Fish is a fantastic food for your baby: easy to cook, easy to eat and packed with nutrients. As well as being a good source of protein – essential for growth – certain types of oily fish are known to boost your baby’s brain and visual development.
In fact, these fish, including salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel and sardines, are so good for your baby that the Food Standards Agency recommends that your baby eats them twice a week.
Once your baby has reached six months of age and you’ve begun to introduce fruit and vegetables, you can start to add fish to his diet. Start with tender white fish like cod and coley, which have a mild flavour.
You can give it to your baby alongside foods that you’ve already introduced successfully, but don’t combine it with any other new foods at first: this will enable you to spot whether he has any reaction to the fish.
Fish is very easy to cook – you can poach it simply in milk or cream in a pan or in the microwave. Make sure that it’s fully cooked, but don’t overcook it, or it will become too tough.
You’ll know it’s cooked perfectly if it flakes easily with a fork, but still feels firm. Try blending it finely with vegetables that your baby has had before, making sure that you’ve removed any bones.
Making fish interesting
Some fish can be bland – a fact which appeals to many babies – but you can make it tastier by mixing it with richer flavours such as cheese, tomato, orange or herbs such as spinach or chives.
Cod with a creamy parsley sauce can be more palatable than plain grilled cod, or make up a Mediterranean-style stew with tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic. Fish also combines perfectly with potato to make a creamy puree – try starting with a sweet potato mix.
If you’re doing baby-led weaning, or if your baby is beginning to try finger foods, you can make home-made fish fingers or fish cakes for him to feed to himself.
Does fish cause allergies?
Many mums worry that their child may have a bad reaction when they introduce fish. The Food Standards Agency states that you should not give any fish or shellfish to babies younger than six months because these foods can trigger the development of an allergy at this age, but beyond six months, fish is considered safe to introduce.
White fish such as flounder, haddock, cod, and sole are considered some of the safest to introduce: they’re easily digestible and lowest on the allergen list, making them perfect for newly weaned babies.
Despite fish having a bad reputation, a recent research report from Sweden found that babies who are given fish within the first nine months of their lives are actually less likely to develop eczema. The scientists found that babies who ate fish were 24 per cent better protected against the skin condition.
Okay, so they’re unlikely to be high on your weaning list, but government guidelines state that you shouldn’t give your baby shark, swordfish or marlin as they can contain high levels of mercury, which can affect his developing nervous system. You should also avoid giving raw shellfish to young children to reduce their risk of food poisoning.