Starting solids is an exciting time for babies and their parents! Some of the happiest family memories involve sharing food together. After four months of age, many babies become very interested in what you are eating, but studies show babies will accept and tolerate foods better, and have a decreased risk of allergies, if you wait until your baby is six months old.
How do you choose which food to offer first? For decades rice cereal has been recommended as baby’s first food, however, that is changing. Rice cereal is a heavily fortified, highly refined and processed starchy carbohydrate, which can contain arsenic. Fresh vegetables and fruits are staples of a healthy diet and a much healthier first food choice.
Often a baby who is eager for that first bite does not enjoy seem to enjoy food after all! Choose flavorful foods with a smooth texture, since many babies reject lumpy first foods. Commercial baby foods are usually quite bland. Since breastmilk contains the flavors of the foods mom eats, many babies respond better to food that is mildly seasoned. Cinnamon is usually well liked, and provides the added benefit of boosting brain function and helping to regulate a healthy metabolism. A glass or silicone feeding dish and silicone baby spoon are recommended if you wish to avoid contact with plastics. If you do use plastics, check to make sure they are BPA free and PVC free.
Clean and Healthy First Foods
In the first days and weeks of feeding solids, it’s important to breastfeed your baby before offering food. Your breastmilk contains complete nutrition, and food should not replace breastmilk in the first year. Start with a tablespoon of food 2-3 times a day for the first week. Introduce one new food at a time, several days apart, so that if your baby has a sensitivity reaction it’s easier to identify the food that caused the problem. Depending on the type of reaction a baby might have to a particular food, it’s often possible to reintroduce the food at about 12 months without a problem. Be sure to discuss a suspected food reaction with your pediatrician.
Favorite first foods include avocado, steamed sweet potato, squash and carrots, pureed green beans and peas and pureed fruits such as banana, pear, mango and cooked apple. Add breastmilk, homemade applesauce or yogurt for a pudding consistency. Cooked egg yolk, which is high in vitamins, minerals and iron, is a nutritious choice and is usually well received when prepared with yogurt or breastmilk. Be sure to remove all of the egg white until your baby is at least 12 months of age.
First Finger Foods
Babies love to feed themselves! Try finely diced soft fruits and vegetables and crushed low-acid berries like blueberries. Diced banana, mango, avocado and steamed sweet potato will stick nicely to little hands. Flaky low-mercury fish and well-cooked ground chicken or turkey, as well as finely diced cheese, are good options for protein.
There are foods that should be avoided until your baby is one year old. Some foods are known to present a choking hazard, a risk of illness due to a baby’s immature immune system, or are linked to food sensitivities if introduced too early. Foods to avoid until the first birthday include honey, peanut butter, raw or cooked leafy greens, cow’s milk, citrus and other acidic fruits, grains and nuts including popcorn and wheat, and egg whites.
Making your own baby foods is a good way to ensure freshness, quality and pesticide removal as well as prevent exposure to potentially harmful plastics. Pureed fruits and vegetables can be frozen in silicone ice trays and stored in glass jars in the freezer. Starting solids with wholesome foods like the ones listed here will help to lay the foundation for healthy eating choices for a lifetime.