Frequently Asked Questions: Stage 1

Lactose intolerance is not common, and if your baby has been happily drinking breast milk, then it is unlikely they have a problem with lactose because breast milk is high in lactose!. Lactose is an important carbohydrate or ‘milk sugar’ found naturally in both breast milk and also in formula, and provides baby with essential energy to grow.

Lactose intolerance is not the same as an allergy. It can sometimes occur if a baby has had a severe gastro-intestinal infection, and as a result baby has diarrhoea for sometime afterwards. Even then, is usually temporary and not problematic. Please talk to your health professional if you are concerned.

While it’s more difficult to get the balance of essential nutrients and energy in a vegetarian diet, it’s not impossible with careful planning. You can still give baby all the nutrients they need, just be aware that some vegetarian diets can be low in iron, vitamin B12, protein, calcium and also zinc. So this is something you need to be very careful with because your baby needs these nutrients. 

A Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which includes dairy, eggs, as well as plant based foods is generally a better choice for baby than a purely plant based diet (vegan diet). Vegan diets are not recommended for babies as they lack essential nutrients in the correct balance, and can be too high in fibre.

It’s a good idea to consult your GP or well child or Plunket nurse to make sure you have all the right information.  Below is some information on some common vegetarian foods:

Iron - Plant foods contain iron, although it’s not as well absorbed as iron from meat, chicken and fish. Legumes and fortified baby cereals are first foods containing iron.  From around 8 months introduce green veges like spinach, silverbeet and broccoli. Giving your baby foods containing vitamin C in the same meal will help them to absorb iron. Apple, potato and pumpkin are some fruit and veges that are good sources of vitamin C.

Fortified foods - baby cereals are fortified with iron, like Wattie's Rice Cereal, Farex Baby Rice, or Farex Pear and Banana Baby Rice. It’s an easy way to add iron to your baby’s diet and you should include baby cereals for the first year.

Dairy products – from around seven months you can offer yoghurt, custard, cheese, and milk can be used on cereal. These foods contain plenty of protein, calcium and other vitamins and minerals.  Remember your baby’s main drink will still be breast milk or formula until 12 months.

Meat Alternatives – to begin with, legumes (cooked dried peas, beans and lentils) are a good source of protein and can be offered as a first food. Eggs and tofu are high in protein and are suitable from around 7 months, and smooth peanut butter or other nut butters can be offered around 8 months onwards

Breast milk –  if you aren’t fully breastfeeding your baby, you need to use a suitable infant formula for at least the first 12 months. Don’t give your baby any unmodified cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy milk, rice milk or nut milk as a main milk drink under 12 months. These milks are not nutritionally suitable and lack the energy and nutrients baby needs.

Food allergies aren’t as common as many people think, but a small number of babies can develop allergies to certain foods If your baby’s brother or sister, or either parent has a diagnosed allergy, then baby has a higher risk of developing an allergy as well.

Signs might be diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, swelling and skin rashes. They don’t always come on straight away; they can sometimes take a couple of hours to become obvious. In very rare cases serious food allergies can lead to anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of the throat and mouth, restricting the airways and can be life threatening.

Breastfeeding lowers the risk of allergy in babies:

  • Breastfeed – breastfeed your baby for at least the first six months, and continue to breastfeed for as long as you can after you have introduced solids. Don’t introduce solids before 4 months.
  • Take it slowly – when your baby starts solids, introduce just one new food at a time. Try a new food for 2-4 days to see how your baby tolerates it and then you can try another food.

There is no reason to delay introducing any foods to your baby unless you know they have a diagnosed allergy to a certain food

If you do suspect your baby has a food allergy, make sure you talk to your health professional or a dietitian before you start changing their diet-you don’t want your baby to miss out on important and nutritious foods for no good reason.

Yes, from around 7 months onwards, eggs can be offered to your baby. Eggs contain protein and other nutrients – just make sure they're thoroughly cooked until both the yolk and white are firm.

From around six months onwards it’s a good idea to get your baby used to drinking from a cup. If you can, go for an open cup or a free-flow cup without a valve – it’ll help your baby learn to sip and it’s a whole lot better for their teeth.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Give your baby sips of water from a cup with their meals, as well as between meals.
  • If you want to you can start to offer expressed breastmilk or formula in a cup rather than a bottle. Start by replacing one bottle of milk with one cup of milk a day and build up from there.
  • Keep at it! Getting them to use a cup every day is the key.
  • Aim to have your baby off their bottle and using a cup by their first birthday.

Around eight to nine months is usually a good time to start offering your little one finger foods, but some babies may be ready a little earlier, for example around 7 months.

Finger foods are great for encouraging chewing – even if they don’t have teeth yet!  Start off with softer foods like cooked carrots or soft, sliced fruit.

Here are some finger foods your little adventurer may like:

  • Fairly soft toast or bread soldiers (pita bread is good too)
  • meatballs or strips of cooked meat
  • Slices of soft, ripe, peeled fruit
  • Cooked vegetable pieces
  • Small cubes of cheese
  • Cooked pasta shapes

An electric hand held blender can be a real blessing around this time. They’re great for puréeing small amount of food at a time.

