Hooray for baby! They are getting ready to foray in to a whole new world of tastes and textures. The introduction of solid foods to your little one is just as exciting for mom and dad as it is for baby. You will fondly remember the first few spoonfuls that go in to their mouth. Surprise! Confusion! Elation! Repeat. Their precious little faces make you want to stop time in its tracks. Bittersweet; it is representative of infanthood completion.
It is important to consider proper food introduction timeliness when getting ready to give baby his or her first meal.
- Solid foods can begin to be introduced between 4-6 months.
- Food should be introduced according to baby’s developmental readiness. (Signs baby is ready include head control, ability to sit upright while supported, efficient swallowing abilities, growing appetite, and curiosity about solid foods.) Are they grabbing for your apple, fork, bite of sandwich? They’re ready!
- In order to prevent or identify food allergies, introduce single-ingredient foods, one at a time, at 3-5 day intervals. See This Post on this timeline for food introduction.
What does baby need to grow and thrive?
- Fat – Babies have a high need for fat to provide energy for growth and for healthy development of the nervous system. Fat also carries essential fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D and E. Remember that breast milk contains more than 50% fat. Do not be afraid to include fatty foods in a baby’s diet. Start with avocados, cod liver oil, pasture-raised organic butter on pureed sweet potatoes, etc.
- Carbohydrates – Until 4 months of age, infants produce primarily lactase to digest milk sugars. Many babies do not produce even small amounts amylase, the enzyme needed to digest grains, until they are quite older – up to one year. For this reason, no grains are recommended until this time. However, carbohydrates in the form of pureed fruits and vegetables is essential for their growing palate and energy needs.
- Proteins – An infant’s digestive tract and kidneys are not ready to handle high-protein foods until around 6 months of age. Wait to introduce meat and most beans until this time.
What do you need to know about possible allergies?
It can seem a scary or daunting task to introduce foods when allergies are an increasing problem for kids. But if you start with the right foods and the right knowledge, you can avoid the intimidation and scare factor. In addition to introducing foods one at a time at 3-5 day intervals as previously mentioned, you may want to hold off on the foods that tend to cause the most allergic reactions:
- Pasteurized milk products
- Egg whites
- Wheat (and other gluten-containing foods like barley and rye)
- Peanuts and tree nuts
While honey is not generally an allergen, it can cause botulism in children under the age of one. Risk of allergies increase when one or especially both parents have allergies. If either parent has extreme reactions to any foods, it can first be tested on the skin to see if there is an immediate reaction, such as redness or swelling. Certain types of allergies do not show up until after the food has been introduced a SECOND time. In this case, the food was initially introduced, the body created a defense against and when it was reintroduced, the reaction occurred. This means that just because your kiddo ate something once and didn’t seem allergic, does not mean you shouldn’t continue to keep an eye out. Lastly, showing your child the wonderful world of food should be exciting, not terrifying. The percentage of kids with allergies that are severe enough to send them to hospital is quite low. More likely, if you do see a reaction at all, it may come in the form of a runny nose, redness around the eyes or mouth, hives or diarrhea.
Written by Sara Peternell, MNT and Maya Strausberg, CNTP