Baby starting solid food: Here are some great options
Six months is the milestone when your baby is expected to be ready to start eating their first solid food, in addition to feedings of breast milk or infant formula.
Although each child is different, you should not begin feeding her earlier than six months, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Instead, it would be best to look out for the following signs to see when she is developmentally ready.
The signs are, your baby:
- Can sit up alone, without support
- Has head and neck control
- It opens up the mouth for an offering of food
- Swallows food instead of pushing it back out to dribble down the chin
- Has the capacity to transfer food to the back of the tongue, to swallow
- Lifts objects to the mouth
- Grasps small objects such as spoons, finger food and toys.
Introducing the first foods
Your baby can start eating infant cereals at six months, preferably a variety of fortified infant cereals such as barley, oats, and multi-grain instead of just rice cereal. The USA Food & Drug Agency – FDA recommends that infant rice cereal be avoided because of the risk that your child could be exposed to arsenic found on rice.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC by the time your baby is 7 to 8 months old, you can start introducing a single ingredient food every 3-5 days from the following foods; infant cereals, soft pieces of meat or other proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, yoghurts and cheeses, among others. You’ll be able to check for allergic reactions, as well.
However, you should do so simultaneously as other foods when introducing potentially allergenic foods – cow’s milk products, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy and sesame.
Although cow’s milk products such as yoghurt or soft cheese may be on your baby’s menu, at no time should you let her drink cow’s milk or fortified soy beverages before 12 months old. Nor should she drink sugary fruit juice under 12 months old. In addition to breast milk or formula, she may drink the only cup of water a day.
In feeding babies, allergy reactions are a minefield. For instance, if your baby has severe eczema linked to an egg allergy, you may need to be cautious about introducing her to peanuts.
Any allergic reaction that you note should be discussed with your baby’s doctor or healthcare provider.
Food preparation and feeding
At first, your baby may cough, gag or spit up food. Until her oral skills development kicks in, it would be advisable to prepare first foods as smooth mashes, purees, strained or blended.
As your baby adjusts to different food textures, she will be able to tolerate thicker and lumpier foods. With feeding, choking is always a risk.
It is essential to prepare foods that melt in saliva and which do not require your baby to use their gums to chew or break the food. Right from the start, encourage your baby to eat small portions of food slowly. And always sit with your baby and watch while they eat.
It is also important for her to sit in her feeding chair and share her meal with the whole family, as this helps her development.
These are the main ways to prepare the foods:
- To make meals easy for your baby to swallow, mix cereals or mash cooked cereals with breast milk, formula or just water until it is smooth without any lumps.
- Mash, puree or blend vegetables, fruits and other foods until it is smooth.
- Cook hard fruits and vegetables such as carrots and apples until it soft enough to be mashed, pureed or blended
- Cook foods until it is soft and then mash them with a fork
- Before cooking chicken, meat or fish, remove fat, skin and bones.
- De-seed or remove hard pips from the fruit before you cut them into small bite-sizes
- Cut soft food and small fruits like grapes, cherries, berries and tomatoes into small or thin pieces.
- Cut food like hot dogs, sausages or string cheese into tiny, thin slivers instead of round chunks that could get wedged in the airways
- When it comes to whole-grain kernels of wheat, barley, rice and other grains, cook until soft and mash or blend.
How much food?
When you first feed your baby solids, whet her appetite with a little breast milk or formula or both at first, then switch to tiny spoons of soft food and then finish the meal with breast milk or food.
At first, she will only eat about a spoon or two of solid food, as her intestines develop to eat no more than a small jar of feed – about 114 grams for each meal.
According to Heathychildren.org, if your baby isn’t ready to eat solids, do not force her to eat, rather continue breast or formula feeding her until she is ready.
There are many good practices to implement, such as letting her sit upright to eat while she learns to lift tiny slivers of finger food to her mouth and feed herself with a spoon while learning to rest between bites and stop eating when full.
Contact Affinity Health
Contact your doctor before adding or removing any staples from your baby’s diet.
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