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As I go about my day I often see parents giving their little ones snacks while they’re sitting in their pushchairs. I can understand why, it keeps them busy and allows mums a little time to run errands and get their jobs done. But looking at what they offer and what I see on the supermarket shelves, it’s not always a great idea in terms of nutrition.
When do babies need snacks?
It might surprise you to learn that most babies don’t actually need to eat snacks until around their first birthday.
You may have started weaning at around 6 months and are now at a stage when your little one is eating solid foods well, they have decent portions of a wide variety of foods. They have three full meals a day consisting of both a main course and pudding. They may even be starting to demand food telling you that they are hungry and to hurry up!
They are also embarking on that stage where they don’t want to be sat in their pushchair while you run errands or stop and talk to someone and we know that filling little hands with finger foods is a guaranteed way of keeping them busy and quiet! I can see why you might want to offer snacks.
What happens if my baby has snacks too early?
Babies are born with the ability to self regulate their food and milk intake. This means that they will only take what they need unless they are being repeatedly asked to ignore their self-regulation which sometimes happens when parents offer a little too much encouragement.
When snacks are given too early, they make your baby full-up which in turn makes them take less milk in between meals and less food at mealtimes.
The result is a nutritional imbalance which at best can affect how your child sleeps or has enough energy to play but at worst can lead to nutritional deficiencies such as iron deficiency anaemia, poor growth or nutritional excesses meaning they gain too much weight and are at risk of becoming overweight or obese as toddlers..
My baby isn’t one yet. Can you describe what a typical day’s routine might look like?
Once weaning is established and your baby is taking three meals a day, it’s still important to encourage them to have milk feeds mid morning, mid afternoon and at bedtime. Around 400-600ml (or 14-21oz) in a 24 hour period is ideal.
A typical routine for a 7-9 month old might look like this:
7am wakes up
10am breastfeed or 170 – 200ml (6-7oz) feed
2.30pm breastfeed or 170 – 200ml (6-7oz) feed
6pm bath and bedtime routine
7pm breast feed or 170 – 200ml (6-7oz) feed
How does the routine change at 10 months?
Once your baby gets to around 10 months things probably will change. Your baby needs less milk and more food. Some babies will begin to drop milk feeds by themselves and others need a little encouragement.
It’s at this stage where we want them to be eating more food and having less milk, after all the purpose of weaning is about establishing a solid food diet. Aim for around 350-400ml (12-14fl oz)milk per day.
A typical routine for a 10-12 month old might look like this:
7am wake up
10am breastfeed or 100 – 120ml (3.5-4oz) feed
2.30pm breastfeed or 100 – 120ml (3.5-4oz) formula feed
6pm bath and bedtime routine
7pm breast feed or 150 – 200ml (5-7oz) formula feed and bed
Some babies still like to have milk as a drink with their breakfast and this is fine too.
At one year old what should their routine look like?
A typical routine for a 1-4 year old might look like this:
7am wake up
10am breastfeed or 100 – 120ml (3.5-4oz) whole cows milk AND small snack
2.30pm breastfeed or 100 – 120ml (3.5-4oz) whole cows milk AND small snack
6pm bath and bedtime routine
7pm breast feed or 150 – 200ml (5-7oz) whole cows milk and bed
When your little one moves on to cows milk or if you’re breastfeeding or your baby’s formula intake is under 500ml, you will need to add in a supplement.
Babies need a supplement containing Vitamins A (200mcg), Vitamin C (20mg) and Vitamin D (8.5-10cmg). There are a lot of supplements available and if your baby is taking a wide and varied diet most of the available baby vitamins you can buy will be fine as a top up. However the ONLY supplement I can find that contains the recommended dose of all three vitamins is Nature & Nurture Baby Vitamin drops.
Are there any textures to avoid?
By now your baby will probably be an expert at eating solid food. He likely will have mastered the pincer grip meaning he can pick up small items of food in between his thumb and forefinger. His gag reflex will now have moved back in his mouth meaning that he can probably eat pretty much anything without gagging. Some babies have quite a lot of teeth at this age however, some don’t (teeth come in at various stages). If your baby does have teeth and is good at chewing, harder foods like raw apple can be offered but if their teeth are still absent or chewing skills aren’t great I’d still be cautious with these hard crunchy foods as they can still be a choking hazard.
