WHY IS INTRODUCING FISH SO IMPORTANT FOR BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN?
Fish is excellent for the whole family because it contains high quality protein, vitamins, minerals and essential oils like omega 3 fatty acids. Salmon, for example, is packed full of omega 3 and contains vitamin D, a vitamin which is hard to find in other food sources and keeps your bones and teeth healthy. The NHS warn that pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies and children under the age of five are at particular risk of a vitamin D deficiency. They state that oily fish is an excellent food source of vitamin D for these population groups. Other examples are fortified fat spreads, fortified breakfast cereals and some powdered milks. Oily fish is a very clean source of this essential vitamin compared to the alternatives.
WHEN CAN I START? IS FISH GOOD FOR PREGNANT AND BREASTFEEDING WOMEN?
Yes. Both you and your baby will benefit from eating good quality fish whilst pregnant and breastfeeding. Shark, swordfish and marlin should be avoided completely because of their high mercury content. Two portions of oily fish a week such as fresh tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines is optimum for good health and your recommended intake of omega 3 for brain development in babies and your general health. We wouldn’t recommend no more or no less than two portions a week, therefore, as two is ideal. White fish that are low in omega 3 and high in vitamins and minerals such as haddock, cod, coley, hake, plaice and ray can be eaten liberally to boost yours and your baby’s health and development.
WHEN SHOULD I INTRODUCE MY BABY TO FISH?
Fish is excellent for babies as it aids development and is more easily digested than meat sources of protein. It’s also good for parents as fish is easy to prepare and cook, easy to eat and full of vitamins. After six months of age and after babies have been introduced to fruits and vegetables, soft white fish like cod, haddock and coley can be introduced alongside foods that have been introduced successfully. Fish can be simply poached in milk or cream on the hob or in the microwave. It should be cooked all the way through but your baby might find overcooked fish tough and unpleasant. Fish is cooked when it flakes easily with a fork and still feels firm. Again, we’d recommend you completely avoid shark, marlin and swordfish.
IS FISH SUITABLE FOR BABY LED WEANING?
Yes. You can make little fish fingers or fish cakes or try them with cooked North Atlantic prawns and cooked mussels. Fish is ideal for baby led weaning as fish protein is softer than animal proteins like chicken. If you’re following the baby led weaning method, certainly give these suggestions a try.
HOW DO I ADD FISH TO THE DIET OF A TODDLER OR YOUNG CHILD?
When children start to talk they develop personalities and a sense of self. This is a joy to see but it also means they develop stronger likes and dislikes (and with food, often, more dislikes than likes!) This can be frustrating. The key is trying lots of different recipes and finding something they love. Also, getting children involved in food preparation is a good way to get them to try a wider variety of foods.
Don’t worry if your child only likes one type of fish, find what they like and let them explore as they see fit. A taste for any seafood is great so if your little one wants fish fingers or prawn sandwiches and isn’t ready for Salmon or Haddock, that’s just fine too!