How much protein do babies need?

Will G
April 10, 2024
5 min read

So, how much protein does your baby actually need?

You may have noticed a recent tendency to associate “high protein” foods with being healthy, and yes, dietary proteins are necessary for tissue growth and maintenance. But there is a but…Babies have very different energy requirements to adults. Think about it, they’re basically doubling in size every few years and their brains are like little sponges!As a result, a higher proportion of healthy fats and carbs are needed for them to fuel this growth.

Here are the details:

The reference nutrient intake for 1-3-year-olds in the UK is 14.5g/day. This is likely to meet the needs of 97.5% of children but most children in the UK far exceed this and surveys have shown that children aged 12 to 18 months consume 37.7g per day, which is more than 2.5 times the RNI! The most recent SACN report ‘Feeding young children ages 1-5 years’ found that higher total protein intake in children aged 1 to 5 years is associated with higher BMI in childhood and evidence from RCTs and observational studies indicates that higher protein intake in infancy (for example, through infant formula feeding) promotes rapid weight gain and later risk of obesity.

Piri Chicken from V&Me
Piri Chicken from V&Me

How much protein your baby needs:

Children aged 1-4 should be offered 2-3 portions of protein-rich food a day (3 portions if they are vegetarian). Milk does contain protein but it’s generally classed under the dairy food group. In addition to the 2 servings of protein-rich food children also need 3 servings of calcium-rich food (milk, yoghurt, cheese).  

In practice portion sizes of protein-rich foods:

  • 40g pulses = 2 tablespoons beans/pulses
  • 50g egg = 1/2-1 boiled egg or 2 tablespoons scrambled egg
  • 40g red meat
  • 45g chicken
  • 40g fish or 1/4-1/2 small fillet.
Sea Bream from V&Me
Sea Bream from V&Me

18-month-old daily intake of protein:

Let’s take an example of an 18-month-old having 3 servings of protein-rich food a day. This is ok (but we wouldn’t recommend going over this though) - just make sure to watch the portion sizes. Offer a maximum of 1 egg in the morning but try keeping breakfast varied so cook the eggs in different ways also offer porridge, fortified cereals, toast or fruit and yoghurt.

Milk is also fine to offer during the day as it will be providing calcium but if your little one is having yoghurt and cheese as well, these all count towards the 3 servings of dairy. Try to offer no more than 400mls milk/day (milk serving size would be 100-120ml) but less if they are having yoghurt/cheese. Try to move away from offering milk in a baby bottle after 12 months and use a cup instead.So if you’re worried your baby isn’t getting enough protein, hopefully, this blog will help to reassure you and help you understand the typical daily intake that little ones should be getting of protein!

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About the author
Will G
April 10, 2024
Will is our very own in-house baby food expert! He is the go-to for anything baby, weaning, or product related. Working directly with experts, professors and paediatric dietitians, our content aims to keep you up to date on the latest tips, advice and opinions, giving you and your little one the best start for developing healthy eating habits.
Phoenix Baker
Product Manager
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