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Food before 1 is just for fun?

Author: Resident Nutritionist here at Little Dreamers, Tessa Scott.

Who's heard the saying "food before 1 is just for fun?" Although it's likely intended to remind parents that solid food is supplementary to milk in the first 12 months, the importance of introducing and establishing our little one's on solid foods in the first year is SO important.

(1) Babies have a huge jump in nutrition needs around 6 months

Around the age of 6 months, babies typically exhibit developmental cues signalling readiness for solid foods. Concurrently, they experience a significant surge in their nutritional requirements, encompassing both macronutrients and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Some of these nutrients become so crucial that breastmilk or formula alone may no longer suffice after the 6-month mark, for example iron and zinc.

The introduction of complementary foods, commonly known as starting solids, aims to bridge the nutritional gap between what a baby requires and what breastmilk or formula can adequately supply during this period of rapid growth.

As babies progressively refine their eating skills, the quantity of food they consume increases while the consumption of breastmilk or formula naturally diminishes. This gradual transition, spanning from 4 to 6 months up to 1 year, enables babies to obtain essential nutrition from breastmilk/formula and food, provided the foods offered are thoughtfully planned.

(2) Introducing allergens before the age of 12 months is crucial

Research has shown that introducing common allergenic foods early in a baby's diet, i.e. between 6-12 months, might lower the likelihood of developing food allergies during childhood.

There are 9 common allergens which must all be introduced within that 6 month window after starting solids. And, not only do they need to be introduced, but these allergenic foods should continue to be fed to your baby at least 3 times a week, continuing throughout childhood to minimise the chance of developing an allergy to any one of them.

(3) This period provides a critical window for introducing new foods and flavours

Between 6-12 months, babies enter a phase where they are much more likely to embrace new foods and flavours, commonly referred to as the "flavour window."

Interestingly, introducing flavours, particularly bitter ones like vegetables, during this period significantly influences a child's willingness to accept various foods. This involves early and repetitive exposure to flavours to cultivate a preference for them. Additionally, it may contribute to minimising picky eating tendencies during toddlerhood and beyond. This is your one chance to get as many new foods and flavours in as possible!

Tessa and I have also co-written a nutrition eBook called Little Eaters to educate and support you with the knowledge you need to nourish and nurture your baby in the first few years. The eBook is available for purchase via the Little Dreamers website - click here to grab a copy!

Tessa is the Resident Nutritionist here at Little Dreamers. To book in a consultation with Tessa click here.

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