Today, Sara Cabot of Little Lettice offers a guide to first foods for baby:
“What food is ‘allowed’ at 6 months? Within the limits of age appropriateness, what actually works? And what about the weirder vegetables like rutabaga? Here I present the basics on introducing veggies, fruits, protein, and spices - drawn from external resources, my experience in the baby food industry, not to mention having fed my own four babies!
The first thing to keep in mind when you start introducing food to baby is that Perseverance with a capital “P” is the name of the game. Take the pressure off yourself and don’t expect baby to open her/his mouth happily every time you introduce a new food. There are many reasons why baby might not be receptive that day (described further below in Feeding Tips & Problem Solving), but ultimately it’s up to you to provide a healthy start in life. You decide what baby eats, and baby decides how much.
Second, be sure to consult with your pediatrician as you move towards introducing new foods to baby.
When to Start?
Around 6 months is the age recommended by most pediatricians. Some moms start with cereal a bit earlier. If you have a history of allergies in the family it’s probably safer to err on the later side.
Which Foods to Start With?
Due to the proliferation of wheat allergies nowadays, many moms choose to start by introducing rice, barley, or oat cereal. I also find that combining cereal and milk with a bit of fruit or veggie makes for a more palatable and satisfying meal.
The 3-Day Rule
Most pediatricians will recommend that you give baby a single flavor veggie or fruit for 3 days to check for allergic reaction. Below is a guide to veggies and fruits to introduce by age. Once you have determined the allergy status of various 6 month Veggies & Fruits you can start to mix them with 6-7 then 8 month Veggies & Fruits. This approach creates a building block effect.
6 month Veggies & Fruits
Squash (good source of vitamin A and beta carotene)
Sweet potato (good source of vitamin A and beta carotene)
Banana (good source vitamin B)
Avocado (good source of vitamin E, vitamin B)
Carrots (good source of vitamin A and beta carotene)
6-7 month Veggies & Fruits
Peas (good source of vitamin E, zinc)
Dried apricots (good source of vitamin A, beta carotene, iron)
Prunes (good source of vitamin B)
8 month Veggies & Fruits
Broccoli (good source of vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, folate)
Red peppers (good source of vitamin C)
Spinach (good source of vitamin A, beta carotene, calcium, folate)
Kiwi (good source of vitamin C)
Melon (source of vitamin A and beta carotene, vitamin C)
Berries such as strawberries and raspberries shouldn’t be given before 1 year.
A Note About Some Veggies & Fruits Not Mentioned Above
Although they are not strictly allergens, citrus fruit and tomatoes can be acidic and are better tolerated after 1 year.
Corn is not nutrient-rich and is better introduced later on
Can be introduced around 8 months:
Red meat (good source of iron, zinc, vitamin B)
Chicken (dark meat good source of zinc, vitamin B)
Tofu (good source of calcium)
Yogurt (good source of calcium, zinc)
Cheddar cheese (good source of vitamin A, beta carotene, calcium, zinc, vitamin B)
Egg yolks (good source of zinc)
Lentils (good source of iron)
Liver (good source of iron. Not much used nowadays due to paucity of organic liver)
Fish (good source vitamin B)
Can be introduced at 1 year:
Whole eggs (good source of vitamin A, beta carotene, iron, vitamin B)
Whole milk (good source of vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin E, vitamin B)
Can be introduced at 2 years:
Honey: 1 year
Other Foods to Avoid Until Later
Peanut butter: 1-2 years depending on family history
Introducing Herbs & Spices
Most pediatricians recommend waiting until around 8 months.
Add to variety of taste.
Minimize use of salt & sugar.
Many of the below spices aid digestion as well as adding to the taste palate.
Which herbs & spices?
Commercial teething biscuits
‘Baby’ yogurts: Full of sugar and with a thick layer of cream on the top, I often think it’s the mothers who love these as much as the babies. Start baby on plain whole milk yogurt either on its own or with some fruit sauce mixed in.
Fruit juice: Juice is empty calories that make children less hungry for real food. For breakfast, freshly squeezed orange juice or OJ with calcium added is good if your child doesn’t drink milk. But all those apple juice boxes on the market…why not present a real apple (or unsweetened apple sauce) and a glass of water?
Chocolate/Processed sugar/Salt: Use sparingly if at all
Butter: Use sparingly and try to use olive oil instead.
Foods to Avoid Altogether
Feeding Tips & Problem Solving
Refusal of Food:
Tired or not feeling well: Remember that a calm atmosphere and a well-rested baby are conducive to good feeding. The opposite may affect her appetite.
Teething: I think teething is much more painful than we think. Imagine having a big spoon shoved in your mouth while you’re suffering from a really bad toothache.
Too much of the same food: Children’s bodies crave variety. Keep introducing a variety of foods as well as those same foods cooked in different ways or in different combinations.
Too much milk: While milk should be your baby’s primary food during the first year, solid food should take over after that. Pediatricians recommend weaning off the bottle at 1 year in favor of a sippy cup. If a baby of 14 months is refusing food, check her milk intake with your pediatrician and adjust accordingly.
Modeling Good Eating Habits
Around 7-8 months your baby will start to look at what you’re doing a bit more closely. You will notice that she is starting to mimic you.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to model good eating habits. It’s no good putting a bowl of freshly made organic veggies in front of your child and expecting her to eat it while you nibble at a muffin and sip a Coke. I say to Moms all the time that healthy baby means healthy parents. I’ve met many moms who’ve told me that their eating habits have changed for the better since having a baby.
This doesn’t only mean eating healthier, it also means:
Taking more time over cooking
Taking more time at meals
Sitting down together as a family
Eating the same food (no short order chefs in the house !)
Trying new foods together
Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health: Birth Through Age Six by Dr. Susan Roberts. This is a great book from a top professor of nutrition who spells out the ABC’s of introducing healthy foods to babies and explains the science behind it.
Wholesomebabyfood.com: A great website for Moms who want to cook for their babies.”
Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net