Baby Nutrition & Introducing Solids

Baby Nutrition & Introducing Solids

Featuring OH BABY! Holistic School of Nutrition and their graduates
Feeding The Bump‘ and ‘Nourish & Bloom

Transitioning your child to eating solids can be a stressful time for both you and bub. As you both adjust to this new stage in your child’s development, it’s important to be informed and educated about what foundations you can begin to implement to ensure your child is receiving the essential nutrients they need to support growth and wellbeing.

We are excited to have teamed up with Oh Baby! Holistic School of Nutrition and their graduates, nutrition experts: Jess Anderson, founder of Nourish & Bloom (Certified Nutrition Consultant for Babies and Qualified Early Childhood Teacher) and Kelly Benton, founder of Feeding The Bump (accredited nutritionist). Read our interview below for their top tips!

1. What are the essential nutrients when starting a child on solids?

Kelly (Feeding The Bump): Baby’s first year of food should be fun, with a focus on allowing them to explore a wide variety of foods with different colours, flavours and textures to help support more adventurous eating and a positive relationship with food into the future. Without being overly calculated, parents should also be mindful of the essential nutrients required for growth and development. 

Firstly, you want to be including a balance of the 3 macronutrients with every main meal to support their high energy and growth demands: 

a) Protein: Required for synthesis of all tissues and cells in the body. A baby between 7-12 months needs about 14g of protein per day (1.6g/kg of body weight per day).

Protein Sources: Grass-fed organic beef, lamb or chicken, wild-caught fish, grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and legumes including chickpeas, beans and lentils

b) Healthy fats: Necessary for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E + K) and minerals including calcium and zinc. Fat also protects key organs, keeps baby fuller for longer and helps prevent constipation.

Healthy Fat Sources: Avocado, nuts (as nut butter, or ground raw nuts), coconut oil / cream and extra virgin olive oil. DHA is an omega 3 fatty acid that is required for brain development and cognitive function, so it is important this is offered through food a few times each week, specifically from fatty fish such as salmon or sardines.

c) Carbohydrates: Choose foods such as starchy root vegetables (eg: sweet potato, pumpkin) and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and oats. Whole foods / grains are important to ensure stable blood sugar (unlike refined, processed grains and foods which are broken down quickly) and are higher in fibre which aids digestion and gut health..

2. What ingredients should you stay away from in a babies first year of eating solids?

Jessica (Nourish & Bloom): There are some foods I recommend delaying until a certain age, and these are honey (offer after 1 year old), foods with tough skins (e.g. raw apple) and stringy foods (e.g. green beans), cow’s milk (offer after 1 year old) and whole nuts (choking risk for younger babies). There are also some foods that I recommend delaying for as long as we can as they don’t contribute to our little ones health overall. These foods are highly processed and refined grains, juice, refined seed or vegetable oils, and sugar. I also encourage the parents I work with to take a realistic approach and remind themselves that it’s what they do most of the time that matters.:

3. What are your tips for preventing allergies and introducing allergenic foods?

Kelly (Feeding The Bump): One of the most daunting parts of introducing baby to complimentary foods, is the introduction of allergens. BUT, latest research shows that the sooner you expose bub to allergenic foods, the lower their risk of developing food allergies. Ideally you want to start after baby has eaten a few low-risk foods first and aim to introduce all the top allergens between 6 – 12 months old.

The top allergenic foods include the following:

  • Eggs
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Dairy
  • Gluten + wheat

4. Why are iron rich foods important, especially for children on a vegetarian diet?

Kelly (Feeding The Bump): It is estimated that 30% of Australian infants and 20% of toddlers have inadequate intake of iron. Iron is an essential nutrient, required for transport of oxygen to tissues around the body and vital for brain development, with even low levels of deficiency contributing to long-term cognitive, behavioural and learning difficulties. It becomes extremely important around 6 months of age, where stores built up during a baby’s time in utero start to diminish and need to be replenished by dietary sources – did you know the iron requirements of an infant between 7 – 12 months old are higher than that of an adult male! (11mg / day, vs 8mg/day).

