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Baby Food Stages On Labels: What Do They Mean?

Here's how to decipher baby food stages on labels

Navigating the world of nutrition can be confusing at the best of times, but when you’re a new, sleep-deprived parent being bombarded with mountains of conflicting information from multiple angles, everything can get a bit overwhelming. In that first year, your baby develops so rapidly that it can be tricky to stay on top of specific nutrient requirements for each stage. Baby food stages on labels are a helpful guide to ensure that the dietary choices you make for bub will support optimal development for their stage.   4+, 5+ and 6+ months The current Australian guidelines recommend that solid foods should be introduced at around 6 months of age 1. As some babies might be ready slightly earlier (~4 months) than this, it’s important to look for signs of readiness. This may include sitting up without support, a growing interest in food, and the loss of the tongue-extrusion reflex1. By 6 months of age, infant’s iron stores start to decline. Iron is an important nutrient for neurocognitive development, and it’s therefore recommended that baby’s first solids are rich in iron, e.g. iron-fortified cereals, pureed meats, or fish. 1,2 Bellamy’s Organic Baby Rice with GOS offers an iron-rich option that babies can enjoy from 4 months. GOS, a prebiotic fibre, supports a healthy gut, which is associated with improved long-term health outcomes3. This is also a great time to introduce your baby to a wide variety of flavours. The Bellamy’s range of organic fruit and vegetable purees offers a convenient option to expand your baby’s culinary repertoire. Rusks can also come in handy around this time, offering comfort in the unsettling teething periods. Bellamy’s Organic Milk Rusks are a safe, preservative- and sugar-free option. Pop them in the freezer for added soothing effects while teething.   7 – 8 months By 7 months old your baby should be encouraged to start exploring different textures. This encourages them to practice their chewing skills and is an important developmental step to help avoid fussiness further down the track. 4 Don’t be disheartened if they screw up their face, or spit out new foods. Research has shown that it can take around 8-10 exposures to a new food before acceptance.5 Bellamy’s Organic Brown Rice Pasta Stars (7+ months), Spelt Macaroni (8+ months), and Organic Veggie Pasta Alphabets (8+ months) can be added to sauces or soups and are a fun way to introduce new textures, whilst continuing to support nutrient requirements with mineral iron and nourishing vegetables.   12+ months By 12 months of age your little one can eat with the family, and enjoy a variety of nutritious foods 1. Meals can be flavoured with herbs and spices, but avoid adding salt or sugar, as these have been shown to have detrimental effects on health, and may encourage a preference for salty and sweet foods later in life1. Bellamy’s multi-coloured Veggie Macaroni, with no added sugar or salt, is a great way to add fibre and protein to sauces or soups. From 12 months, children may require smaller meals more often, so it’s handy to have some nutritious and convenient snacks around. Bellamy’s snack range (12+ months), including Pear and Apple Snacks, are made from 100% organic fruit, and contain no added sugar, additives, or preservatives, making them the perfect go-to snack.   References
  1. National Health and Medical Research Council. Infant Feeding Guidelines Information for Health Workers. Canberra: NHMRC; 2012.
  2. Netting MJ, Campbell DE, Koplin JJ, Beck KM, McWilliam V, Dharmage SC, et al. An Australian Consensus on Infant Feeding Guidelines to Prevent Food Allergy: Outcomes From the Australian Infant Feeding Summit. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2017; 5(6): 1617 – 24. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2017.03.013
  3. Medina DA, Pinto F, Ortuzar V, Garrido D. Simulation and modeling of dietary changes in the infant gut microbiome. FEMS microbiology ecology [Internet]. 2018 Sep 1 [cited 2020 May 15];94(9). doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiy140
  4. Nutrition Australia. Infant Nutrition. Southbank; 2008.
  5. Spill MK, Johns K, Callahan EH, Myra JS, Yat PW, Benjamin-Neelon SE, et al. Repeated exposure to food and food acceptability in infants and toddlers: a systematic review. AM J CLIN NUTR; 109: 978-989. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqy308