IS FOOD BEFORE ONE JUST FOR FUN?
If you have a babe that’s close to starting solids age, you’ve certainly heard the rhyme “Food Before 1 Is Just For Fun.” It certainly has gone viral…but is it true??
One positive of “Food before 1” is that when parents consider food as optional, it takes the pressure off, if your child is the one that decides she’s not really interested in solids! We can’t (and don’t want to!) force our baby to eat. And it is true that milk does make up the most important part of your baby’s diet until they turn about one. But as a dietitian I know that food is an important supplement to milk, starting around 6 months of age. Why?
There are many reasons for solid food, including extra calories to support your baby’s rapid growth, to help develop motor skills and increased acceptance of new foods and flavours earlier on. There’s also new research to support that introducing higher allergenic foods around 6 months may protect against allergies. But the main reason why solids are recommended at 6 months is for iron, which supports growth and brain function.
At about 6 months of age, your baby’s iron stores from before birth stores start to run out. The recommended daily intake for iron at ages 6-12 months is 11mg per day – this is more than an adult makes needs! And about 30% of one year olds are iron deficient, so it’s super common. I found out at age 4 that my (picky eating) daughter was iron deficient. I got her tested as her hair seemed to be falling out too easily - and I wish I had tested her earlier. Because if iron deficiency progresses to anemia, there can be irreversible consequences like learning difficulties and social withdrawal.
To make sure your baby gets iron, offer one of these options at each meal:
Red meat, chicken or seafood, which contain a type of iron that’s easiest for our bodies to use. Either pureed meat, or if you’re doing finger foods, try tender meats like ground meat sauce, meat balls, slow cooked roast, meat loaf, ribs or a chicken drumstick
Eggs, beans and legumes, leafy greens and dried fruits.
Fortified infant cereal. If you’re using Babyled Weaning, you can bake it into foods like pancakes by substituting the cereal for half of the flour.
Saying all of that, you can't FORCE your baby to eat. If you're worried about their iron status, you can always get it tested with a simple blood test. If they are slow to accept solids, just continue to offer. Let your baby play with the food and he will start eating at some point!