There is a lot of confusion around what to feed your baby, when, and how much. Most importantly, all information often boils down to this: Every baby is different. It may take up to 15 times for your baby to accept a new food!
Here is a break down of infant feeding nutrition provided by the Infant Feeding Joint Working Group. These are recommendations and guidelines that are supported by evidence and used in practice.
Birth to 6 Months
Your baby does not require anything but breast milk (or formula) for the first six months. This is because it provides the optimal quantity, quality, and absorption of nutrients. The guidelines suggest that breastfeeding can occur for up to 2 years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding. Ultimately, it is up to the mother and baby on how long breastfeeding should continue. There are alternatives to breastfeeding, as this is not the only option.
6 to 12 Months
Your baby’s iron stores deplete after six months, so iron rich and nutrient dense foods (higher nutrients, less calories) are recommended as first complementary foods. This means they are consuming breastmilk and other foods. At first, the amount of food consumed may be very small (approximately 2-3 tablespoons). Here is a summary of the recommendations:
• Examples of iron rich foods include meat, meat alternatives (such eggs), and iron fortified cereals. It is encouraged to introduce foods from family meals in appropriate size and texture for older infants.
• While continuing to breastfeed, gradually increase the number of times a day complementary foods are offered. Your baby’s hunger cues, how they are feeling, time of day, and breast milk intake, all contribute to how much they will consume.
• No later than nine months, lumpy textures should be offered.
• Examples of what foods that can be offered for a 7 month old: mashed strawberries, grated hard boiled egg, or finely minced dark chicken. For an 11 month old: apple sauce, whole grain bread cut into strips, or brown rice.
12 to 24 Months
• From one year of age, high fat foods (like avocados) are encouraged. This is because they are great energy source that contribute to their development.
• A regular schedule of meals and snacks contribute to healthy eating habits.
• Little to no added salt or sugar used in foods will allow your child to experience natural flavours.
•Examples of what foods that can be offered for a 17 month old: canned peaches, hummus, or boneless salmon with mayonnaise.
Parents and caregivers can do their part by being a good role model when it comes to eating, as children are heavily influenced by what they see. Children are more likely to eat a variety of foods when it is the same as what is offered on the family table. Involving your young children in food preparation heightens curiosity, eagerness to learn, and creates positive attitudes towards eating.