Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Making the transition from a diet of only breastmilk or infant formula to a diet that includes food is a gradual one. At first, an infant may only eat one to two teaspoons of a new food, but as they gain more experience with food, they’ll naturally increase this amount. Hello, I’m Dr. Katie Lacy, Senior Lecturer in Nutritional Science at Deakin University. Let’s take a look at some suggested amounts of different foods an infant may eat by the time they turn 12-months-old. These amounts will vary from infant to infant, but let’s use the following as an example. You can see from the small quantities here that the total amount of food an infant needs is very small indeed.
Skip to 0 minutes and 49 seconds From 6 to 12 months an infant skill in managing foods changes dramatically, which means that the food textures and amounts they can handle will change, too. Because infants have small stomachs, to meet their nutritional needs they need to eat meals and snacks throughout the day and eat small amounts of nutrient-dense foods. By nutrient-dense foods, we mean foods that are packed full of nutrients. For example, a slice of wholegrain bread with nut paste is a fantastic source of vitamin E, and also a good source of other nutrients like niacin and magnesium. It’s also a more nutrient-dense choice compared to something like a scone with butter or sweet biscuits, which would not be great sources of these nutrients.
Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds Similarly, banana is a better source of fibre compared with fruit juice, and brown rice is a better source of fibre zinc and vitamin B6 compared with white rice. Likewise, iron-fortified infant cereals are really important sources of iron. So while it might be tempting to offer porridge for breakfast, porridge actually contains very little iron, which doesn’t make it a suitable replacement for fortified infant cereal. When it comes to fluids, breastmilk or infant formula should be the main drink provided to an infant. Cow’s milk should not be provided as a drink, because the infant may become too full to drink enough breastmilk or formula. Cow’s milk should only be given to an infant in small amounts in foods.
Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds From 12 months onwards, it can be introduced as a drink in a cup. So when it comes to working out how much to feed an infant, it’s important to provide foods that are rich in nutrients instead of foods that are filling but provide little or poorer nutrition. The actual quantities offered will depend on the food, the child’s development, and their familiarity with the food. Providing a variety of foods to infants is also vital, so that they experience a range of tastes, textures, and colours. These early experiences with many different foods will help the infant to accept and learn to like a range of foods.
How much food do babies need?
Breastmilk or infant formula are the key sources of nutrients for a young infant but these foods will progressively be replaced by family foods from around six to 12 months of age.
During this time, a healthy diet for an infant should:
- meet the infant’s individual nutritional needs for their growth and activity level, as indicated by healthy weight gain and development
- contain breastmilk or infant formula
- include a variety of foods from meal-to-meal and day-to-day with an emphasis on nutrient-dense foods, particularly those rich in iron.
In terms of food quantities, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council dietary guidelines recommend the following food quantities for infants aged seven to 12 months.
|Food*||Serve size||Serves a day||Serves a week|
|Vegetables and legumes/beans||20g||1½–2||10–14|
|Grain (cereal) foods||40g bread equivalent||1½||10|
|Infant cereal (dried)||20g||1||7|
|Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes/beans||30g||1||7|
|Breast milk or formula||600ml||1||7|
|Yoghurt/cheese or alternatives||20ml yoghurt or 10g cheese||½||3–4|
* An allowance for unsaturated spreads or oils or nut/seed paste of ½ serve (4–15g) per day is included, however whole nuts and seeds are not recommended at this age because they may cause choking.
(Source: National Health and Medical Research Council, 2013, p. 44) (CC BY 4.0)
In this video, Dr Katie Lacy describes the importance of providing small amounts of a variety of nutrient-dense foods to infants to help them to accept and learn to like a range of nutritious foods.
Watch the video and, in the comments, describe an infant’s typical daily eating pattern in your culture. For example, in Australia, it’s common for children to eat three meals and three snacks across the day.
Also, how do you know how much food to offer and when to stop? Discuss your thoughts with other learners.
National Health and Medical Research Council. (2013). Eat for health. Australian dietary guidelines summary. Canberra: NHMRC.
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