Parents always have questions about when to start solids and what solid food to feed their infant. It’s understandable, since recommendations are constantly changing and nutrition is so important for proper growth and development.
A few answers to parent’s top questions on infant feeding:
When should I start?
Between 4 and 6 months a baby is ready to start solids. Signs that your infant is ready are good head control and the ability to move the food from the front to the back of her mouth. If she pushes it out with her tongue, wait a week and try again. Recent research shows that starting solids before 4 months in some babies may increase risk for obesity later on.
What should I start?
There aren’t any strict guidelines anymore as to what order you should follow when starting solids. Rice cereal used to be recommended as a first food for infants since it is fortified with iron and zinc, which babies over 6 months of age do need. Recently, some feeding experts argue that meat is a better source of these nutrients. I also like getting infants used to veggies early on. Although grandma may insist that green veggies are better than orange, it really doesn’t matter.
When can I give my child water or juice?
I love getting an infant used to drinking water as soon as she starts solid foods. Start with a few sips. Learning to like the taste of plain water is a healthy habit for life. How many adults do you know who don’t like the taste of plain water? It’s often because they didn’t get used to it at a young age. Babies don’t need juice. Even watered down juice gets your infants used to wanting sweet tasting beverages. It’s much healthier to give them the actual fruit, even pureed fruit, which contains valuable fiber.
What about finger food?
Around 8 or 9 months infants love to pick up small pieces and self feed. I like to start with something that dissolves easily such as puffs. Then advance to small pieces of soft table food such as steamed veggies, whole grain bread or chicken. All fruit, even strawberries and other berries, are fine cut up into small pieces. Scrambled eggs are a great finger food for infants. Although we used to hold off until over a year on allergic type foods such as egg whites, fish and peanut products, new research shows that holding off may not decrease your child’s chance of becoming allergic. Yes, a PB&J sandwich is fine, just small pieces.
Does she need whole milk?
Whole milk was previously recommended for 1 to 2 year olds because experts felt that extra fat was needed for brain development and growth at that age. Recently, with the increase in childhood obesity, 2% milk was also deemed fine, especially if you have a family history of obesity, heart disease or high cholesterol. After age 2 all children (and adults) should drink 1% or non-fat milk. Same amount of calcium, vitamin D and other important nutrients, just less fat!
Any foods to avoid?
Never give an infant under 1 year of age honey because of the risk of infant botulism, a deadly disease. And stay away from anything that could be a potential choking hazard such as popcorn, whole nuts and whole grapes.
Otherwise, offer your infant a variety of healthy options and let them see that you are eating a well balanced diet too!
For more information, check out my KTLA morning news segment…. Feed This, Not That