01.Babys' first foods
Please note: this information was current as of July 2003 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Experts are probably still arguing, but the latest recommendations are that you shouldn’t start your baby on anything other than breast milk or formula before they’re six months old.
Of course babies vary in their development, so to some extent you need to be guided by your child, but six months is the general (and now official) rule.
Most babies start to show signs of needing extra food by:
- Waking in the night when they used to sleep through (pretty disastrous!).
- Wanting extra feeds during the day.
- And sometimes making clear their interest in what people around them are eating.
The usual first ‘real’ foods in Australia today are:
- Rice cereals (not wheat because of the risk of allergy to gluten, a wheat protein).
- Pureed fruit and veges.
What to choose
Cereals and rusks
These first ‘starter’ foods are not so much for the extra kilojoules, but to start your baby’s education – getting them accustomed to new tastes and textures.
Infant cereals usually contain added iron, something your baby is starting to need more of. Check the labels and choose those with no added sugar or salt – no point getting them on the fast-food track already.
Fruit & vegies
Popular first food choices are:
- Sweet potato.
- Mashed banana (it’s portable and doesn’t need cooking – many a day’s been saved by a banana at the bottom of the Mum’s bag).
- Stewed apple or pears.
To keep the good things in:
- Buy and use the freshest possible fruit and veg.
- Wash them well.
- Don’t cut, grate or peel until you're ready to cook or use them – vitamin C and other vitamins don’t last well in air.
- Many vitamins dissolve into cooking water, so steaming (on the stove or in the microwave) is a good option. If you’re boiling, use as little water as possible, don’t put the veg in until it’s boiling and use some of the cooking water when you’re pureeing.
- Don’t overcook fruit or veg.
- Cooking in bulk and freezing in ice cube trays (transfer to a larger freezer container or bag once frozen) or single-serve containers is a good way to get ahead – you’ll always have good food on hand.
- Good hygiene is, as ever, important so be sure to keep your kitchen safe.
Yoghurt is a concentrated milk product and a good choice for babies over six months. It provides one-and-a-half times as much calcium as the same amount of milk. The best yoghurt to choose is full-fat plain yoghurt – you can add chopped or pureed fruit for flavour and sweetness. Special baby yoghurt is similar to regular fruit yoghurt, except it isn’t as lumpy. However, as baby grows older, managing lumpy foods is an important part of development.
Canned and bottled foods
The ingredients are listed in descending amounts on the label, and now the key ingredients should also be given as a percentage, which allows you to compare how much chicken is in a chicken and vegetable dinner, for example.
The label should also tell you about things like added sugar and salt, so you can avoid these if you wish.
Cooking for baby
CHOICE Books publishes the popular Practical Cooking for Babies and Toddlers, by Joanna Whitby. It contains over 100 recipes suitable for babies over 6 months old as well as the rest of the family.