Your Baby's Holiday Meal!

by Kristi Corley

Introducing solid foods Introducing solid foods is an exciting milestone in the first year of your baby’s life. It’s also a “photo-op moment” and sometimes an “outfit changing moment” as well! I remember when I introduced rice cereal to my first baby. I had no idea what I was doing and I am certain more food ended up on her bib than in her tummy! But over the course of time with three children, I became quite the master at avoiding the messes and triumphed at the sight of a clean bib!

It’s fairly common around the time that your baby is 3-4 months, to begin to ask, “When should I start feeding my baby solid food?” There are a lot of differing opinions as to when you should begin and what foods you should start with, so talk with your pediatrician about what is best for you and your baby.

Most pediatricians recommend starting solid food around 6 months. Before this age, breastmilk or formula provides all the nutrition your baby needs. Adding solid food around 6 months is beneficial for your baby to expose them to flavors and textures. It is also suggested that around 6 months, your baby needs more iron, and so the addition of solid food helps to give them the vitamins and minerals they need.

First foods! A common first food for your baby is a single grain iron-enriched infant cereal. Rice cereal is a good choice to start with because it is easy to digest and it carries a very low risk of allergic reaction. You may also try other whole grains like oatmeal and barley cereals. Your pediatrician may advise you to avoid wheat cereals until your baby is a bit older, since wheat is more likely to cause an allergic reaction. Other age-appropriate first foods include fruits and vegetables like peaches, apricots, green beans, peas, avocado, and banana. Make sure to introduce one at a time and wait about three days to watch for signs of allergy or reactions such as rash, diarrhea or vomiting. If you suspect a problem, stop feeding the new food and consult your pediatrician. You may also find that your baby’s skin may “turn the color” of the food you are feeding them, especially orange foods!

Add texture! After a few weeks of her first food, begin to introduce more flavors. Then, you’ll add protein foods to the mix. The younger your baby is when you start solids, the smoother and thinner the texture of her first foods should be. By the time she’s around 7 months or so, she will likely be used to taking smoothly pureed foods and will probably be ready for more variety of textures, including lumpy purees or mashed foods. Gradually adding new textures will help her development of mouth skills like moving food around the mouth, chewing motions, and safely swallowing. By 8 or 9 months you can introduce chopped soft foods and finger foods. And, before long she’ll be feeding herself!

As your baby begins to try more solid foods, be aware of any reactions they may have. One of the most obvious places on their bodies to notice a reaction is on their skin. Here are a few guidelines on when to introduce foods that carry a higher risk of allergic reaction:

  • Wheat — Usually by 8 months.
  • Milk — Milk products like yogurt and cheese are usually okay by 8 months. For all babies, regardless of allergy risk, wait until 1 year to give cow’s milk for drinking, as it can be more difficult for babies to digest and should never replace breastmilk or infant formula, which is a richer source of nutrients for babies.
  • Soy — Most babies can tolerate soy by 8 to 9 months.
  • Fish and Shellfish — Most babies can tolerate mild fish after 9 months. High-risk babies may need to delay shellfish and fish until 2 years or older.
  • Egg Whites — Ask your pediatrician — most babies will tolerate before 1 year; high-risk babies may need to wait until 1 year to introduce.
  • Nuts and Peanuts — These foods cause the most severe allergic reactions, so your pediatrician may advise you to wait until 2 years old to introduce, especially if your baby is considered high-risk for food allergies.

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