A Guide to Starting Solids
Introducing your baby to solid foods will provide you with an excellent opportunity to teach him or her lifelong healthy eating habits. Here are some general guidelines that will put your baby on the right track to healthy eating.
Breast milk or infant formula supplies all of your baby's nutritional needs for at least the first 4 to 6 months of life; it is not necessary to be in a rush to start solid baby foods.
- Starting solids too early can cause your baby to develop food allergies. Your baby's intestinal tract is not fully developed during the first few months and introducing solids at this time can be too much for him to handle.
- An additional reason for not giving your baby solid foods at earlier than 4 to 6 months is unintentional overfeeding. younger babies can't signal when they're full: they can't turn away or show disinterest to let you know when they've had enough to eat.
- A third reason for holding off on solids is that your baby is unable to swallow solids properly before 4 to 6 months of age. Giving solids early could cause choking, and contrary to the popular myth, starting solids early will not help your child sleep through the night.
When introducing a new food, always feed it to your baby for several days in a row before you introduce another new food. This will make it easier to detect food allergies. Symptoms of food allergies include diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, hives, and rash. Do not offer foods which contain multiple ingredients, until you are sure that the baby isn't allergic to any of those individual ingredients. Also, don't add any seasonings to your baby's foods.
Avoid putting your baby down for a nap or sleep with a bottle of formula or milk, as this allows sugar to pool in your baby's mouth and can lead to cavities. Don't feed your baby cow's milk, honey or egg whites until your baby is at least one year of age. Also, do not give carbonated or caffeinated drinks. Don't give your baby candy or other foods that he or she may choke on.
Remember, these are general guidelines. The amount and types of food that your baby eats may vary from day to day.
When: Try and pick a time when you and your baby are not tired, distracted or excessively hungry!
You want the baby to be hungry, but not so much so that he becomes frustrated that the food isn't coming quickly or easily enough. One meal a day is plenty at first. Don't be frustrated if for the first couple of days most of the cereal ends up on the baby's face, bib and chair. The baby will be getting all that she needs nutritionally from formula or breast milk and will eventually get the hang of it. If after 3 or 4 days your baby still doesn't seem interested or able to eat solids this may be a sign that you should stop and try again in a few.
Where: Initially, you should have your baby in a baby seat or car seat with good head support and a solid base. She should be in a slightly reclined position and should be able to keep her head up while leaning back. Again, good head control is essential to prevent choking.
How: Always use a spoon (baby sized with a soft coating) to feed your baby solids. Do NOT to put cereal into your baby's bottle.
Four to Five Months
At this age, breast milk or formula is the only food that your baby needs and he should be taking 4-6 feedings each day (24-32 ounces), but you can begin to familiarize your baby with the feel of a spoon and introduce solid foods. Cereal is the first solid you should give your baby and you can mix it with breast milk or formula and feed it to your baby with a spoon (not in a bottle). Start by feeding one tablespoon of an iron-fortified rice cereal at one feeding and then slowly increase the amount to 3-4 tablespoons one or two times each day.
Six to Seven Months
While you continue to give 4-5 feedings of breast milk or formula (24-32 ounces) and 4 or more tablespoons of cereal each day, you can now start to give well- cooked, strained, or pureed vegetables (these may be frozen in an ice cube tray & then stored in a Ziplock bag in the freezer) or commercially prepared stage 1 baby foods. Start with one tablespoon of a green vegetable, such as green beans or peas, and then squash or carrots and gradually increase to ½ a jar / 1 ice cube portion, one or two times each day.
Begin feeding fruits about a month after beginning vegetables and again, gradually increase to 4-5 tablespoons once or twice every day. You can use peeled, cooked fruits that have been pureed in a blender or strained, or you can use the commercially prepared stage-1 baby foods that are readily available.
You can also begin to offer 3-4 ounces of breast milk, formula or water in a spill-proof cup at this time.
Eight to Nine Months
While you continue to give 3-4 feedings of breast milk or formula (24-32 ounces) and 4 or more tablespoons of cereal, vegetables and fruit one or two times each day, you can now start to give more protein containing foods. These include well-cooked, strained or ground plain meats (chicken, beef, turkey, veal, lamb, boneless fish), mild cheese, whole fat yogurt/cottage cheese, or egg yolks (no egg whites or citrus fruits as there is a high chance of allergic reactions in infants less than 12 months old).
Start with 1-2 tablespoons and increase to 3-4 tablespoons once each day. If your baby doesn't seem to like to eat plain meat, then you can mix it with a vegetable that they already like.
You can also start to offer him soft table foods and finger foods (the size of your thumbnail) at this age. Begin by giving dry cheerios. Serve soft, small pieces of food, such as soft fruit and well-cooked vegetable pieces, pasta/pastina, and soft avocado, but do not give these foods if the child is going to be unattended in case of choking.
Ten to Twelve Months
Your baby's diet will begin to resemble that of the rest of the family, with 3 meals and 2 snacks each day and will include 3-4 feedings of breast milk or formula, iron fortified cereal (1/4 - 1/2 cup at breakfast), vegetables and fruits (1/2 cup/jar at lunch and dinner), protein foods (2-4 tablespoons each day), and some finger foods.
It is important to offer a variety of foods to your baby to encourage good eating habits later.
There is no set age at which you should wean your baby. The current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics are to continue to breast feed until your child is at least age one. You can gradually wean your child from breast feeding by stopping one feeding every four or five days and then gradually reducing the amount of nursing when you are down to one feeding each day.
If you wean before the age of one, you should introduce your infant to formula and not cow's milk.
Twelve Months & Beyond
You may now give your baby homogenized whole cow's milk. Do not use low-fat milk until your child is 2 years old as fat is necessary for brain development in children under 2. Your child should now want to feed herself with her fingers and should progress eventually to using a spoon or fork and should be able to drink out of a cup. The next few months will be time to stop using a bottle. As with weaning from breastfeeding, you can wean from a bottle by stopping one bottle feeding every four or five days and then when you are down to one each day, gradually reduce the amount in that bottle.
Large amounts of sweet deserts, soft drinks/sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, sugar-coated cereals, chips or candy, should be avoided, as they have little nutritional value.
Also avoid overfeeding. Do not encourage your child to eat after he is full, as this can lead to a habit of overeating.
Following these guidelines will help you give your baby the good nutrition he or she needs to grow up to his or her full potential and a healthy life.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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