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Starting Solid Foods

Feeding your baby solid foods

Most babies are ready to eat solid foods at 4 to 6 months of age. Energy needs of babies increase around this age, which makes it an ideal time to introduce solids. You may start solid foods at any feeding.  To prevent choking, make sure your baby is sitting up when you introduce solid foods. If your baby cries or turns away when you give him the food, do not force the issue. Go back to nursing or bottle feeding exclusively for a week or two, then try again. It is important for your baby to get used to the process of eating – sitting up, taking bites from a spoon, resting between bites, and stopping when full. Always use a spoon to feed your baby solid foods. Avoid putting solid foods in a bottle or infant feeder with a nipple because it can cause choking.

How to start

Start with half a spoonful or less and talk to your baby through the process. Your baby may not know what to do at first. He may look confused or insulted, wrinkle his nose, roll the food around his mouth, or reject it altogether. This is a normal reaction. One way to make eating solids for the first time easier is to give your baby a little milk first, then switch to very small half-spoonfuls of food, and finish with more milk. This will prevent your baby from getting frustrated when she is very hungry. Increase the amount of food gradually, with just a teaspoonful or two to start. For most babies it does not matter what the first solid foods are. Many pediatricians recommend cereals first. The first cereals usually are offered in this order: rice cereal, oatmeal cereal, barley cereal. It is a good idea to give your baby wheat and mixed cereals last, because they may cause allergic reactions in very young babies. Whichever type of cereal you choose, make sure that it is made for babies. Once your baby learns to eat one food, gradually give him other foods such as infant cereals, fruit, strained vegetables, and meat. Give your baby eggs last, because they occasionally cause allergic reactions. Give your baby one new food at a time, and wait at least 2 to 3 days before starting another. After each new food, watch for any allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting. Within 2 or 3 months of start solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include breast milk/formula, cereal, vegetables, meats, and fruits each day.

Once your baby can sit up and bring her hands or other objects to her mouth, you can give her finger foods to help her learn to feed herself. To avoid choking, make sure you give her foods that are soft, easy to swallow, and cut into small pieces (i.e. small pieces of banana, wafer-type cookies or crackers, peas, and potatoes). Do not give your baby any food that requires chewing at this age. At each of your child’s daily meals, she should be eating about 4 ounces or the amount in one small jar of strained baby food. Do not give your child foods that are made for adults. These foods often have added salt and preservatives. As a warning, do not home-prepare beets, turnips, carrots, spinach, or collard greens as these may have large amounts of nitrates which can cause an unusual type of anemia in young infants. Baby food companies are aware of this problem and screen the produce they buy for nitrates. Babies do not need juice. Babies less than 6 months of age should not be given juice because it can fill up your baby and give her less of an appetite for more nutritious foods. Too much juice can also cause diaper rash, diarrhea, or excessive weight gain. Give your child extra water if she seems to be thirsty between feedings.

Junior foods

When your child reaches about 8 months of age, you may want to introduce “junior” foods. These are slightly coarse than strained foods and are packaged in larger jars – usually 6 to 8 ounces. They require more chewing than baby foods. As your baby’s ability to use his hands improves, give him his own spoon to play with at mealtimes. Once he has figured out how to hold the spoon, dip it in his food and let him try to feed himself. Be patient, and resist taking the spoon away from him. For a while you may want to alternate bites from his spoon with bites from a spoon that you hold. Your child may not be able to use a spoon on his own until after his first birthday.

Good eating habits start early

Your job as a parent is to offer a good variety of healthy foods. Watch your child for cues that she has had enough to eat. Do not overfeed! Begin to build good eating habits. Usually eating 5 to 6 times a day (3 meals, and 2-3 snacks) is a good way to meet toddlers’ energy needs. If you are concerned that your baby is already overweight, talk with your pediatrician before making any changes to her diet. Your pediatrician will help you determine if your child is overfed, not eating enough, or eating too many of the wrong kinds of foods. As your baby eats more and more “table foods,” she will imitate the way you eat, including using salt and nibbling on snacks. Provide a good role model by eating a variety of healthy foods.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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