food

What you should be feeding your baby at every age.

Because caring for your baby can be filled with uncertainty…

When it comes to what you should be feeding your baby, there’s so much information coming at you from so many sources – books, pamphlets, lobby groups, social media, friends, family, doctors and midwives. Who is right? Who should you listen to?

I have three children and during each of their first years, I’d received wildly conflicting information from trusted sources which just confused me even more. In an effort to sort through the confusion, I have measured these tips against the Department of Health’s official advice.

But remember, babies and toddlers do progress at different rates – so be sure to consult your doctor if you feel you need to deviate from this advice.

1. Newborn to six months.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for newborns – when possible. Evidence referenced by the Department of Health shows that breastfed babies are less likely to contract gastroenteritis, respiratory illness and middle ear infection. It’s also been shown that breastfeeding helps mothers recover faster from childbirth and can even reduce the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer later in life. I remember breastfeeding my kids and feeling my uterus contracting. I also remember the hunger.

There are many reasons why breastfeeding may not be possible. My first child had food allergies and couldn’t have my breast milk so I switched to formula for him. There are a number of formulas that can provide newborn children with adequate nutrition. Choose a formula that is designed for newborns and ask for advice on which bottles and teats are appropriate for them. Newborn babies prefer a slow flow teat.

"Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for newborns - when possible." Image via iStock.
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As long as your breast milk flow is ample and as long as you follow the measurements contained on the formula container, you baby should not need any additional hydration.

At three months of age the Department of Health still recommends exclusive breastfeeding or formula feeds. At this stage you may wish to feed your baby a combination of breast milk and formula - and that is completely okay. Just make sure you test your baby on formula before returning to work so you can ensure they can tolerate it.

2. Six to seven months.

At six months of age, the fun begins. It’s time to introduce solids. Your baby won’t eat much at first, but as they get used to eating solids and their appetite increases, they will start eating more solids and drinking less breast milk and formula.

Some parents choose to start their babies on solids earlier, at around five months, which I did for one of my three children. He was big for his age and after asking our doctor, he started early. He’s still the biggest of all my children.

Introducing solids can be a slow process. There is a chart that shows you exactly what order in which to introduce solids and I have used it for all three of my children when they were babies. You can print a copy here.

For the first month the government recommendation is for iron-enriched baby cereal and pureed cooked fruits and vegetables, with nothing added to them aside from water, breast milk or formula. Water can be offered in a sippy cup, but as they will still be drinking breast milk and formula, they may not drink much water yet.

3. Eight to nine months.

You can start to experiment with foods at this age - hurrah. Babies will indicate their preferences and some are better at chewing than others. At this stage you can try fork mashing well-cooked foods and add in some soft meats such as mince.

The Department of Health recommends infant cereals, well-cooked and mashed fish, meat, chicken, eggs, a variety of cooked fruits and vegetables, soft raw fruit like bananas, soft noodles, rice, pasta and bread.

Continue to offer water in a sippy cup. Children will by now be used to the taste of water and will feel thirsty for it. At this stage their breast milk and formula consumption would have decreased based on how much food they are eating and how much water they are drinking.

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what to feed your baby
"You can start to experiment with foods at this age - hurrah." Image via iStock.

4. Nine to 12 months.

All of the above - but you can now add dairy such as yoghurts, custards and cheese. You may like to continue breast feeding or formula feeding. Children will be drinking plenty of water at this stage so always keep their drink bottle on hand.

5. One year.

From twelve months of age you can start to feed them ‘family foods’ in small pieces that are soft and easy to manage. Toddlers prefer plain flavours. Choking is still a risk so avoid whole grapes, hard fruits and anything else that may pose a risk.

Consider switching any breast milk or formula feeds into a sippy cup to help your child wean off the breast or the bottle. Keep up their water supply because they will drink plenty of it at this stage.

6. One year and beyond.

Toddlers love finger foods. You can buy some brilliant books advising you of appropriate recipes. Strips of toast, sandwiches, cut grapes, cut strawberries. You can experiment a little, keeping choking hazards in mind. After twelve months you can introduce cow’s milk as a drink choice – however, water is the best option, and sugary drinks should be avoided.

How did you introduce water and solids into your baby's diet?

TAP on the image below and scroll through the gallery for ten first foods for your baby...