5. Why is gagging an important process for babies when introducing solids and how should a parent react to gagging?

Jess (Nourish & Bloom): One of the common concerns parents contact me about is their baby choking or gagging when they offer finger foods. And I totally understand, it definitely had me worried at times too when I started my son on solid foods. It’s important to know that gagging and choking are completely different. When babies start on solid foods, they might gag and cough often because their gag reflex is quite far forward and moves back as they age. The gag reflex serves as a safety mechanism against choking while they’re learning to eat and helps them to eject something quickly if they need to. Around 6-8 months, the gag reflex begins moving back to where an adults gag reflex would be around 12 months. When a baby gags on food, it can be really frightening for a parent to witness. We just want to keep our babies safe! It’s important to know that gagging is an important part of the process of learning to eat solid foods and gagging is really common. When a baby is choking, it is silent, but when a baby is gagging, it is noisy and can be quite dramatic. When a baby is choking, a parent needs to intervene, but when a baby is gagging, it’s actually advised not to intervene and allow baby’s natural gag reflex to push the food out.

6. What nourishing foods would you encourage for mothers after birth and​ postpartum?

Kelly (Feeding The Bump): When it comes to postpartum, nourishing, nutrient-dense food plays a critical role in a mother’s internal healing and recovery. Food is the fuel source for the body, providing energy when sleep-deprived, key nutrients to produce breastmilk and helps to regulate hormones. I always advise my clients to follow their hunger cues – now is not the time to restrict calories, so make sure to respond to your body and eat, as a priority for you and baby.

Focus on eating meals that include a balance of the 3 macronutrients:

  • Whole food Carbohydrates: required for energy and building milk supply, such as oats, buckwheat and root vegetables.
  • Fats: help stabilise blood sugar (reducing energy crashes), balance hormones and provide nourishment to breast milk, such as nut butters, coconut oil / cream / milk and avocado.
  • Protein: keeps you feeling fuller for longer, repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue, such as salmon, lentils, chickpeas and liver.

I like to follow the principles of traditional postpartum practice, which includes consuming foods that are soft, warm and easily digested, such as soups, stews, broths, fermented veggies and soft meals like lasagne. This is because your body is undergoing a lot of change, organs are shifting back to their pre-pregnancy state and this can sometimes compromise digestion, so you want to make it as easy as you can for your body.

Another thing many women forget, is that they should continue to keep taking their prenatal multivitamin. Just because baby is born, doesn’t mean you should stop – it is required to provide additional support to ensure you are not depleted post-birth and while you are breastfeeding (which there is a high transfer of some nutrients through breastmilk to baby, such as vitamin D, DHA, calcium, choline and iodine).

Hydration is also important to support milk supply and recovery. Women should aim for 250ml of water with each feed. Have a few drink bottles handy around the house (in places you are likely to be feeding) and brew big pots of herbal teas to sip on throughout the day (turmeric or raspberry leaf teas are great to assist uterine recovery as well).

7. What is baby led weaning and how is that different to traditional feeding?

Jess (Nourish & Bloom): When it comes to starting solid foods, there are three approaches to follow: baby-led weaning, baby-led purees or a combination of the two. I have found that when baby led weaning was first introduced, it was such a novel idea at the time, that many would follow the guidelines strictly which works well for some and not so well for others. I find it helpful to be flexible with any parenting philosophy, so we can adjust our approach as we need to and shift the approach to suit our child. Baby-led weaning is where you offer baby finger foods that are a safe size and texture, whereas baby-led purees is where you offer baby pureed foods from a spoon. When you follow a combination of the two, it looks like offering some finger foods alongside a pureed meals. This can work well for animal protein, as finger food sized pieces of meat can be difficult for babies to actually get any meat from (they typically will just suck the juices) and as we know iron is so important in these early days of solid foods, so you can offer pureed meat alongside finger foods.

FEEDING THE BUMP: Instagram / Website

NOURISH AND BLOOM: Instagram / Website