Starting solids with your baby feels like a graduation for you and the child. It is a small step toward independence in that they no longer rely completely on their mother's breast milk for nourishment. By six months of age, babies are ready for new foods, textures and methods of feeding. But how do you know when your baby is ready for solid food? Baby is ready for solids when he or she can sit up comfortably, has good head control, opens his or her mouth when food is offered, can swallow food placed on the tongue (does not squeeze it out) and can turn his or her head away when finished eating. Another cute indicator at this age is if they seem interested in food and watch you eat.
What foods do we start with? Commercial infant cereal is a good start. Make sure it is iron-fortified. Why? By six months of age, your baby has depleted his or her store of iron (in the liver), and although they do get iron from breast milk, their requirements increase after 6 months. Offer single cereal grains first (rice, barley, oats) then mixed grains that include wheat. For additional iron, the introduction of meat at 6-7 months of age is also a good idea. First choices include poultry and lamb, then veal, beef and pork. Around nine months, hard egg yolk and legumes (peas, beans, lentils) may be introduced. In terms of other foods, first vegetable choices often include cooked sweet potato and squash, then green and yellow beans, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and carrots. First choices for fruit typically include cooked apple, peach, pear and mashed banana.
It is best to introduce new foods when baby is happy and well-rested. It may take a few tries. Make your own purées for better control of ingredients, taste, texture, freshness, and variety. Homemade purees are typically less expensive too!How much food do you give at one time? That really depends on your baby. In the very first solid feedings, he or she may only take a teaspoon or tablespoon of the food being offered As time goes on, your child should progress to a few tablespoons of food per meal. In the early days of introducing solids, purees tend to be smoother and thinner but as time goes on you can give them lumpier and thicker texture as your baby progresses to table food. By 9 months, baby will likely start eating with their fingers, so they will enjoy small pieces of meat (soft), beans, toast, crackers, pasta, mashed fruit and vegetables.
Wait 3 days after introducing a new food before starting another food so that any allergies or intolerances can be identified With food allergies on the rise, it is a good idea to wait to introduce foods such as fish (especially shellfish) peanut butter, nut butters and whole eggs until your baby is one year old . In fact, if there are known allergies in your family starting these foods after age three is recommended. If your child exhibits signs of food allergy such as a rash, hives or vomiting after eating a food, stop feeding the food immediately and consult a health professional.
In terms of milk and other fluids, continue breast milk or formula until one year of age. Around 9-12 months, when baby is eating a variety of iron-rich foods (iron-fortified cereal, meat, legumes, egg yolk), you can offer cheese, yogurt and closer to 12 months offer whole, pasteurized cow’s milk (3.25%). After 6 months of age, babies are usually able to hold onto and self-serve from a sip cup with water. If you offer 100% fruit juice to your child at this age, limit the amount to no more than ½ cup and give juice from a cup, not a bottle, to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Here are a few helpful links:
· Infant Nutrition: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/index-eng.php
· Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Term Infants: http://www.sickkids.ca/AboutSickKids/Newsroom/Past-News/2012/Health-Canada-nutrition-guidelines-for-healthy-term-infants.html
Introducing Solids to Your Baby
by Clara Lavandier, RD