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Starting solids – calcium and your baby

startingsolidscalciumAre you confused about starting solids? Here are some tips and some facts about calcium requirements for babies and young children.

Like every parent before you, you want to be sure you’re doing everything to help your baby grow strong and healthy.

While breastfeeding or giving your baby formula, the baby’s diet is reasonably simple. But once your baby is ready to move to solid foods, you’ll want more information.

Once you are sure your baby is ready for solids, you should introduce new foods slowly.

The first foods introduced are usually smooth, pureed foods, like plain cereals (e.g. rice, oats, semolina), as the consistency is easy for your baby to swallow. After these foods are accepted, fruit and vegetables are next.

Finger foods are next – meats and fish and a wider variety of vegetables, fresh fruits and legumes. Yoghurt, egg custard and nut pastes can be introduced at this stage.

Remember to leave some time between trying new foods to make sure you don’t miss any allergies or sensitivities to certain foods.

Once you have introduced foods from all the food groups (meat, bread and cereals, vegetables, fruit and dairy) it’s important to select different foods daily. Babies and infants go through a large growth phase, yet they are unable to eat large volumes of food at once, as their stomach capacity is small. That’s why it’s important to feed your baby a wide variety of foods that are packed with nutrients.

Once a baby is tolerating rice cereals and fruit, vegetables and meat, whole-milk yoghurts can be introduced to babies.

Try one spoonful of one whole-milk yoghurt initially, with no other new foods introduced for at least 48 hours. If there is no reaction or intolerance to the yoghurt, gradually increase the portion size to suit your baby’s appetite. Other varieties of whole milk yoghurts can then be  introduced in the same way. Babies may at first reject the natural flavour and tang of yoghurt. Do try again at a later time as baby’s taste develops.

Yoghurts are a great source of probiotics, which produce organic acids to help keep the right balance of microflora in your baby’s gastrointestinal tract.

The benefits of calcium

Calcium is essential for many structural and physiological processes in our bodies. Not only is it needed for proper nerve and muscle function, it plays a critical role in building strong bones. The two critical key times of bone growth in your baby’s life will be childhood and adolescence. Evidence suggests that an adequate calcium intake, together with Vitamin D and weight-bearing physical activity in childhood are key factors in building bigger and stronger bones.

Dairy foods provide the most readily available source of calcium. Including adequate intakes of calcium on a daily basis throughout the early years will maximise the potential to reach a high peak bone mass after adolescence. It is important to remember that the major source of milk in your baby’s diet for the first 12 months should ideally be breast milk or infant formula, while other dairy foods like cheese and yoghurt are also a valuable source of calcium once solid foods have been introduced. Use whole milk plain varieties.

How much calcium does my baby need?

Adequate Intake (AI) of calcium for Australian children up to six months of age is 210mg per day.

An infant between seven and 12 months requires 270mg of calcium a day. After 12 months of age the RDI for calcium increases to 500mg per day for one-three year olds and 700mg per day for four-eight year olds.

A small serve of 100g of whole milk yoghurt provides between 120-180mg of calcium depending on the variety. Thirty grams of cheddar cheese provides around 230mg and five canned sardines 285mg of calcium.

Once you are confident your baby is tolerating individual foods, you can start incorporating a variety of these foods in different combinations. By including grains, meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and dairy foods into recipes, you can ensure not only that your baby has a healthy diet, but also an interesting one.

Creating interesting new foods for your baby can be as simple as mixing yoghurt with pureed fruit, adding a dollop to breakfast cereal or whipping up a fruit smoothie with yoghurt. As your baby grows and develops, you can try some recipes that are a bit more adventurous.


– this article was kindly supplied by Karen Inge, Jalna Consultant Dietitian 

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