Types of food
After nine months you can begin to offer your child:
- Minced food, rather than mashed
- Harder finger food, such as raw vegetables
If you give them dairy products, make sure they are the full-fat varieties. Cutting back on fat is sensible for adults, but not for babies as they need more energy for growth.
Also, try not to encourage a sweet tooth by giving them biscuits and cakes as these will fill up your baby without providing any nutrients.
Your baby should be having a good mixed diet by now with probably three or four meals a day.
Your baby’s diet should contain:
- starchy foods at every meal, like potatoes, rice bread, pasta and plantain
- fruit or vegetables at each meal
- one or two servings of meat, fish, eggs or pulses (beans or lentils) a day
This is a good time to introduce two course meals.
Ideally these would be a:
- savoury first course of starchy food like meat, fish or pulses with vegetables
- second course of milk, fruit or both
You will find that as your baby eats more solid foods, the amount of milk your baby wants will start to reduce. Once your baby is eating plenty of solids several times a day, they may go without one feed, but do continue to breastfeed or give 500-600ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day until at least 12 months of age.
Breastfeeding will continue to benefit you and your baby. As you introduce drinks, water with meals for instance, always use cups rather than bottles.
You should avoid using anything with a teat. If your child spends too long with a teat in their mouth it may damage their teeth and delay speech development. At this stage, water doesn’t have to be boiled unless you are using it to make up formula milk.
Diluted fruit juice can also be used if it is well diluted (one part juice to 10 parts water).
Remember that cow’s milk must not be given as a drink until your baby is one year old, however, it can be used for mixing into foods like cereal or mashed potatoes.
Getting enough iron
Babies need iron in their diet to help their brains develop normally. Pork, beef and lamb are excellent sources of iron and serving vegetables with these will help your baby to absorb it.
If you have decided you do not want your baby to eat meat or fish, make sure that you give them two servings a day of split pulses (red lentils, split peas, chickpeas) or tofu.
Fruit also helps the body absorb iron, so include this at meal times as well.
Vitamins and Healthy Start scheme
Children under five years old who are breastfeeding need vitamin drops A, C and D (children who are drinking 500ml of infant formula a day do not need these as they are already added).
If your family qualifies for the Healthy Start scheme, you can get free milk, fresh fruit and vegetables and vitamins until your child’s fourth birthday.