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Feeding the Child

How can I help my baby develop healthy eating habits?

Feed your baby a little at a time. Let her be your guide when it comes to how much food she needs at a meal. As you baby's appetite varies you will find she eats more on some days than others. She will stop when she's had enough. If you try to give her too much, she may be put off trying other foods.

As you choose what your baby eats at this age, you can ensure she has nutritious foods. Choose a variety of foods from the four main food groups:

- fruit and vegetables
- bread, rice, potatoes, pasta
- milk and dairy foods
- meat, fish, eggs, beans

It's best to avoid sugar, salt, and very fatty foods or very hot, spicy foods. Some babies enjoy mildly spiced foods, but they can't tolerate highly spiced foods to start with.

Research suggests that if you introduce your baby to a wide variety of foods and flavours early on she is more likely to have a varied diet in later life.

Your baby may pull some negative facial expressions when she tries a new food. Try not to think of these expressions as dislike. If your baby does reject a food don't be put offering it again on future occasions.

Over two thirds of babies will eat a food that they've rejected at first, such as unfamiliar vegetable, after tasting it eight times. Keep in mind that your baby may need to taste a food up to 15 times before she may happily accept it.

At mealtimes let your baby explore her food, even whilst you are spoon feeding. Try giving her a finger food, such as a soft cooked carrot stick or slice of soft peeled pear, to chew on. Your baby will get to feel the texture and engage with her food.

Babies also learn by example. Try to involve your baby in your meal times and let her sit at the table with you. Try to eat something when your baby eats so that she can see you enjoying your food.

Help your baby have a positive relationship with food. Try not to use food as a bribe or reward. Instead, give your baby plenty of hugs, kisses and attention.

Once you start to give your baby solid foods she can have diluted fruit or vegetable juice with her meals, although she doesn’t need it. Water is the best choice as an additional drink to your baby's usual milk.

Fruit juice is high in sugar and can damage your baby's teeth. It's also easy for your baby to fill up on juice before or during mealtimes, spoiling her appetite for the nutritious foods she needs.

If you do give your baby fruit or vegetable juices, dilute them well, using at least one part juice to 10 parts water. A total of 120ml (4 fl oz) of juice a day would be plenty.