We debunk the top three most misunderstood myths about baby’s first foods.
Weaning your baby on solid food is an exciting time for both you and your little one. But that excitement can turn into anxiety, and it’s no wonder why – as a parent, you can be constantly bombarded with so much information that it’s hard to keep up with what’s true or false. With so many conflicting tips and advice out there, it can be easy to fall into a trap and believe common myths associated with weaning.
With the help of registered dietician Abby Courtenay, who has a special interest in maternal and infant nutrition, we’re setting the record straight.
Myth 1: Weaning is just for fun
Fact: This is a trendy catchphrase that moms love to quote in forums and Facebook. The danger of it is that it’s being interpreted a little bit too literally – implying that solid foods play no nutritional role before 12 months of age. This is simply not true. The addition of solid foods at approximately six months allows your baby to meet her increasing energy and nutrient requirements (specifically iron in a breastfed baby’s diet), reach neurodevelopmental milestones, and develop feeding skills.
Good to know: Solids mustn’t replace breast milk or formula, but you’d be doing your baby a disservice to not introduce complementary foods to their diets between six and 12 months. The keyword here is “complementary” where moms should follow a combined approach that enables your baby to benefit from the strengths of both milk and nutritionally rich solids from around six months.
Myth 2: Cow’s milk is bad for babies
Fact: Moms are often confused by this statement. It’s commonly assumed that you must not give your baby cow’s milk before they are one, so why then are babies allowed to eat yoghurt, cheese, and other dairy products? The reason for this warning is because the medical community worries that if cow’s milk is introduced to an infant younger than one-year-old, that it would be given in amounts that would replace breast or formula milk. Cow’s milk has a much higher protein and lower iron content than either breast or formula milk and thus puts strain on a baby’s immature kidneys and can perpetuate iron deficiency. Goat’s milk is also too high in protein, and too high in electrolytes and too low in folate, which may cause electrolyte imbalances, metabolic acidosis, and megaloblastic anaemia. So to be clear, cow or goat’s milk are not suitable alternatives to breast or formula milk before one. But that said, you can 100% safely use cow’s milk in cooking for your baby. Using milk in a recipe will not risk weaning your baby to milk from formula and/or breast milk.
Good to know: Dairy is an excellent source of fat, protein, and calcium. So be sure to include lots of full fat (full cream) dairy in your baby’s diet with foods such as yoghurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and grated cheese.
Myth 3: With eggs, always separate the yolk from the white
Fact: Eggs are a taboo food for babies, which is a pity as they are an easy protein to prepare, and they’re very healthy. But times are changing, especially in attitudes to allergenic foods. Back in the day, foods such as nuts, eggs, and fish were on the forbidden baby food list, however, the newest research encourages the introduction of all food, even allergenic ones from six months in no specific order. In fact, the evidence shows that introducing these allergenic foods from six months may actually decrease the risk of allergy, especially when given frequently (once tolerated) with continued breastfeeding where possible. So unless you have a history of family allergies (in which case please consult a medical professional), your baby can happily eat eggs (both the yolk and white together), nuts (either ground or in butter form, thinly spread because of choking hazards), fish, milk, and wheat. Abby advises that consuming an average of one egg per day (or seven eggs per week) has no adverse effects on a healthy infant. They are a fantastic source of protein and fat, as well as choline and vitamin D. The only food babies under one cannot consume is honey, because of the potential risk of a harmful bacteria toxin which can cause infant botulism.
Good to know: Adding a beaten egg to your pot of breakfast oats is a great way to sneak in extra protein.