Food Before 1 is NOT Just for Fun- Here's Why!

As a new parent, you may have heard the common saying "food before one is just for fun" (they seem to especially LOVE this phrase on Facebook mum groups!) This saying implies that a baby's only necessary source of nutrition before their first birthday is breast milk or formula, and that solid foods aren't needed. However, this advice is not only a myth, but it can also be potentially damaging to your child's health and development. Here are the reasons why food before one is NOT just for fun, and why it's important to start introducing solid foods at the right time.

Iron Stores Deplete Before One
Breast milk and formula provide excellent nutrition for infants, but they don't contain enough iron to meet a baby's needs beyond six months. Iron is essential for healthy brain development, and babies need to start getting this nutrient from food sources around six months old. By not introducing iron-rich foods, your baby may become iron deficient, which can lead to anemia and delayed cognitive development.

Solids Introduce Different Tastes and Textures
Weaning is the process of introducing solid foods to your baby's diet while still providing breast milk or formula. Weaning after six months is essential because it allows your baby to try new textures and flavours, which can help prevent them from becoming picky eaters later on. Research shows that babies who are weaned after six months are more likely to accept a wide variety of foods and develop healthy eating habits later in life. There's a window of time between around 6-9 months where babies are very open to trying different flavours, and if you take advantage of this you can prime their palate to enjoy a variety of tastes which makes things much easier going forward. 

Nutritional and Developmental Benefits of Solid Foods
The process of eating solid foods helps babies develop their chewing and swallowing skills, which are necessary for speech development. It also helps develop their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as they learn to grasp and feed themselves. Playing with their food as a baby isn't wasteful and is never a waste of time, they are learning so much through their five senses that all help them to make sense of the world around them. 

Why at 6 Months?
The research has shown that by six months, your baby's digestive system is mature enough to handle solid foods. Up until this point, your baby's digestive system is still developing, and their stomach and intestines are not equipped to break down solid foods. Introducing solid foods too early can cause digestive problems. The advice before 2003 used to be to wean at 4 months but this is no longer the case. The topic is hotly debated but the best thing to do is to follow up to date advice which is based on the best research we currently have. You can start weaning with purees, go in with baby led weaning (where baby feeds themself with appropriately cut and cooked foods) or a mixture of both. 

In conclusion, the saying "Food before one is just for fun" is a myth that can be potentially damaging to your baby's health and development. While breast milk or formula is a baby's primary source of nutrition before one, introducing solid foods after six months provides essential nutrients and developmental benefits.