For the first few months of life, an infant’s nutritional needs are often a no-brainer once parents decide on breast milk or formula. Introducing solid foods is where things get tricky. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding or formula feeding until at least four months, but preferably six months.
Since every baby is different, it is typically recommended to look out for the following signs that your baby is ready for solids:
• They’ve doubled their birth weight.
• They sit independently and grab for things to put in their mouth.
• Reflexes such as pushing their tongue against the roof of their mouth (and a spoon) have stopped and they are putting their fist to their mouth more often.
• They show signs of hunger more often which can indicate energy needs are increasing.
When it’s time to start solids, the first food in the majority of cases should be iron-fortified, single ingredient infant cereals. For these, it is worth buying the store-bought version. Next, it’s on to fruits, and veggies which present a do-it-yourself option. Around 9 to 10 months of age, a baby is more ready to handle higher protein foods like strained meats and eggs. Finally around one year, the restriction on dairy foods is lifted as the baby transitions to whole milk, yogurt, and even cheese.
It is important to follow the following advice when introducing new foods:
• Stick to one new food at a time with at least 3 to 4 days between new foods. This helps determine a baby’s preferences, get them used to new tastes and textures, and keep an eye on any irritations or allergies that might arise. Avoid strong flavors and spices—simple, bland food will win every time.
• Plan to introduce a food 8 to 10 times before ruling it out. Different times, different days, different ways all makes a difference. This rule holds true into adulthood. Just because they don’t like it once, doesn’t mean they’ll never it like it again. On the flip side, and to make matters more complicated, just because they like it or even loved it once, doesn’t mean they’ll like it again!
• In the beginning, just 1 to 2 small spoonfuls goes a long way. Within a few months of starting solids, your infant should be consuming a variety. Breast milk or formula should still provide the main source of calories and supplemented with infant cereals, veggies, fruits, and protein-rice sources. The idea is to move towards a feeding pattern of 3 meals per day as your infant approaches his first birthday.
• Stay armed many solid food options for the new eater in the family. To cut costs and stay eco-friendly, read this A to Z guide to making your own baby food
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a best selling author and the creator of "The F-Factor Diet", an innovative nutritional program she has used for over a decade to provide thousands with the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, and improved health and well-being. In January 2011 Tanya launched the F-Factor food line with the largest natural foods company in the US, the Hain Celestial group. She is thrilled to be able to offer the highest fiber products on the market to date. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.