How to make healthy snacks
Nutrition is crucially important at this stage in your baby’s development, therefore snacks form a key part of their meal plan and actually contribute significantly towards meeting their nutritional needs. A couple of baby rice cakes alongside their milk or packet of crunchy sweetcorn rings isn’t going to be adequate.
When you make up snacks aim to include at least two (if not 3) different food groups. A reminder of the food groups are:
1. Fruit and vegetables – fresh, frozen or tinned in natural juice. Avoid dried fruit as a snack.
2. Starchy carbohydrates – potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates.
3. Proteins – beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins.
4. Dairy and alternatives.
5. Oils and spreads.
Healthy snack ideas
Here is a list of my top 25 healthy baby led weaning snack ideas that are nutritious and contain at least two different food groups and are suitable for 12+ month old babies (and older kids) to feed themselves. I’ve even given you links to some of my favourite finger food recipes:
Cucumber sticks, toasted pitta strips and houmous
Half a crumpet with cream cheese
A small pot of low sugar yoghurt and tinned peach slices (in natural juice)
Mashed avocado on wholemeal bread, toasted
Breadsticks with a selection of dips
Peanut butter on crackers and chopped grapes
Fruit scone with butter
Mini egg muffin with sticks of red pepper
Rice cakes or crackers with almond butter and half a banana
A small slice of malt loaf spread with cream cheese
Cheese cut into cubes or sticks with halved cherry tomatoes
Mini egg mayo sandwiches
Pancakes and a drink of milk
Fruit smoothie – try adding some nut butter too
Half a bagel toasted with butter and some strawberries
Cheese on toast
Leftover cold meat, slices of apple
Melty Puffs with slices of hard boiled egg and a few raspberries
Fruity toast spread with cashew nut butter
Carrot, apple & oat cookie with a cup of milk
A puff pastry pizza pinwheel and fruit puree pouch
A couple of mini energy balls
Savoury vegetable baby led weaning muffins
For more idea’s see my previous post on BLW breakfast ideas , many of them are great as snacks too if you offer a smaller portion size.
Shop bought finger food snacks
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using shop-bought baby foods occasionally. Especially for foods that you can’t make yourself (ever tried making your own Melty Puffs? Me neither!)
However, they can be expensive and need to be paired with something else for them to be nutritious.
Be aware that some of the sweeter shop bought baby food snacks can be sugary and snacks aimed at older children can contain salt too. You can read my blog on for the inside scoop on shop-bought baby foods .
Fruit as a snack
Fruit is fantastic, it’s quick and easy to just grab and go and contains tons of vitamins and other important nutrients. I love it as a snack but fruit alone won’t give your baby a decent nutritional balance. Pair it with something else, dairy foods are fantastic complementary foods as are left over cold cuts of meat.
You’ll notice there are no dried fruits like raisins or chopped apricots in my list above. This is because these are damaging to little teeth and although they come in cute little baby sized boxes that are perfect for little hands, it’s recommended that they are only eaten as part of a meal.
It’s worth keeping in mind that snacks are supposed to be small. Although they may sound like mini meals when you are incorporating two or three food groups, the overall amount of food is still quite small. You don’t want your baby to feel too full so that he or she has no appetite when it comes to her mealtime.
There are no official guidelines on portion size but for a 12 month old I’d suggest to offer no more at a snack than you could fit in the palm of your hand as a rough guide.
Equipment for snacks
There really isn’t any special equipment needed for snacks and because they fall mid-morning or mid-afternoon, it’s likely that more often than not this will coincide with an outing.
Therefore I highly recommend disposable bibs and I really like these ones by Tidy Tot which are made from recyclable material.
They come with a sticky strip around the bottom which can stick to the bar of your baby’s pushchair to form a ‘crumb catcher’ or the table at a cafe, keeping your little one’s clothes pristine!
When it comes to weaning books, I do have some favourites. You can see these in my shop . However, there is a book called Annabel Karmel’s Baby Led Weaning Recipe Book that I love for easy finger food recipes and baby led weaning snacks on the go.
Full disclosure, if you purchase through the links in this blog I receive a small commission for the sale but the price to you remains the same. Any money made goes back into the production of this blog.
I hope you found this blog helpful, leave me a comment below to tell me what you think!
Sarah Almond Bushell MPhil, BSc (Hons) RD MBDA – Registered Dietitian & Children’s Nutritionist