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Eating & nutrition

First 6 months

For the first 6 months, your baby should only have breast milk. They should be deciding when and how much to drink. They should not have anything else to eat or drink, including water. However, it is important to give your baby a Vitamin D supplement if they are breast fed or drinking breast milk in combination with formula. The supplement should be 400 IU of Vitamin D every day during this time.

After 6 months

As you think about moving from breast milk to solid food, you may find the following information useful.

Breast milk is the only food your baby will need until they are about six months old. Continue offering breast milk until the baby is two years or older, but start adding new foods at six months. It's also a great time to start having meals as a family.

Babies are ready for solids when they:

  • Are curious about the food you're eating

  • Can sit and hold their head up by themselves

  • Open their mouths to take food from a spoon

  • Turn their head away to show they don't want food

  • Close their lips over the spoon

  • Keep food in their mouth and swallow instead of pushing it out.

Start a new food when your baby is happy and hungry! If your baby does not swallow the food, wait a few days and try again. Sometimes it takes up to 20 tries before your baby will like it.

Tips for introducing solid foods

  • You decide what food is offered and at what time.

  • Your baby decides which of the offered foods to eat and how much.

  • Forcing your baby to eat is never a good idea. You'll only create future problems.

  • Make meal times fun and encourage healthy food choices.

  • Be a good role model. Your choices influence your baby's eating habits and attitude.

Learn what to feed your baby

Iron rich food

Your baby's first foods should be rich in iron because the iron they were born with is running low. Iron helps a baby grow and be healthy. A baby without enough iron may have poor appetite, develop slowly, get sick more often, and be tired. Learn more about why iron is very important for healthy development.

Start with one spoonful of a single iron rich food and try to offer these foods two to three times each day. Some healthy iron rich foods to try are:

  • Well-cooked finely minced or shredded meat, poultry or fish

  • Mashed cooked egg, lentils or cooked tofu

  • Single grain iron-fortified infant cereal

  • List of iron rich foods to try

Food variety

It is also important to introduce a variety of textures from other food groups starting at six months. Try to offer a variety of food from Canada's Food Guide. Food does not need to be pureed. Simply mushing it with a fork is good enough. If you start with pureed baby food, move to well mashed food within a few weeks of starting solids. You should also offer a variety of finger foods as a part of first solid foods.

By nine months of age, offer your baby the same foods as the family is eating. Small amounts of whole milk may be offered once your baby is 9-12 months old and is eating a variety of iron rich foods.

Fish

Fish is a great source of protein, iron and lots of other nutrients. However, some fish have higher levels of mercury which might be harmful to the brain. Infants 6-12 months should only have ½ serving (40 grams or 1 ¼ ounces) per month.  Children over the age of one can have 1 serving (75 grams) per month. Fish that are high in mercury are fresh or frozen tuna, shark, marlin, swordfish, escolar and orange roughy. Here are guidelines for eating fish with higher mercury levels.

Around 6 months, babies are learning to chew food with their jaws and gums. Babies don't need teeth to eat soft foods. When you first start giving your baby solids, start by feeding them small amounts or mushy food with a spoon. However, it's just as important for babies to learn to feed themselves too. Babies may hold finger foods a lot but not eat much. This is okay. Finger foods help babies:

  • Explore their food through taste and touch

  • Learn to use their jaws and gums

  • Have fun creating a big mess

Offering finger foods

When giving your baby finger foods, try to offer as many foods as possible from a variety of food groups. You can often share your own meal with your baby. Just  follow some basic guidelines on making baby food and make sure that you are following safe food handling practices.  Learn more about finger foods, including ideas about what to offer.

If you have questions about finger foods, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 and speak to a dietitian.

Babies learn how to eat until they are about four years old. They are still at risk of choking. Luckily, by taking a few easy steps, you can do a lot to prevent choking.

