Introducing Solid Foods to Baby
Babies younger than four months of age should not be given any solids. Here is why babies are not ready for solids before four months:
- Their intestines are not ready to digest solids;
- A baby’s mouth and swallowing coordination and reflexes are not fully developed;
- Saliva production is not adequate to help swallowing;
- A baby’s control of his head and body is still weak, making swallowing solids difficult.
NOTE: Breastfeeding babies do not need to start solids until six months of age. One of the most important reasons to start solids is that beyond six months, breast milk does not contain enough iron for a baby to grow.
Most experts agree that solid food can begin to be introduced into baby’s diet around four to six months. Each baby is unique, so it is important to discuss the specific timing of starting solids with your healthcare provider who knows you and your child very well. At the appropriate age, formula-fed babies should be on cereals regardless of the daily amount of formula taken.
Iron-fortified single grain cereals should be introduced first as they are easily digested and are an important source of iron. They are also convenient, as they’re precooked; you need only add water, breast milk, or formula, depending on the brand. If you choose to use commercial cereals, be sure to read and follow mixing instructions carefully. Plain rice cereal is usually well tolerated and so is often recommended for the first cereal.
Solids should be introduced slowly, and one at a time, so that baby can get used to each new taste and sensation. Also, introducing food slowly allows you to watch for any reactions. Start with one teaspoon of cereal in the morning and one at supper. Gradually increase the quantity if your baby responds well to the food. Try a variety of fortified cereals, one at a time for a week each, so that baby can get used to each new taste and sensation. Watch for any adverse reactions.
If your baby tends to be constipated, avoid rice cereal. Instead, use oatmeal cereal, which has a slight laxative effect.
Cereal should be mixed thin at first, until your baby is comfortable with this new food, then mixed thicker as directed. Serve it to your baby with a feeding spoon or other small spoon, which fits easily into his or her mouth. Never put cereal into your baby’s bottle.
Introducing Other Foods
Once your baby has become accustomed to cereals, try introducing bland puréed vegetables, such as peas and carrots. After a couple of weeks, you can try a variety of fruit purées, although it’s recommended that you introduce fruit only after your baby has become used to vegetables. Your baby may not be interested in vegetables after becoming accustomed to the sweeter taste of fruits. Fruit purées can be followed in later weeks by puréed poultry, meat, tofu, or cottage cheese. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider for details about which foods are appropriate for your baby.
Commercially strained baby foods are convenient and popular, but by around six or seven months, your baby can probably handle table foods that have been properly prepared. All home-prepared foods should be puréed until your baby develops adequate mouth coordination to mash or chew more textured or lumpy foods, at around eight months of age. The transition to lumpier or more textured (but still soft) foods should be gradual, and pieces of food should never be large enough to lodge in your baby’s throat and cause choking.
Ontario-based pediatrician Dr. PAUL Roumeliotis, Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics, McGill University and Associate Faculty Member at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, is a writer, publisher, and producer of multi-format health and wellness resources. Dr. Paul’s first published book, Baby Come Home – A Parent’s Guide to a Healthy and Well First 18 Months, focuses on early child development support and its effects. For more information: www.drpaul.com. Copyright Autograph Communications Inc.