Cow’s milk should not be used as the main drink for infants before the age of 12 months as it doesn’t have all of the vitamins and minerals that your baby needs to grow and develop. Cow’s milk has large amounts of protein, sodium and potassium which can overload your baby’s immature kidneys.
Small amounts of cow’s milk can be used when cooking your baby’s food from about 9 months. After 12 months of age, your baby can begin to have plain whole cow’s milk as a drink.
Reduced-fat milks are not recommended for children aged less than 2 years, as they need the fat for energy.
Milo and flavoured milks are not recommended for young children as they contain large amounts of sugar.
Fruit juice is not recommended for babies. It is better for your baby to eat fruit.
Soft drinks are very high in sugar and are not recommended. They also increase the risk of tooth decay.
Giving infants tea and coffee is not advisable.
It is recommended that honey is not given to children aged under 1 year as it may contain the spores of a type of bacteria that can cause a very serious illness (infant botulism) in babies. After 12 months of age, your baby is less susceptible to this bacterium.
Salt and sugar
Do not add salt or sugar to your baby’s food.
Processed foods, foods tinned in brine and snacks, such as chips, should be avoided due to high salt levels. Gravies and stock cubes not specifically for infants are also very high in salt. They should be used sparingly if infants are going to eat family foods containing them.
Salt may damage your baby’s kidneys. Your baby will receive all the salt their body needs from breastmilk, formula or natural food sources.
A high consumption of sugar and sugary foods can encourage a sweet tooth and lead to tooth decay when first teeth start to come through. Avoid sweet biscuits and rusks so infants don’t get into the habit of expecting sweet snacks. Limit the frequency of desserts.
Low-fat foods are not suitable for children under 2.
Infants are at an increased risk of choking. Food should be cut into small pieces and hard vegetables should be lightly cooked.
Foods that might cause choking include: hard biscuits, raw apple, carrots, celery, sausage skins, whole peas, corn, beans, grapes, nuts, popcorn, hard lollies, corn chips, small bones or gristle.
Babies and young children need to be sitting when eating and drinking to avoid choking.
Other unsuitable foods
Do not feed these foods to infants:
- Uncooked fermented meats (salami)
- Raw or uncooked meat (particularly minced meat), poultry, fish and shellfish
- Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover and radish, due to the higher risk of food poisoning associated with these foods
- Raw egg; all eggs should be cooked well to prevent salmonella poisoning and products containing raw eggs should be avoided