Among the many milestones parents record in their baby’s life, introducing a baby to the world of food is often a favorite activity, but it is often clouded with conflicting advice from everyone from grandma to your neighbor to the stranger in the grocery store.
When should you introduce your baby to foods? What foods should we offer? Do we need to wait a few days between the introduction of each new food? Are there some foods that are a no-go?
Babies don’t need anything other than breastmilk or formula until 6 months, which they should continue to consume until age 12 months along with solid food.
Dr. John LaCount, a pediatrician with St. Elizabeth’s Florence office said he recommends introducing foods between 4 and 6 months of age when baby can easily hold up his or her head.
There are some cues to look for around 4-6 months to see if you baby is ready for solid foods, including taking an interest in food and being able to move the food from the spoon down his throat, instead of only pushing it back out onto his chin. If you baby is crying or refusing the spoon, don’t force the food. He or she may just not be ready for solids.
LaCount said traditionally rice cereal is the first solid food ““ although it doesn’t have to be — and then once the baby gets the hang of that, you can start serving other pureed, single-ingredient foods, typically fruits and vegetables.
Cereal should be served on a spoon and not in a bottle, which could lead to choking. Those first few feedings will likely be messy and will only require a couple of teaspoons of food to let your baby test out the eating experience.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests waiting a couple of days between introducing new foods, particularly if you have a family history of allergies. That way, if any upset tummies or rashes pop up, it will be easier to pinpoint the possible cause.
If your baby seems to dislike a particular food, don’t give up. Some research indicates it can take 10-15 tries of a certain food over several months before a baby accepts it.
You can buy baby food or make your own purees at home. Although the AAP cautions against homemade spinach, beets, green beans, squash and carrots in infancy because they may contain a large amount of nitrates that could cause an unusual type of anemia in babies. Purchasing those items is fine because the baby food companies test for nitrates.
When your baby can sit up and bring his or her hands to her mouth (typically around age 8-9 months), small, soft finger foods can be introduced to allow baby to self-feed.
LaCount encourages families to eat together at the table, including the infant, so that the baby can see the family eating a variety of food.
Highly allergenic foods, like peanuts, remain controversial as to when to introduce. LaCount suggests waiting on peanut products until after the first birthday, especially if there is a family history of food allergies.