Integrating with the family

Towards the end of their first year, babies can really start to express themselves, finding their own special ways to let you know how they’re feeling. Pointing at things they want, or turning their head when they’re full are just some of the ways they’ll do this. And your cheeky little monkey may work out others! Whatever they do, your baby will look to mum and dad for a reaction. That’s how they learn what they can and can’t do.

Feed their growing needs

Seeing their family enjoying meals can help your baby learn to love good food. It’s also a great way for them to pick up some good table manners! But while they might be looking more like a mini-adult than ever before, their nutritional needs are very different from a grown-up’s and they’ll need a baby-friendly diet for some time to come. Right now your baby needs more of certain nutrients than the rest of the family, so don’t be tempted to give them a smaller portion of whatever you’re eating.

Many family foods - shop-bought or homemade - can contain too much salt which may harm your baby’s developing kidneys. We recently put some different versions of spaghetti bolognese to the test and the shop-bought version had 4 times more salt than our homemade recipe and 6 times more than one of Cow & Gate's Little Steamed Meals. Sticking to a baby-specific diet will help them get the goodness they need to fuel their fun and games. If you’re stuck for ideas, take a look at our homemade recipes for inspiration.

Good for mum but not for baby

Now is a great time to introduce your baby to lots of different tastes and textures (url - tbc new variety article). This can help them develop a liking for naturally healthy foods, with no added nasties like sugar or salt, which will stay with them into early childhood. Sharing finger foods at the table can be a fun way for both of you to try new things. And if they see that mummy thinks something’s yummy, they’re more likely to as well.

Sharing also means taking turns, giving your baby the chance to learn when to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – the magic words we all love to hear at the dinner table. But it’s important to remember that some family favourites aren’t suitable for sharing just yet. For now, give high fibre foods like brown bread and brown pasta a miss because they’re too filling for tiny tummies; likewise low fat versions of milk, cheese and yogurt don’t contain enough of the nutrients they need. And processed foods like ham, bacon, sausages and shop-bought sauces and gravy are often too salty for babies. Up to the age of 12 months, they need less than 1g a day, which is a sixth of the amount an adult needs.

Recipes for all the family

Even though your baby needs a different diet from you, there’s no reason why they can’t still enjoy your favourite family meals. If you’re cooking from scratch, simply leave out the seasoning, chilli, bacon or other adult-only ingredients from their portion and just add it to yours. Or, try Cow & Gate's special readymade baby meals like Cow & Gate's spaghetti bolognese or chicken sunday lunch with carrots and parsnips. That way they won’t feel like they’re missing out!

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