A healthy start for your baby
Published: 28 March 2019
Becoming a parent is rewarding but it can also be challenging. There’s a lot to take in and another mouth to feed. We’re here to make things easier with tips to help you and your baby stay healthy and happy.
Developing healthy habits can start from when you are pregnant and continue once your baby is born. Introducing your baby and toddler to a range of flavours and tastes can help them be more open to different foods as they grow. It’s also the perfect time to start adopting healthy eating habits as a family.
Breastfeeding and breast milk
Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. It helps to protect them from colds, tummy bugs, infections and allergies. Breastfeeding is free and provides your baby with all the goodness needed until around six months. If you are unable to breastfeed, infant formula can be used until 12 months1. When choosing infant formula, check it matches with your baby's age and choose a formula based on cow’s milk (unless your health professional has recommended a different type for your baby).
What should breastfeeding mums eat?
A baby’s taste preferences start to develop during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. If you eat a variety of healthy foods throughout this time your baby will learn to enjoy a wide range of flavours1,2. This may help them to be less of a fussy eater when they’re older.
When you breastfeed your baby, you pass along some of your nutrition to your baby. This means, it’s important to make sure you’re eating healthy yourself and drinking plenty of fluids, to keep up your own energy levels1. Let’s not forget that your energy levels may be low from having a new baby anyway – sleepless nights!
Finding time to eat well can be a struggle, but do your best to eat heart healthy foods where you can. Aim to eat plenty of vegetables, especially non-starchy vegetables (like lettuce, cucumber, carrots and pumpkin), as well as fruit, whole grains (like wholemeal bread and oats) and healthy sources of protein (like dried beans, chickpeas, eggs, skinless chicken and meat with fat removed) to stay healthy and nourished.
Choose healthy fats including oily fish, avocado and nuts as well as lower-fat milk and cheese. Ditch sugary drinks, take-aways, unhealthy snacks like chips and doughnuts… meaning, try to avoid any processed foods in general.
When it comes to drinks – make sure you stay hydrated. Water and reduced or low-fat milk are the best choices. Alcohol is not recommended as it passes very quickly into your breast milk and affects your baby4.
Avoid lots of caffeine too as this may affect your baby’s sleep4.
Get more information on eating for breastfeeding on the Health Ed website.
Healthy first foods for babies
Children’s food preferences develop from a young age. So, when it’s time to start solids, it’s a great time to introduce healthy foods to your baby. This is at about six months of age, when baby is showing signs that they are ready to eat solid food1.
When preparing and choosing foods for your baby avoid foods with added oil, salt, sugar, honey or other sweeteners1.
Vegetables and fruits are great first foods for your baby. Try cooked and pureed vegetables and fruits without skins, pips or seeds. Some great options are:
Foods that contain iron, such as cooked and pureed meats and legumes like lentils or beans are also good options. From 7-8 months your baby will be ready to progress to mashed foods, finger foods and new flavours.
For more information on starting solids visit the Health Ed website.
Healthy snacks for toddlers
Snacks are a good way to keep toddlers going between meals. However, avoid continuous eating or grazing and try to stick to set meal and snack times that work for your child.
Again, make healthy choices for your toddler and base snacks around vegetables and fruit. Try to avoid sugary treats, fizzy drinks, fruit juice, dried fruit and packaged snacks that have added salt and fat, like chips.
Here are some healthy toddler snacks to try:
- Raw or steamed vegetable pieces e.g. broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, cauliflower, courgettes
- Cucumber sandwiches
- Fruit kebabs
Most fresh fruit, like bananas, mandarins and apples, are quick and easy to give to children. If you’re short on time chop up some vegetables and fruit and store them in sealed containers in the fridge. This will help make snacks quick and easy. Encourage your children to help you choose healthy foods and get them involved in preparing them too.
We hope you’ve found our tips helpful. Take a look at our healthy recipes for more inspiration.Get healthy recipes
1. Eating for Healthy Babies & Toddlers, Ministry of Health. Revised April 2013.
2. De Cosmi, V., Scaglioni, S., & Agostoni, C. (2017). Early taste experiences and later food choices. Nutrients, 9(2), 107.
3. Forestell, C. A. (2017). Flavor Perception and Preference Development in Human Infants. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 70(Suppl. 3), 17-25.
4. Eating for Healthy Breastfeeding Women, Ministry of Health.