Weaning is an exciting time for parents (and for baby too!) but sadly it’s not always as smooth-sailing as you’d originally hoped.
Add allergies into the mix or trying to raise your baby on a ‘free-from’ diet and you’re suddenly faced with a host of additional weaning worries.
Childhood food allergies are on the increase, so it’s natural that some parents might be nervous about introducing foods that could cause problems. But it’s good to note that the actual incidence of food allergy in babies is very small - about 3-6%.
Cows milk protein allergy
Cow’s milk allergy is one of the most common childhood food allergies. It is estimated to affect around 1.3% of babies aged under one, though most children grow out of it by the age of five.
It typically develops when cows’ milk is first introduced to your baby’s diet either in formula or when you start to wean your baby. More rarely, it can affect babies who are exclusively breastfeeding and this is as a result of cow’s milk from the mother’s diet passing on to their baby through breast milk.
For the first year, ideally breast milk is given to infants but where this isn’t possible, formula milk is given as ordinary cow’s milk does not provide enough iron and other nutrients your baby needs for their development. However, infant formula is made from cow’s milk so if your baby has a cow’s milk allergy this means they will need a special hypoallergenic formula.In the first year, babies will need up to 600ml of hypoallergenic formula a day to meet their nutritional requirements. Always consult your GP or a Registered Dietician with experience in children’s nutrition to determine which formula will be best for your baby.
I get asked more and more for dairy-free recipes and the good news is you can easily incorporate ‘dairy-free’ this into your baby’s weaning routine. Making your own purees and finger foods means you are in complete control of what you are giving your baby. In my latest Baby-Led Weaning Recipe BookI have included lots of dairy-free recipes and it’s easy to make other recipes dairy-free by substituting butter for a dairy-free margarine for example. There are also lots of dairy-free alternatives to cow’s milk made from soy, coconut, oat and almond. Unfortunately, these won’t provide adequate nutrients for children under two, but can be used in cooking in place of cow’s milk.
And, I promise, a diet without dairy needn’t be dull. If your little one has a dairy allergy, there are lots of tasty ways to bring mealtimes to life whilst at the same time ensuring your baby is getting the right amount of nutrients for their growth and development. Here are a few delicious dairy-free recipes for your weaning baby.
SWEET POTATO, BROCCOLI & PEAS
You might have noticed that grated cheese is often added to purees and this is to up your baby’s calcium intake. Although not as well absorbed by the body, green veg such as broccoli is also a beneficial source of calcium. Plus, sweet potato is packed with Vitamin A which is also essential to include in dairy-free diets.
Prep: 7 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Makes: 3 portions
Suitable for freezing
1 small sweet potato (300g), peeled and chopped
60 g broccoli florets, washed
40g frozen peas
1. Steam the sweet potato for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and steam for another 4 minutes.
2. Add the frozen peas and steam for 3 minutes. Blitz the vegetables using an electric hand blender, together with about 75 ml of the water from the bottom of the steamer.
AROMATIC BEEF WITH SWEET PEPPER & APRICOTS
When you avoid dairy foods your baby naturally won’t get as much protein in their diet so pop this protein-packed, iron-rich beef dish to your tot’s menu. Not only does it come loaded with lots of key nutrients, but it will introduce your baby to new flavour combinations and mild spice which is key early on in your baby’s weaning journey.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Makes: 4 portions
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 dried apricots, chopped
½ red pepper, deseeded and diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
150g lean mince beef
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbs sundried tomato paste
1. Heat the oil in a saucepan.
2. Add the onions, carrots, apricots, red pepper and garlic. Fry for 2 – 3 minutes, then add the mince beef and spices and brown with the vegetables.
3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and water.
4. Bring up to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes until tender.
5. Blend or mash to the desired consistency.
CHICKEN & KALE BALLS
Baby-led weaning? Add some serious flavour to their dairy-free finger foods with my Chicken & Kale Balls. This recipe is based on my most popular recipe – my famous Chicken & Apple Balls, although this version has an Asian-inspired twist with grated carrot, kale, ginger and Chinese Five Spice.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: 25 balls (about 5 portions)
Suitable for freezing
50g trimmed kale
100g fresh breadcrumbs
500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs, chopped
100g carrots, peeled and grated
1½ tsp grated fresh root ginger
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp soy sauce (for babies over 12 months)
4 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp rapeseed, sunflower or light olive oil
1. Cook the kale in a pan of boiling water for 4 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold running water. Squeeze out the water and finely chop the kale.
2. Place the chicken thighs in the bowl of a food processor with the breadcrumbs and blitz until roughly chopped (you don’t want it too fine).
3. Transfer to a bowl, add the chopped kale and the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Shape the mixture into 25 equal-sized balls.
4. Place the flour on a large plate and roll each ball in the flour. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the balls for 8–10 minutes (in 2–3 batches) until golden and cooked through