Breast is best
Breastfeeding is the healthiest start for infants. For the infant, breastmilk provides a unique mix of nutrients and other important substances that can reduce the risk of infection and may also help reduce the risk of asthma, eczema and other allergies, and sudden infant death syndrome. Research shows that, amongst other benefits, being breastfed can reduce the risk of high blood pressure in childhood and may reduce the risk of becoming obese in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. This, in turn, may also reduce the risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke in later life. For the mother, breastfeeding can help recovery from birth and, may also help mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight and reduce their risk of some cancers. Breastmilk is a natural, convenient, hygienic and inexpensive food for babies
Supporting breastfeeding mothers
Breastfeeding is best however sometimes this is not possible. All mothers need support from family and friends in choosing what is best for them. Babies who are not breastfed need an infant formula. It’s particularly important for mothers to eat well when they’re breastfeeding. New mothers may be dealing with lack of sleep as well as extra nutrient needs. Helping mothers with meals and daily chores can make a difference. Public spaces like shopping centres and restaurants, and workplaces can support breastfeeding mothers by providing facilities for their use. We can all play a part to help everyone see that breastfeeding is the natural, normal and healthy way to feed our babies. But all mothers and families need support, no matter what feeding choices they make for their babies. Child health nurses, lactation consultants, doctors and other health professionals can provide help if mothers and families are having any problems with infant feeding.
Exclusive breastfeeding for around the first six months
It is recommended that infants are exclusively breastfed for around the first six months of life. This means that they are given breastmilk and nothing else during this time. Breastfeeding provides all the nutrients and fluids a baby needs. Breastfeeding should continue until the baby is 12 months old, or for as long as both the mother and infant want to keep going. But any breastfeeding is beneficial to the infant and mother. By around six months of age, solid foods such as iron-fortified infant cereals, puréed meats, tofu and legumes followed by vegetables, fruits and other nutritious foods can be introduced to the baby. Introduce different tastes and textures as the baby grows. By 12 months of age, infants should be consuming a wide variety of nutritious foods enjoyed by the rest of the family
CARE FOR YOUR FOOD; PREPARE AND STORE IT SAF
All foods, and particularly fresh foods, need to be transported, stored and prepared properly to avoid contamination. This is particularly important when we are preparing food to eat later. Food poisoning occurs when we eat contaminated foods or drinks. Contamination can occur when foods aren’t kept at the right temperature, when raw foods aren’t separated from cooked and ready to eat foods, when food preparation tools aren’t cleaned properly or the people preparing foods are unwell and don’t follow good personal hygiene practices. Fresh or perishable foods are especially at risk of contamination. We can get the best from our food – retaining its freshness and nutritional value – by preparing and storing it safely.
Who’s most at risk of food poisoning?
Symptoms of food poisoning can include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache and fever. Depending on the cause, it may start within an hour or weeks after eating contaminated food. Most healthy people recover quickly from most types of food poisoning. But some people suffer badly. Those more at risk include those with weakened immune systems, as well as pregnant women, infants and older people.
Choosing and storing food
- If buying packaged food, check its ‘best-before’ or ‘use-by’ date.
- Use an esky, insulated bag or box with an ice pack if you need to travel more than half an hour home or if it’s hot outside. Store your food at home as soon as you can.
- Chill foods in the fridge to slow growth of micro-organisms. Keep cool foods cool and frozen foods frozen.
- Keep fridges at or below 5°C and the freezer between -15° and -18°C.
- Keep your fridge and freezers clean. And get rid of those old shrivelled vegetables, ‘left-overs’ or frozen foods lurking in the corners for too long!
- Store foods away from cleaning agents and insecticides.
- If you are not going to eat cooked dishes and foods straight away, put them in the fridge as soon as you can.
PREPARE FOODS SAFELY
- Wash your hands before touching food, and after going to the toilet, touching animals, changing nappies or blowing your nose. Use soap and warm running water and dry your hands on a clean towel.
- Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly with clean water before you eat or prepare them.
- Keep your food preparation areas clean, particularly the surfaces, cutting boards and any bowls and utensils used.
- Don’t allow raw foods, like eggs, meat, chicken or seafood, to be in contact with cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Keep cutting boards and serving plates separate.
- Foods, particularly poultry and meats, need to be cooked thoroughly, and at the right temperature.
- Avoid preparing foods if you are sick. Put a band aid on any cuts or sores.
Pulling things together
Which foods should I eat and how much?
Few people eat exactly the same way each day and it is common to have a little more on some days than others, but the average recommendations are shown per day to help make it easier to put into practice. There are many different ways to combine foods according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines to produce health benefits. The average amounts in the sample daily food pattern tables provide the nutrients everyone needs. But to avoid gaining excess weight, smaller or less active (sedentary) people in each group have little, if any, room for additional serves. Those above their healthiest weight should avoid additional serves. Depending on height, weight and physical activity levels, taller or more physically active adults in each group (or older, taller or more physically active children and adolescents in each group) can have additional serves of the Five Food Groups or unsaturated spreads and oils, or discretionary choices
SAMPLE DAILY FOOD PATTERNS FOR TODDLERS
A sample daily food pattern for toddlers aged 13–23 months is shown in the table below. This is a guide only as there can be wide variations at this age. The amounts shown relate to the same serve sizes as older children and adults, but most toddlers will consume much smaller quantities at any one time but have these foods more frequently. Appropriate growth and development will also indicate whether food intake is at a suitable overall level for an individual child. Regular growth checks by a child health professional are encouraged.
SAMPLE DAILY FOOD PATTERNS FOR
infants aged 7–12 months It is recommended that infants should be exclusively breastfed to around 6 months of age. If this is not possible, infant formula should be used. For all infants, recommended nutrient intakes are based on the nutrient profile of breastmilk for infants up to 6 months and on estimates of the nutrients provided by breastmilk or formula and complementary foods for infants 7–12 months of age. Introduce first foods at around 6 months, starting with iron-fortified infant cereal and/or iron rich foods such as pureed meat, followed by other foods from the Five Food Groups. A sample daily food pattern for infants aged 7–12 months is shown in the table below. This is a guide only as individual needs may vary. As you would expect, infants progressively increase the volume and variety of foods they eat during 7-12 months of age. Appropriate growth and development will help to indicate whether food intake is at a suitable overall level for each individual infant. Some serve sizes have been adjusted to account for the small amounts that may be consumed by infants at any one time, while common foods for this age group such as infant cereal have been included. Regular growth checks by a child health professional are encouraged.