Infant nutrition is a popular topic among medical professionals and parents alike. Questions such as ‘When should solid foods be introduced’ and ‘What foods should and shouldn’t the baby eat.” These are important questions to be discussed, as it is important to understand infant nutrition ans the child matures into a toddler.
For the first year (or longer), exclusively breastfeeding (or formula) meets the baby’s nutritional needs, however, many mothers choose to introduce solid foods as early as six months old. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that solid foods should not be introduced an earlier than six months old to avoid unnecessary food allergies(1).
Starting Solid Foods
Making the transition into solid foods is an exciting milestone for both baby and parents, but it should be made at the appropriate time. Solid foods should be introduced when the infant is developmentally ready to do so, not when the parents are ready(to early is linked to obesity).How do you know when your baby is ready to take on solid foods? According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three major signs that indicate when baby is ready to start solid foods: baby can sit with support or on her own, baby is interested in what others are eating, and baby has lost the thrusting reflux. Now that your baby is laughing, slobbering, and smacking his lips while you eat, it is a great idea to introduce solids at the dinner table.
As with every new step in baby’s life, there are many guidelines to follow(or throw into the wind) that will help keep baby safe from harm. For example, it is important to introduce one food at a time and wait two to three days before offering a new food. This will help mom and dad discover any food allergies that the little one may have. Furthermore, any child under the age of one should not be given cow’s milk, honey, or nut spreads since most infants’ digestive systems are not prepared to handle these proteins(1). Finally, avoid giving infants small bits of food such as grapes because they pose a choking hazard.
Start with something simple such as a 1-2tbsp of single grain rice or oatmeal cereal mixed with 4-5tbsp of breast milk. Plus, do not expect baby to eat a lot the first couple of feedings. These first couple of weeks are aimed to get baby used to the idea of eating away from the breast or bottle, not to stuff them full of food(2). Moreover, the Mayo Clinic suggests replacing the mid-morning breastfeeding(or bottle) with the initial feeding of solids.
Many parents will begin with rice cereal, progress to vegetables, and end with fruits, but any order is okay as long as baby is getting enough nutrition throughout the day.
As your infant grows, the amount of solid foods given to your baby will increase, as well. For example, babies aged 6-8 months may consume 2-6 ounces of food each day as they become accustomed to solid foods(1,2).
Sample Feeding Schedule, 6-9 months old
Okay so baby is starting on solid foods, but parents often wonder what and when to feed the infant. No baby needs a schedule, but this schedule is a great guideline for parents to start with and adjust as they learn the needs of their infant:
Breakfast: Breastmilk combined with a single grain cereal and a fruit such as avocado or banana
Lunch: Breastmilk combined with a single grain cereal and a vegetable such as squash or peas
Dinner: Breastmilk and a fruit or vegetable
Breastfeeding and/or bottle-feeding does not become obsolete while feeding the baby solids. Continue to breastfeed your baby during other times of the day that he/she would normally eat. Remember to follow your infant’s cues. She will let you know when she has had enough or wants to breastfeed over eating solids.
There are so many personalities in the world of babies that one day she may love bananas and the next day refuse to eat them. This is all a part of the feeding game. Be patient and encourage her to enjoy many tastes and textures. Never forced feed a baby.
For more information on infant feeding, refer to valuable sources such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Medline Plus, or your pediatrician.
1. Ask Dr. Sears: Starting Solids
2. The Mayo Clinic: How To Get Baby Started on Solids