Last updated on August 26, 2021.
Your thoughts about baby food? Every parent worries about the hows, whens, and whys of baby nutrition. There is a lot of noise and contradictory information on infant feeding and we at Healthy Matters sourced trustworthy recommendations. We asked Hong Kong pediatrician Dr. Eddie Cheung 張蔚賢醫生 to share some easy-to-use feeding guidelines to your baby’s first 12 months.
Making the right feeding choices is important because more growth happens during the first year than at any other time in your child’s life. Plus, starting good habits early helps you set healthy eating habits for life!
Baby food for the first 6 months:
- Milk is the sole source of nutrients for babies.
- Breast milk provides the full range of nutrients a baby needs as well as antibodies and other bioactive substances.
- Babies who are not breastfed should receive infant formula. Give the baby as much or as little formula as it wants.
- Parents should not give babies water or juice during this period.
Baby food from 6 to 12 months:
- During this period, babies go through a developmental transition from a milk-only diet to an adult diet.
- Parents should start feeding babies solid foods at around 6 months.
- In the early transitional phase, breast milk or infant formula still provides most of the baby’s nutrients. As the babies eat more, in terms of variety and amount of solid foods, they need less milk.
- Nutritious baby foods can be home-prepared from the family’s food basket. This includes grains, cereals, vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, meats and beans.
- To ensure iron intake, feed the baby meat, fish, egg yolks, liver and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Alongside solid food, water should be introduced. This helps prevent constipation, which is commonly observed in babies eating solid food.
- Babies need to learn to use a cup and spoon to feed themselves.
- Parents should offer foods of different tastes, textures and colors. This helps children learn about food, enjoy eating and foster good eating habits.
Routine growth monitoring is crucial to assess infant health and nutrition. Serial physical growth data should be plotted against a standard growth chart, like those from the World Health Organization.
Vitamin D supplementation and breastfed infants:
- While breastfeeding is the recommended method of infant feeding, breast milk alone may not provide an adequate intake of vitamin D, particularly if the mother has low vitamin D levels. Most breastfed infants are able to synthesize additional vitamin D through routine sunlight exposure. Vitamin D deficiency, which is also known as rickets, is rare among breastfed infants, but it can occur if a baby does not receive additional vitamin D from a supplement or adequate exposure to sunlight.
- Some countries, like the United Kingdom and United States, recommend breastfed babies take vitamin D supplements of 400 IU per day.
For breastfeeding information, read Breastfeeding Guide: How Much & How Often at Every Age | From Birth to Toddlerhood
Dr. Eddie Cheung 張蔚賢醫生 is a specialist in paediatrics. He received his paediatric training in Queen Mary Hospital and post-fellow paediatric cardiology training in Grantham Hospital/ Queen Mary Hospital. He is a Fellow of the Hong Kong College of Cardiology, the Vice President of Hong Kong Society of Paediatric Cardiology and Consultant of Hong Kong Association of Cleft Lip and Palate. He is currently working as Director of Paediatric Centre of HK Medical Consultants and serves as Infection Control Officer at the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital.
What is the best baby food to start with?
Milk, ideally breast milk, should be the only diet for babies below 6-month-old; solid foods like baby cereals, bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, carrots and peas can be introduced from 6 to 12 months.
At what age do babies start eating baby food?
Generally speaking, babies above the age of 6 months can start eating solid baby food. An important sign to look for is whether the baby can sit comfortably in a chair on their own, so as to minimize the risk of choking.
Can I give my 4 month old baby food?
The ideal situation is the majority of a baby’s nutrition relies on breast milk before 6 months of age. If your baby has learned to sit comfortably unassisted and can swallow food smoothly, it may be the right timing to start feeding baby food.