Feeding: Baby & Toddler Nutrition Q&As

Feeding: Baby & Toddler Nutrition

Judy More

I currently bottle feed my baby girl who is 10 months old. When should I switch to cows’ milk instead of formula? Do I need to use follow-on formulas or can I just go straight to cows’ milk?

Generally, when children get to about a year old, you can switch to cows’ milk for them to drink. Children under 2 years old need full-fat cows’ milk for the extra vitamin A. From about two years old onwards if children are growing and eating well they can have semi-skimmed milk but changing is not necessary. There is no need for you to use follow on formulas, as cows’ milk will contain the nutrients your daughter needs once she is 12 months old.

Question: Why can’t toddlers have high fibre foods? I thought they were really good for the digestive system.

Answer: Toddlers can have high-fibre foods and they are good for the digestive system. However, some toddlers get diarrhoea if they have too much fibre so see what suits your toddler. Give a mix of some whole grain foods and some white bread, pasta and rice. If your toddler has no problems then slowly increase the number of high fibre foods you are giving.

Question: I’m worried about my toddler getting enough iron as I have a history of being anaemic. What can I do to make sure she is getting enough?

Answer: Iron is important in helping to make red blood cells which carry oxygen around your body, and a lack of iron can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia. Most people can get all the iron they need from having a balanced healthy diet. Your toddler should have foods that are high in iron two or three times a day. The best sources are red meat, oily fish and dark poultry meat such as legs and thighs. Other good sources are eggs, chopped or ground nuts and nut products such as peanut butter and
almond butter (whole nuts can pose a choking risk), and pulses such as lentils, chickpeas and beans. Be sure to give your toddler a fruit or vegetable high in vitamin C with these foods to help her body to absorb the iron.

Question: Does my toddler need to take a vitamin supplement?

Answer: Even if your little one has a healthy balanced diet, the government recommends that all children from birth to five years take supplements containing vitamins A and D. This will help to prevent rickets (a bone disease), maintain a strong immune system, and to promote healthy growth.

Question: My toddler only eats a limited variety of foods and is really reluctant to try lots of new things. Is this normal and should I be firmer with making him branch out a bit?

Answer: Toddlers often need to try new foods several times before learning to like them. Some may even need to be offered a new food ten or more times before they begin to like it. At this stage the most important thing is getting toddlers to taste the new food, they don’t need to eat a lot of it. If a toddler will not even try the new food, then you just try offering it each time you are eating it.

Question: My toddler has just turned 18 months and has recently become a fussy eater, eating less than normal and refusing certain foods. Why do you think he would do this if he was fine before?

Answer: Fussy eating is really common and most toddlers go through it at some point but eventually pass through this phase. Although it can be frustrating at times for parents, it usually isn’t anything to worry about as long as toddlers are developing properly. However, if the problem persists or you have some concerns, speak to your health visitor or GP and they will be able to check your child’s growth and development. There are a number of reasons why toddlers may lose their appetite, including being tired, not feeling well, feeling pressured to eat more food when they have had enough or do not like the food, or being continually offered food throughout the day. Ensure meal times are happy social times with no stress, arguments, bribery or coercion. And don’t rush your toddler or force them to eat things they are refusing.

Question: My son refuses to drink water so I give him squash at the moment, is this okay and how much is too much?

Answer: Ideally you should encourage your son to drink water by drinking it yourself and offering it to him at the same time. However, if your son is not getting any liquids as a result, I’d suggest that you give him very diluted fruit juice (one part juice to 10 parts water) with meals. Serving it with a meal helps to reduce
the risk of tooth decay.

Question: I only have skimmed milk and other low-fat dairy items in the house for me and my family as they are healthier but my sister told me she only gives her son full-fat varieties as its better for him. Is this true?

Answer: Full-fat varieties contain more vitamin A which is important for the immune system. This is why full-fat varieties are recommended for children under two years. Although children can change to lower fat varieties from two years it is fine to keep them on the full-fat varieties. They will benefit from the extra
vitamin A.

Question: How can I encourage my daughter to eat more and different types of foods? It’s really hard at the moment as she will only eat one or two different things.

Answer: You don’t say how old your little one is but rest assured that many toddlers can be fussy about what they will and will not eat. This is a normal stage of development where they are careful about only eating foods that look familiar to them. Toddlers pass through this phase by eating in social groups either with the family or with other children. With time they copy others and begin to eat a wider range of foods that they see other people eating. So remain calm and give her the foods she will eat but continue to offer the foods you would like her to eat. It is best to do this by eating with her and eating the foods you would like her to begin eating. She may try them from your plate before she is brave enough to begin eating them herself. Encourage her to feed herself and giving finger foods makes this
easier. Often fussy toddlers like plain dry foods that are all kept separate and not mixed together.

Question: I use jars and pouches when out and about with my twins but I know they’re not that healthy. Is it ok to have them occasionally?

Answer: Baby food in jars or packets can be handy when you are out and about. However, portion sizes are often too big and much of it has the same texture. This may make it harder for your baby to accept more varied textures and flavours and to move to family foods as they get older. You’ll already know that homemade food made from simple ingredients with no added sugar or salt is best, but it is ok to opt for pouches and jars from time to time.

Question: My little girl is six months old, but will still only use a bottle, is this normal? When should she be able to use a cup?

Answer: Cups can be introduced from around six months to offer sips of water with meals. Using an open cup or a free flow cup without a valve will help your little girl learn to sip and is also better for her teeth. I’ve read a bit about vitamin D but was never told anything about it by my doctor. My kids eat well already so is there any need for them take a vitamin D supplement?

Question: Should I insist my little boy eats broccoli even though he refuses to eat it?

Answer: Broccoli, like other vegetables, provides vitamins A, C and folate (naturally occurring folic acid). Just offer it to him when you or others are eating it and he may eventually learn to like it. Toddlers learn by copying so it is important that you eat it when eating with him and say you like it. However learning to like certain tastes takes much longer in toddlers than it does during weaning. If he eats other vegetables then it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t eat broccoli.

Question: What are the ideal first foods to start off feeding my daughter with?

Answer: Begin with some smooth mashed or puréed cooked fruit or vegetables or some baby cereal mixed with your baby’s usual milk. Cooked parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear, all cooled before eating are ideal first foods. You could also try soft fruit like peach, melon, ripe banana or avocado
as finger foods or mashed.

Question: How can I tell when my baby is ready to start moving on to solids?

Answer: Usually babies are ready for more than just milk feeds any time between 4 and 6 months of age. Signs that will indicate your baby is ready for solid foods include: being able to stay in a sitting position with support and hold their head steady, putting toys and other objects in their mouth, seeming hungry between milk feeds and watching with interest when other people are eating. Large baby boys are often ready for weaning sooner than small girls because boys grow slightly more quickly than girls.