Infant Feeding in the First Year
The World Health Organisation recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, as it provides all the nutrients and energy infants need. It enhances cognitive and sensory development, reduces infant mortality and protects against infections and diseases.
Research by Kramer & Kakuma (2012) found exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months reduced the risk of gastro-intestinal issues, aided maternal weight loss and delayed regular periods.
You may have read or heard about the recent research by Perkin et al (2018) which found infants weaned from 3 months, slept up to 2 hours more/week at 6 months than exclusively breastfed infants. The aim of the research was to explore whether there was a co-relation between the early introduction of allergenic foods at 3 months instead of 6 months and the development of allergies. A co-relation was not found; however, it has sparked a debate about the early introduction of solids.
Their claims have been questioned as infants woke once or more at nights and self-reporting methods were used by parents, which are not always 100% accurate. Professor Brown (2018) reported the results were not conclusive enough to warrant changes to current infant feeding guidelines.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (2018) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and to continue until the infant is a year old. Infant formula should either be cow’s or goat’s milk and soya-based formula should only be used on medical recommendation. They advise that weaning should not commence until around 6 months, when the infant is developmentally ready e.g. able to sit upright with or without support, can pick up and put food in their mouth and can hold their head up without support.
Your infants’ food will need to be adjusted according to your or their dietary needs
Top Four Weaning Tips
- You may choose to start with small amounts of pureed fruits and vegetables daily, adding protein a few days or weeks later. Or you may start with everything simultaneously. It’s all fine, you just need to gradually increase the volume, frequency, food range, textures and include finger foods.
- Baby-led weaning involves less, or no purees and food should be soft enough for your infant to squash; or cut into suitable pieces. 2-3 items should be enough as your infant chooses to eat what they want and leaves the rest. This can be very messy, as your infant will spend time playing with the food, so make sure your floor is protected.
- Your infant must always be supervised during feeding, it’s also a great time for you to eat together and engage. Avoid choking hazards e.g. grapes and nuts. Other foods to avoid are honey, low fat, saturated fats, salt and sugar. Foods containing peanuts e.g. peanut butter and well-cooked eggs can be introduced from 6 months and not delayed, as this may lead to an allergy to them. Seek medical advice if there is a family history of food allergies or infantile eczema.
- Offer water after meals from a cup. Full fat cows’ milk can be given as a main drink from 1 year and used for cereals or with cooked food from 6 months. By 9 months offer 3 meals, 2 snacks and 2 milk feeds daily.
Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (2018) Feeding in the first year. Available from https:www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-report-on-feeding-in-the-first-year-of-life. Kramer MS & Kakuma R (2012) Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (8): CD003517. WHO (2001) Global strategy for infant & young child feeding: the optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding. World Health Assembly 54. Brown A (2018) Giving your baby solid food early won’t help them sleep better. Available at https://theconversation.com/giving-your-baby-solid-food-early-wont-help-them-sleep-better-99645. Perkin MR, Bahnson HT, MPH, Logan K et al (2018) Association of early introduction of solids with infant sleep. Available at https://jamanetwork.com/journls/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2686726