When your baby reaches 6 months of age, you can start giving him/her solids! The process of switching your baby from a milk-only diet to one that includes portions of milk and solid/baby food is called weaning. As you start introducing food, how do you ensure that your little one continues to receive the vitamins and nutrients needed for a strong immune system? In this article, we discuss the answers to your commonly asked questions about immunity-boosting foods for weaning babies.
This article was written in collaboration with Dr Moira Chia (Consultant, Department of Paediatrics, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital).
When babies are born, their immune systems are not fully developed, making them more susceptible to infections and illnesses. However, there are ways where a baby’s immune system can be supported until it is strong enough to fight off infections on its own!
Babies receive passive immunity and get protected by immunity-boosting antibodies when these antibodies are transferred from their mothers through the placenta during pregnancy. These antibodies decrease slowly within the first 6 months of the baby’s life.
Babies who are breastfed enjoy a longer period of protection from their mothers, via immunity-boosting antibodies present in the breast milk.
This is known as passive immunity. The exact amount of protection that a baby receives from its mother depends on the antibodies that the mother has in her immune system. The passive immunity which the baby receives from the maternal placental antibodies usually last for about six months.
You can start weaning your baby by the 6-month mark – this will help to meet their increased nutritional and developmental needs. At this point, iron-rich foods such as beans and spinach should be introduced into a baby’s diet, as their iron stores are almost depleted. Foods that are rich in Vitamin C – such as fruits and vegetables – help with iron absorption. Allergenic foods like wheat and eggs may also be introduced when you start weaning to reduce the risk of food allergies. Consult your baby’s doctor for specific recommendations if there is a family history of allergies.
Your child needs a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong. For example, you can start with the following:
Vitamins and Minerals
Find out more about why, when and how to wean your baby into solids.
Here are some easy-to-prepare recipes that can boost the immunity of weaning infants aged 6-12 months old.
Some foods are not suitable for your babies yet. For example, your baby’s kidneys cannot handle one or more grams of salt per day until he/she is 12 months old, hence no salt is recommended before then. Honey should not be given to babies and infants below the age of one, as it can cause botulism – a disorder affecting the nerves of the body. Plain full cream milk should only be given to toddlers above 12 months old as they would be well-established on solids then and would be receiving sufficient iron through solid food. It is best to stick to plain full cream milk and avoid evaporated, low-fat, skimmed and non-fat milk for babies aged between 1 and 2 years old. Find out more about foods to avoid here.
Prebiotics are typically high-fibre foods that act as food for the “good” bacteria in our human body. Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms which help to maintain or improve the "good" bacteria in the body.
Nevertheless, if you are breastfeeding, there is no need to give your child milk that has been supplemented with probiotics. Having a healthy and balanced meal would ensure that your breastmilk provides adequate nutrition for your child.
Vitamin supplementation has no added benefit if your little one is already receiving a balanced diet. To date, there is insufficient evidence to advocate the use of foods and supplements such as honey, ivy leaf extract, or other herbal supplements in preventing infection or boosting immunity.
Symptoms usually occur within several hours or days after consuming the trigger food. It is thus best to observe your baby’s reactions closely, especially after introducing a new food. Do also introduce one new food every few days. Some symptoms you can look out for are:
Sometimes, the allergic reaction may occur 1 or 2 days later (e.g. eczema, wheezing, persistent vomiting, stomach pain), so do keep a lookout. Once you notice any of these symptoms, you should stop feeding your baby that food and seek medical advice immediately.
While diet can contribute to immunity building, keep in mind that holistic health management is key to good immunity. For instance, sleep and physical activity are important as well. Parents should also take note of hygiene habits such as teeth-brushing, and continue to ensure essential and timely
Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your baby a healthy start.
The article has been endorsed by the following representatives, listed in alphabetical order by institutions: A/Prof Daisy Chan (Chairperson, Chapter of Neonatologists, College of Paediatrics and Child Health Singapore), A/Prof Tan Lay Kok (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital), Ms Adeline Kooh Seok Koon (Asst Director, Nursing (Maternity), Mount Alvernia Hospital), Dr Angelia Chua (Family Physician Consultant, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics), Prof Lee Yung Seng (Group Director, Paediatrics, National University Hospital), Ms Susan Kok (Senior Asst Director, Nursing, Gleneagles Hospital, Parkway Pantai Group), Ms Helen Cruz Espina (Senior Lactation Consultant, Raffles Hospital Pte Ltd), A/Prof Yong Tze Tein (Head & Senior Consultant, O&G, Singapore General Hospital), Ms Fonnie Lo (Asst Director, ParentCraft Centre (Clinical) and Lactation Consultant, Thomson Medical Pte. Ltd).
This article was last reviewed on
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
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