Jo Rayner is a paediatric dietitian with 20 years’ experience under her belt – she is also a mum of two, and Little Freddie's in-house nutritional guru. Like so many parents, she is a practised multi-tasker and juggles working for the NHS alongside running her own freelance dietitian practice and a nutrition consultancy. In her ‘spare time’ she is also a school governor. We’re not sure when she sleeps but we do know that when it comes to children and nutrition, Jo has the answers and has kindly shared some of them below to make your life a little easier…
When to start: After six months of age some nutrients that babies are born with start to run low, this is when it's important to start complementing milk with other food sources.
Remember: all babies are different so it's important to look out for the readiness signals from your baby.
Early Days: To begin with your baby may gag on new textures. This is a normal response as they are trying to swallow lumps before 'mushing' them enough with their tongue. A baby is born with a sensitive mouth but but trying new textures it will desensitise over time .
What to try: Babies are born with a preference for sweet flavours so often readily accept fruits and sweet vegetables such as carrots. This means that getting other flavours in, especially more bitter vegetables such as broccoli may be slightly trickier. The secret is to offer a good variety and to keep trying over and over again. Babies will get used to new flavours eventually.
Iron is essential for growth and development. The stores of iron that your baby was born with will start to run out at six months, so it’s really important they eat sources of iron in their diet such as meat, legumes, wholegrain breads, cereals and dark leafy vegetables.
Tip: combining with a source of vitamin C from fruit and vegetables will increase iron absorption
Zinc is another essential mineral that needs to come from the diet once weaning begins. Good sources of zinc include meat, poultry and egg yolks.
Energy: On average babies triple their weight in the first year of life alone! They need serious energy to fuel this. Energy is best provided by carbohydrates and fat so that protein can be used for growth and repair.
Good sources of energy are: lactose, cereals, fruits and vegetables.
Avoid simple sugars or added sugars as they contain no nutrients.
Babies learn through play and exploration of the world around them. Food is just the same. Your baby will learn to recognise foods by sight, smell and touch. Make sure you put food in a bowl in front of your baby, or finger foods on their high chair tray, so they can get their hands in, lick from their fingers and enjoy all the sensory experiences. Save wiping up for the end!
See it, smell it, feel it! Let your baby see what you’re feeding them – if it’s in a pouch, squeeze it out so they can see it, smell it and feel it.
Encourage self-feeding by giving your baby a spoon dipped in puree to hold and taste from.