You may be moo-ving into the grown-up world of real food but milk still has an important role for the remainder of the first year. From four to six months baby needs 500 – 600 ml (17 – 21 fl oz) of breast or formula milk a day and up to four milk feeds a day to the age of eight months.
Milk feeds can be gradually reduced as weaning progresses but giving baby too much solid food too quickly can lead to constipation. First foods are about introducing tastes and textures but milk continues to provide necessary nutrients.
Cow’s milk and goat’s milk are not suitable alternatives to breast or formula milk before baby’s first birthday because they do not contain sufficient iron and other nutrients. They can be used in cooking and with cereal from six months. You may be thinking about your pre-pregnancy wardrobe but baby needs the calories in full-fat milk.
Babies lose more water from their skin and kidneys than adults so it is vital to keep them hydrated. For the first six months the only drink suitable for your baby, besides breast or formula milk, is boiled, cooled tap water. Not bottled water, which can contain high concentrations of mineral salts.
By introducing a cup you can keep baby’s bottle for milk feeds. Sucking on sweet drinks can contribute to tooth decay. By introducing a lidded cup with a spout at six or seven months you are helping baby graduate to a cup and by the time baby reaches their first birthday you may be ready to bin the bottles altogether, perhaps with the exception of one at bedtime.
Feeding & hydration for sick babies
Weaning can feel like two spoons forward and one back at the best of times and it can be especially frustrating if your fledgling foodie gets sick. Don’t panic. Coughs, colds, flu, ear infections, tonsillitis, etc. are all miserable but thankfully the worst is usually over after a couple of days.
Hydration is your top priority for a poorly baby so make sure you keep them drinking. Breastfed babies may find feeding tiring if they are congested, try feeding little and often and build up to where you left off as they get better. Offer water as well as milk and you might consider enticing older babies with diluted fruit concentrate.
Once on the road to recovery and regaining a healthy appetite continue to offer a wide range of foods, there is a lot to be said for Grandma’s chicken soup as it ticks off protein, veg, and liquid. Protein is important for the immune system and repairs damaged body tissues. Carbohydrates give a quick burst of energy but opt for slow-releasing energy foods and offer the complex carbs found in wholemeal bread, pasta, fruit, and vegetables.
Bribing your baby back to where you were on the weaning adventure with all their favourite foods is tempting but keep the variety up or you risk encouraging fussy eating, which will make life harder in the long run.
Try to keep baby cool as they are likely to be less hungry if they have a fever, which can also increase the chance of vomiting.
Keep it simple when baby isn’t fighting fit as they are not likely to be at their most adventurous. Expect a reduced appetite and try not to worry if they only mange one or two mouthfuls.