. This is through a combination of being more familiar with the taste of foods through exposure to it in the amniotic fluid during pregnancy or in your breast milk as well as role modelling certain eating behaviours.
    • Parents food preferences (e.g. like or dislike of eating certain foods), intake patterns (e.g. skipping breakfast, large helpings, snacking) not only influence what food is in the house and available to your child (irrespective of whether this food is offered to them or not) but also provides an example to your children to learn from by watching your consumption patterns – this is role modelling and it is very powerful.
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Other useful links and references

The Dietary Guidelines for all Australians are currently under revision for release later in 2012. In the meantime the draft can be viewed at eatforhealth.gov.au.

Recipes

Additional reading

Anzman, S. L., B. Y. Rollins, and L. L. Birch. 2010. Parental influence on children's early eating environments and obesity risk: implications for prevention. Int J Obes 34 (7): 1116-1124. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2010.43

Robinson, S., et al., Dietary patterns in infancy: the importance of maternal and family influences on feeding practice. Br J Nutr, 2007. 98(5): p. 1029-37.

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For families of babies and young children who reside or work in W.A.,
if you need further assistance contact the
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Telephone 9368 9368 or Country Access 1800 111 546
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