Mini freezer pots are also convenient, or you can make up batches of fruit and vegetable purées in ice cube trays. When they’re frozen, pop them out, and put them in freezer bags so you can write the date on them.

If they’re happily taking purees from a spoon, you can start introducing lumps or more interesting mashed textures to your baby’s food. This is usually around seven months onwards.  Try soft lumps in thick puree for now, maybe something like a mashed banana. Harder lumps, like whole peas in a sauce will be too much for them and they’ll run the risk of choking.

These soft lumps and mashes will help them learn to chew, and encourage tongue flexibility and movement. Most babies can learn to chew soft lumps, even if their teeth have not come through yet. If they experience foods with lumps now, it may make them less likely to reject lumpy food later on.

It is very normal for your baby to go through a fussy period - don’t feel like it’s a reflection of your parenting skills. Of course it can be frustrating, but the key is to be patient with them - they’re too young to understand what they’re doing. Here are a few tips to help you deal with a fussy baby in a positive way.

  • Spoiled appetites - Milk is the best drink at this stage. Start to offer water with or after a meal so baby doesn’t get too full. Don’t offer sugary drinks like juice, and cordials as these provide sugar with not much other nutrition. Don’t force it - try to recognise when your baby has had enough to eat. Signs might include turning their head away, refusing to open their mouth, crying and pushing the bowl or spoon away.
  • Keep it low key – try to keep meal times relaxed, and don’t let them drag on for too long. Babies usually won’t want to eat for more than 20 minutes in one go.
  • Small is good - keep portions small and include a variety of tastes, textures and colours where you can.
  • Don’t force it – by forcing your baby to finish what is on their plate you teach them to ignore their own fullness signals which can lead to overeating when they are older.  Your baby has an inbuilt appetite for food and knows when they have eaten enough.  It is important not to force your baby to eat. Mealtimes should be enjoyable.
  • Smile! - babies read their parents faces. If you have a frown or grumpy face as you are offering food to your baby, they will think there is something is wrong.  Remember - there’s no need to stress about your baby's eating habits. Babies will actually pick up your anxiety. If on the odd occasion they don’t seem to eat much, it’s not a big deal. If they’re gaining weight and seem well, then they’re probably getting enough food.

Fussy eating is a normal developmental phase for your baby to go through - don’t feel like it’s a reflection on your parenting skills. Babies tend to be suspicious of new foods because they are unfamiliar with them. Generally, the more variety and exposure a baby gets to new foods, the less fussy they will probably be.

Of course it can get frustrating, but the key is to be patient with them. They’re too little to understand what they’re doing.

As your baby gets older you can start to wonder if you’re giving them the right amount of food – especially if they’re now having solids. Luckily, babies and toddlers have a pretty good idea of when they’ve had enough and when they’re still hungry, so let them guide you. 
It might seem like they’re not getting enough, but remember they have little tummies. They’re probably eating the right amount.

Odds are they’ve had enough when:

  • Flat out refusal - refusing to swallow, spitting food out, pushing their bowl away, refusing to open their mouth or turning or shaking their head.   
  • General unhappiness – noises, faces and gestures that tell you no.
  • Waterworks kick in - crying or shouting can tell you they’re full.

Introducing your little one to a variety of foods will encourage them to eat well and get plenty of nutrients, but it’s also an opportunity for fun and exploration.

It’ll help them start out with healthy eating habits and be more open to new things. Virtually all children will go through a period of being a ‘fussy eater’ and keeping a variety of foods in their diet might reduce this.

Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Food rainbow – if you can, include a range of different coloured foods to keep things interesting and fun, for example carrots, avocado and kumara.
  • Be persistent – you might need to offer some foods a number of times. Even if they reject it to start off with they might enjoy it later. Sometimes babies need to be offered food 8 to 15 times before they try it and like it.
  • Variety – include a range of flavours and textures if you can. It’ll help make them a more confident eater and be open to new things.
  • Adding lumps – once your baby is confidently eating purees, you can increase the texture to include mashed food with soft lumps.
  • Family meal times – sitting down to eat as a family can encourage a more fun social experience. 
  • Food is fun - your baby might want to play with their food and try to feed his or herself – this is good thing! Let them get messy and encourage self-feeding by letting your baby hold the spoon. Food is a whole new world to be explored and they’ll want to experience it with all their senses (touch, taste, see).

Once your baby is happily eating around ½ cup (or more) at each solid feed, you can progress  to three meals a day. As they get a bit older you can even give them a small snack in between meals too.

Luckily, babies have a pretty good idea of when they’re full and when still they’re hungry, so let them guide you.

Remember to offer solids after a milk feed at this stage, and then when baby is around 8-9 months old, you can offer solids before milk.

In the early stages of introducing solids, the main goal is for your baby to become used to taking food from a spoon. You don’t need to give them too much food, as they'll still be getting most of their nutrition from milk. To start off with they will probably only be able to eat small amounts anyway.

To start with offer one meal of solids a day, after baby’s normal milk feed. They will still need as much breast milk or formula as usual.

