Choosing foods and drinks for infants isn’t always an easy task, especially when they start deciding on what foods that they do and don’t like. From around 6 months, but not before 4 months, solids can start to be introduced to babies. And from 12 months onwards, they should be consuming all the same foods that a family would eat.
But there can be confusion about what to give babies and infants to drink. Breastfeeding periods can vary, children can get fed with formula, or can become more dependent on formula than food. Before 12 months old, babies should not be given any drinks besides breast milk, formula, or boiled tap water.
For children 12 months and older, solids should make up the largest proportion of energy, which increases with time as infants grow and their appetite changes (most parents know that children’s appetite changes on a daily basis). But it is great to expose them to different foods, drinks, flavours, and textures.
What are the beverages the infants should be offered?
• After 12 months of age, children can be introduced to cow’s milk dairy! From 12-24 months, full cream milk is the best option for the energy required for the large amount of growth experienced during this period, and is a rich source of protein, calcium, and other nutrients. Unpasteurised milk and goats milk is not to be used.
• Low fat or reduced fat milk are not suitable for children under 2 years of age.
• Soy milk or other plant or animal based milks are not a suitable alternative to cow’s milk with the first 24 months of life. Soy products or formula can be utilised under specialised medical advice.
• Rice or oat milk which is fortified with 100mg/100ml of calcium, and are a full fat option are a suitable alternative to cow’s milk under medical instruction.
• Specially advertised toddler formula or other drink products are not necessary for healthy growth and development.
• Tea, coffee, or other caffeinated beverages are not suitable for infants or children
• Juice, soft drink, and cordial should be avoided in order to promote good dental health.
• Boiled tap water can be used to supplement intake, especially if children are not hungry or require milk for a meal or snack.
Each child is different and will have varying intakes and preferences. But offering the best options is the best possible thing to do. So you provide the options, and choose when they eat, and they will choose how much and how to eat it.
For more information on helping your little one with nutrition, see an accredited practising dietitian who specialises in paediatric nutrition.