Breast milk is the best possible food for feeding a baby from birth, and no other milk is needed until one year of age, when cow’s milk may be introduced. If the baby is not breast fed, infant formula is recommended for most of the first year, although many babies cope with ordinary cow’s milk from six months. From the age of about six months it is safe to stop sterilising the bottles.
A baby will normally be introduced to solids at about four months. These will consist of strained vegetables and fruits. At the beginning they are not a substitute for milk but are simply to get the baby used to them. Gradually solids become an integral part of the diet, and by six months the amount of milk can usually be reduced in proportion to solids in each meal.
Many babies are able to master the art of drinking out of a cup at about nine months. By the time a baby is a toddler, they should be eating much the same meals as the rest of the family, assuming these are nutritious and well balanced. It is important that food is attractively prepared and presented so that it looks appetising.
Some parents become excessively anxious because their child seems to be a fussy eater, and they worry that the child will not receive adequate nutrition. This is usually because meals have become a battleground with a parent insisting on every last scrap being consumed. Once mealtimes become unpleasant, the child not unnaturally tries to avoid them. Children are like adults. Sometimes they are hungrier than other times, and they like some foods and dislike others. If you allow your child some individual choice in what and how much they eat, it is unlikely that problems will arise.
If a child goes off a particular food for a period, respect their wish – it will usually be short-lived. It is unknown for a child voluntarily to starve itself to death.
There is growing evidence that children should not be overfed. A chubby child has long been regarded as desirably healthy and a tribute to its mother. No-one would suggest that children ought to be thin and that a little extra fat does not provide the necessary fuel for a growing and energetic youngster, but increasingly it is being realised that fat children grow into overweight adults.