It’s so exciting to begin feeding your baby solid food. It’s a sure sign that your little darling’s body is growing and developing. Puckering up, lip smacking, squinting or squealing are all fun bonus photo opportunities to look fondly back on and have a laugh.
So just when does solid food enter the picture? If you’ve been breastfeeding, experts advise that you continue to do so even after solid foods have been introduced, at least until baby is 12 months old. If you’re feeding formula, that should continue until 12 months or until your pediatrician advises otherwise. While solid foods generally can be introduced at about six months, it is recommended not to begin before your newborn is four months old. As with many areas of caring for your baby, do check with your pediatric provider to determine when to offer solid foods and which are best to begin the new food journey. Because babies have tiny tummies, they don’t eat much, so you’ll want to be sure the foods you’re serving pack the appropriate nutritional punch.
Superstar Super Foods
- Iron-fortified cereal. Rice cereal is commonly a first food offering. You can substitute rice for oatmeal or barley. The important thing to keep in mind is that it is iron fortified since your baby’s natural supply of iron will be depleted at about six months.
- Bananas are superstars in offering carbohydrates and fiber to support a healthy digestive tract. Just be sure they are ripe and thoroughly mashed until your little one can grab at pieces like finger food.
- Sweet potatoes. Your little superhero will probably prefer sweet potatoes over other vegetables because they are, well, sweet. They are a terrific source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber and because they puree beautifully, they are a great first choice when introducing solid foods.
- Avocados are great for your baby for the same reason they are for you. They’re rich in protein and the good kind of fat. Because of the high fat content, the tiny tummy will quickly feel full, so avocados can be served as a side to other offerings.
- Eggs are a terrific source of protein, zinc and vitamins A, D, E and B12. The yolk, in particular, offers choline which research now shows is vital for brain health and development. Egg whites have not always been recommended for baby, especially before 12 months, however that advice is changing. It’s best to check with your pediatrician on this one before serving to your egg-cellent offspring.
- Meat. When you’re ready to introduce meat like chicken, beef or lamb – each a wonderful source of protein – it’s important that it is pureed to a very smooth texture. The flavor on its own may not be interesting to a pee-wee palette, so try mixing it with a fruit or veggie.
- Yogurt, the whole milk variety, is another protein-rich food for baby as well as calcium and live cultures. And don’t worry about the term whole milk. While you wouldn’t serve cow’s milk, the lactose in yogurt is broken down during the culturing process and the milk proteins are removed or are limited making it easily digestible.
- Butternut squash, like sweet potatoes has a sweet flavor that your baby may enjoy. It’s loaded with nutrients and simple to make by hand. Do yourself a favor and buy pre-cut and pre-peeled pieces. Once pureed, this makes a great side dish for the whole family.
- Peas are high in fiber making them an excellent choice since babies tend not to get enough of this nutrient. The one-two punch combination of vitamin K and calcium contributes to building healthy bones.
- Broccoli. These little trees are superheroes among the superstar foods since they contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, folic acid, potassium, iron and fiber. If you’re preparing this at home be sure to steam or microwave to save all its vitamin C.
The No Feed Zone
Just as important as choosing super foods to feed your little bambino, there are foods that are a no-no especially during the first year.
- Honey – It’s just plain bad for babies since it can produce botulinum spores that secrete toxins.
- Cow’s milk – It’s enzymes can’t be digested well by baby and some minerals can cause kidney damage.
- Citrus fruit or juice – These foods are high in acid which can cause upset tummies and acid reflux.
- Seafood and shellfish – These hold potential allergens, so it’s best to consult with your pediatrician before introducing even boneless fish to your small fry.
- Wheat – Allergens are also prevalent in wheat so it’s very important to be sure your baby has been cleared of an allergic reaction to rice, oats and barley before offering it as a food choice.
- Small foods – soft or hard – are all choking hazards and should be avoided. Examples include, marshmallows, jellies, grapes, popcorn or nuts, cut-up raw veggies, raisins and candy.
While your baby surely needs an array of foods to provide fuel to a growing body, be aware that not all foods are created equal. Your infant’s natural curiosity may welcome, at least initially, all food that’s delivered, but you’ll want to be very careful of what’s on his menu and when.