  • Messy meal times - you might find food gets everywhere but into your baby's mouth! Prepare just a small amount of food to begin with and put a small amount on the spoon, maybe  offer just ½-1 teaspoon on the first day. You can always heat up more food if your baby still seems hungry afterwards. Go at your baby's pace - they'll decide when they have had enough.
  • Slow increases are best - over the next few weeks, you can gradually increase the amount of solids you give your baby, but always offer food after their milk feed. When baby is eating around ½ a cup of food at one meal, offer a second meal, and then eventually progress to three meals a day. Aim to be feeding baby two to three meals a day at around seven months.
  • Easy does it – every baby is different, so let their appetite guide you. Try introducing one food at a time and stick with it for two to four days before adding a new food.
  • More food, less milk - as your baby starts eating more solids, you may notice they want less milk. They may want fewer milk feeds, or not drink as much at each feed. Even if they appear to want less milk, it is still their most important source of nutrition so continue to offer milk before solids until your baby is around 8-9 months old.

Food allergies aren’t as common as many people think but a small number of babies can develop allergies to certain foods If your baby’s brother or sister, or either parent has a diagnosed allergy, then baby has a higher risk of developing an allergy as well.

Symptoms might be diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, swelling and skin rashes. They don’t always come on straight away, they can sometimes take a couple of hours to become obvious. In very rare cases serious food allergies can lead to anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of the throat and mouth, restricting the airways and can be life threatening.

Breastfeeding lowers the risk of allergy in babies:

  • Breastfeed –breastfeed your baby for at least the first six months, and continue to breastfeed for as long as you can after you have introduced solids. Don’t introduce solids before 4 months.
  • Take it slowly –when your baby starts solids, introduce just one new food at a time. Try a new food for 2-4 days to see how your baby tolerates it, then you can try another food.

There is no reason to delay introducing any foods to your baby unless you know they have a diagnosed allergy to a certain food.

If you do suspect your baby has a food allergy, make sure you talk to your health professional or a dietitian before you start changing their diet-you don’t want your baby to miss out on important and nutritious foods for no good reason.

It’s recommended that you breastfeed for the first six months of your baby's life, but all babies are different. Your little one might be ready for solids before six months – chat to your health professional about it. Just remember that babies under 4 months are not ready for solids.

If your baby is showing signs he or she is ready for solids before six months, here are a few suitable food choices to start with:

  • Cooked pureed pumpkin, kumara, and carrot (no skins)
  • Ripe, smooth mashed avocado and banana
  • Cooked pureed apple and pear (no skins and pips)
  • Baby rice cereal prepared with breast milk, formula or water

Your baby has more taste buds than you do, so even something that seems to taste bland to adults can be a flavour sensation to your baby! Remember eating solids is a new experience and babies will need time to get used to trying new foods.

Try small amounts of a single ingredient food to start off with, like Wattie's or Farex Rice Cereal prepared with milk (breast or formula) or water. You can also try a single type of fruit or veges, cooked and pureed until  smooth. Pumpkin, potato, kumara and carrot are all good choices of vegetables. If you're offering your baby fruit try cooked and pureed apple or pear.

Wattie’s Baby Foods in the blue cans and  jars are all suitable first foods - that's the consistency you are aiming for. 

Babies (like so many of us) tend to prefer sweet foods. To get them into good habits it might be helpful to start them off with a variety of veges as well as fruit, that way they learn to accept both. Pumpkin is a popular first vegetable.

Choose a time when you and your baby are both feeling relaxed and not too tired, maybe after a mid-morning or mid-afternoon milk feed. Try sitting baby in your lap, tucking one of their arms behind you and holding onto the other one gently or you feed your baby in a high chair if they are strong enough and have good head control.

Every baby is different, so the right time to introduce solids will vary, and you definitely don't need to rush it. Until they're around six months old, your baby will get most of the nourishment they need from milk. Babies will be ready for solids at some time between four and six months, but make sure you don’t introduce foods too early (before four months) because their digestive system isn’t ready.

It’s best not to leave introducing solids later than six months, as your baby could miss out on some very important nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. You should also seek advice if your baby was born prematurely as their timeline for solids will be different.

Here are some of the signs your baby may be ready for solids:

Can I have some of yours? - they will start showing an interest in what you’re eating, leaning forward or even reaching out for the food on your plate

  • Milk isn’t enough - you may notice they don’t seem satisfied after a milk feed. Your baby may still seem hungry and cry, or show signs they want more milk. If your baby is showing these signs before four months, it is too early to introduce solids and baby may need more frequent or larger milk feeds, but after 4 months, these signs may be an indication your baby is ready to start solids.
  • Waking at night – they may start waking up hungry during the night when they used to sleep right the way through.
  • Mouthing stuff – they’ll often put toys up or their hands up to their mouths. They’ll also open their mouths easily if you put their spoon up to their lips.
  • Bigger and stronger – your baby can hold their head up and they’re roughly double their birth weight.

Remember, all babies are different, and will progress at their own pace. Don’t worry if your baby decides to do things a little differently.

If your baby is showing these signs before four months, talk to your health professional. They won’t be ready for solids yet, but may need more milk.