  • Prevent choking in babies and young children: For child care providers - HealthLink BC

  • Always be in the same room while your baby is eating

  • Feed your baby while they are sitting in a high chair

  • Avoid these foods: nuts, raisins, popcorn, hard/small candies, marshmallow, gobs of peanut butter or gooey cheese

  • Cut these foods into small pieces: olives, grapes, raw vegetables, hot dogs (cut lengthwise first, then into small pieces)

Choking versus gagging

Gagging can sometimes look like choking, but gagging is a normal part of learning how to eat. Choking means that there is no air moving. Your baby will start to look blue and won't be able to make any sounds. If this happens, call 9-1-1 right away.

By the time your baby is 1 year old, they should be learning to use a cup. Baby bottles should not be used for anything other than water and shouldn't be used at all after 18 months. Saying goodbye to the baby bottle can be hard, but you can make it easier. For information on helping your 1 to 3-year-old stop using a bottle use this resource:

To access this pamphlet in other languages, contact phem@vch.ca.

‎For information on safe food handling to prevent food poisoning, visit the food safety at home webpage.

Learn about food allergies on the medical care page

When it's time to start solid foods, you'll find a large selection of baby food in your grocery store. However, it's easy to make your own baby food at home instead (and it will save you money!).

  • Offer the same foods to the whole family at meals, just remove your baby's portion from the recipe before adding salt, soy sauce or other high sodium ingredients. Fresh and dried herbs can be used in a recipe to add flavour.

  • Offer new foods often and serve with other familiar foods. Often, making baby food is as simple as sharing your own meal by following  Home prepared baby food guidelines and following safe food handling practices.

Recipe ideas for babies

If you're stuck for ideas, try some of these resources. Call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 and ask to speak to a dietitian if you have any questions.

As soon as your baby is eating solid foods, you can start having meals together as a family. Your baby’s first foods can be plain foods that you eat. Eating together at home or at a restaurant is a great way to connect and brings long-lasting benefits to your family. Most meals only take about 20 minutes. Even if you’re used to eating on the run, it’s easy to get into the habit of sitting down as a family.

Tips for family meals

  • Make family meals routine; expect that everyone will sit together to eat

  • Make the same meal for everyone

  • Plan the weekly meal menu as a family. Make sure everyone gets at least one of their favourite meals.

  • Let children help with grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up as much as possible. Even babies can join you at the store or in the kitchen.

  • Meals don’t need to take a lot of time to prepare. Make sandwiches, reheat leftovers, or grab a bag of salad or roasted chicken at the grocery store.

  • Don’t bring your phones or tablets to the table; turn off the TV.

  • Let children lead how fast (or slow) they want to eat. Let them decide which of the served foods to eat and how much.

  • Involve everyone in the conversation and keep mealtimes fun.

  • Check out the Better Together website for meal ideas and more tips

 

Additional resources for feeding

If you are looking for additional support or information around feeding and/or nutrition information, you can:

Dietitian coverage may be available using your extended health care benefits. 

Commonly asked questions

Only your baby knows the answer to this question. You decide what foods to offer and when, but your baby should be eating as much as they’d like. Some babies eat a lot. Others don’t seem to eat much at all. Your baby might eat a lot one day and very little the next day. This is all normal. If your baby is full, they will let you know by turning their head away or spitting food out. If they want more, they will keep opening their mouth or fuss when you take the food away. If you think there might be a problem with how much your child eats, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 and ask to speak to a dietitian.

Not at all! Gagging is a normal part of learning how to eat. All babies gag as they learn how to properly move food to the back of their mouths. It does not mean that you should stop feeding them or that they don’t like the food they are eating. If your baby gags, stay calm and reassure them gently.

 

Meal time is a great time for your baby to start learning how to use a cup. However, juice has a lot of sugar in it. It’s better to give water, but if you do give juice remember to give the kind without added sugar and limit it to no more than ½ cup per day.

 

Babies come in different shapes and sizes. This is normal. Healthy babies know how much to eat because they are born that way. The best way to make sure your baby is a healthy weight is to:

  • Offer healthy food

  • Let your baby decide how much to eat

  • Don’t hold back food from your baby when they’re hungry

  • Give your baby lots of opportunities to be active during the day


SOURCE: Eating & nutrition ( )
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