Introducing solids can be overwhelming for a new parent, and often times even more tricky for a parent who has older children as well. We are aware that we only get one shot at their first tastes of different foods and we know how important early nutrition is.
So with our heads buzzing full of all the yummy nutritious foods we want our children to try – are there any we should be avoiding?
The High Allergen Foods
There has been a shift in how we think about high allergen foods and their introduction to young kids. It used to be that they should be avoided until a child is at least a year old. Now we say introduce them, but with caution.
What foods are we talking about?
Anything with nuts, cow’s milk dairy, egg white, and fish are your main culprits. For most children these can be introduced alongside all their other first foods.
However, some children may develop a severe reaction to them that will last until they are approximately 2 years old. A small number will have that reaction lifelong.
Introducing these foods is up to individual preference. If you have a family history of allergies then you may wish to delay introduction until your child is a little more robust.
However there is a school of thought that early introduction with a weakened immune system will lessen the risk of allergies.
See our article on when to introduce solids for the full debate on introducing high allergen foods early.
For the first year of a child’s life the only fluid they should have is breastmilk. If a mother or baby is unable to breastfeed then Formula is a suitable alternative.
So why no cow’s milk? Well for two main reasons;
It does not contain all the necessary nutrients a young baby needs such as iron, Vitamin D and the appropriate type of fat and carbohydrate.
As young children have such small stomachs feeding them cow’s milk too young may cause them to replace breast milk or formula with cow’s milk and lead to further deficiencies.
Cow’s milk is quite heavy in protein and other minerals.
This can be quite tough on their young kidneys and gut to process. This can cause kidney and gut damage leading to anaemia and bloody poos.
Why then does Formula contain cow’s milk?
Well the cow’s milk in formula is different for two reasons. First, it is broken down into a more easily digestible form. Second, it has added vitamins and minerals to make it more of a complete milk drink for young children.
Once a child is 1 year old their digestive system and kidneys should be mature enough to handle cow’s milk.
Their growth needs also change which means that cow’s milk now provides them with all the nutrients they need from a milk drink. If you want to continue breastfeeding however, this is always recommended.
Formula can be stopped at 1 year of age.
Unless your child is struggling to gain weight or has an intolerance to cow’s milk – toddler formula is an unnecessary cost. A toddler can drink up to 3 cups of milk per day to get their intake of calcium and Vitamin D.
It is not recommended to have any more than this as it can fill them up and stop them from eating their meals.
Traditionally red meat has been recommended for children once they reach 7-8 months old. This is due to it being high in protein which can be tough on their young kidneys and also their gut which is still building up all the appropriate enzymes for its digestion.
Now these recommendations have been relaxed slightly to say that early introduction of meat is okay, just in moderation so as to not over work their young body.
If you do choose to delay by a month or two then iron fortified brown rice cereal is a good substitute to make sure your baby is still getting a good iron intake.
Honey is a no-go for the first year of a baby’s life due to the rare risk of picking up a fatal bacterial illness from it.
A normal immune system is able to handle the bacteria and will not get ill, however in an infant it is much harder for their body to fight it.
Whole nuts and sausages
These are a choking hazard for young children. If you would like to feed your child sausages, pick gluten free good quality ones which are not full of fatty bits.
You can then remove the outer skin after cooking it and cut it up as you would their other meat. This will reduce the risk.
Alternatives to Cow’s Milk
Milks such as almond, soy, coconut, rice and oat are not complete sources of milk until a child is 4 or 5 years of age. They do not contain the vitamins, minerals, fat and carbohydrate ratios recommended for children in this age group.
If your child is allergic or intolerant to cow’s milk protein or the lactose in milk, then you will need to talk to your GP, paediatrician or local dietician about suitable alternatives and if your little one may need supplements.
Added sugar and salt
These are completely unnecessary for a young child and puts too much stress on their immature systems.
Salt stresses the kidneys, whist sugar is tough on the liver. Too much of the wrong kinds of sugar (simple, refined sugars) can impact young children’s behaviour and sleep. Their body also needs to adapt to this type of sugar, it does this by increasing its sugar receptors, leading to a long term craving for sugary foods.
Tea, Coffee, Soft Drinks and Juice
These are never recommended for children at any age.
Tea can block the absorption of iron from foods leading to anaemia (lack of iron). Coffee and Soft drinks contain caffeine which, among many things, can affect the heart and disturb a child’s sleeping patters. Soft drinks can also contain too much sugar (see section above) and artificial flavourings which are linked to behavioural issues such as ADHD.
Juice is pure sugar as well and is not recommended in any quantity for children. Both soft drinks and juice have been linked to tooth decay – some seen in soft baby teeth and often in adult teeth as they grow in.
The only fluids young children need are milk and water.