Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 1.1: Support healthy lifestyles for children through the provision of food and nutrition
Learning outcome: Understand the nutritional needs of children
Assessment criteria: Use current government guidance to identify the nutritional needs of babies until they are fully weaned.
It is important to follow government guidelines to ensure that your baby receives the nutrients they need.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published a report in 2018 entitled ‘Feeding in the First Year of Life‘, which provides guidance on ensuring that babies receive the nutrients they need.
Up to around six months old, breastfeeding is recommended as it provides the perfect balance of nutrients for a baby’s needs. After six months, weaning should begin, and solid foods should be introduced alongside breast or formula milk.
Breastfeeding is associated with an improved immune system in babies and improved maternal health. There is also evidence to suggest that not breastfeeding can have a higher risk of hospitalization due to infection and can affect development.
Where breastfeeding is not possible, formula milk should be given in the type and quantity as advised by a health professional.
Weaning is a process that should be undertaken gradually, starting with single ingredients and progressing to more complex meals. There are a variety of different foods that can be introduced as part of the weaning process, including:
- Cereals: such as rice, oatmeal or barley. These can be boiled in water to make a porridge-like consistency.
- Vegetables: such as mashed carrots, broccoli or sweet potatoes.
- Fruits: such as mashed apples, pears or bananas.
It is important to introduce new foods one at a time and wait for a few days before introducing another new food to gauge any potential allergic reactions. Babies should always be supervised when eating to ensure that they do not choke on any food.
When the child is accustomed to solid foods, soft finger foods may be introduced, such as :
- Cooked pasta shapes
- Soft fruits such as berries
- Small pieces of cooked chicken or fish
- Cheese cubes
Finger foods can help the child to develop their own dexterity and independence when eating. It is important to continue to offer breast or formula milk alongside solid foods until the child is around one year.