Solid (Strained) Foods
Age For Starting Solid Foods
The best time to begin using a spoon to feed your child is when he can sit with some support and voluntarily move his head to engage in the feeding process. This time is usually between 4 and 6 months of age. Breast milk and commercial formulas meet all your baby’s nutritional needs until 4 to 6 months of age. The AAP recommends that babies be fed exclusively breast milk or formula until “about” 6 months of age. Introducing strained foods earlier just makes feeding more complicated, and may actually harm your baby and put him/her at risk for allergies and obesity. Research has shown that it won’t help your baby sleep through the night.
Types Of Solid Foods
Cereals are usually the first solid food introduced into your baby’s diet.
Start with rice cereal, which is less likely to cause allergies than other cereals. Barley and oatmeal may be tried 1 or 2 weeks later. A mixed cereal should be added to your baby’s diet only after each kind of cereal in the mixed cereal has been separately introduced.
Strained or pureed vegetables and fruits are the next solid foods introduced to your baby. Although the order of foods is not important, introduce only one new food at a time and no more than 3 per week. If your infant doesn’t seem to like the taste of cereals, start with a fruit (such as bananas).
Between 8 and 12 months of age, introduce your baby to mashed table foods or junior foods (although the latter are probably unnecessary). If you make your own baby foods in a baby-food grinder or electric blender, be sure to add enough water to get a consistency that your baby can easily swallow.
Although there is controversy about them, egg whites, wheat, peanut butter, fish, and orange juice may be more likely to cause allergies than other solids and should be avoided until 1 year of age (especially in infants with allergies).
Spoon-feeding is begun at 4 to 6 months of age. By 8 to 10 months of age, most children want to try to feed themselves and can do so with finger foods. By 15 to 18 months of age, most children can use a spoon independently for foods they can’t pick up with their fingers, and the parent is no longer needed in the feeding process.
Place food on the middle of the tongue. If you place it in front, your child will probably push it back at you. Some infants get off to a better start if you place the spoon between their lips and let them suck off the food. Some children constantly bat at the spoon or try to get a grip on it during feedings. These children need to be distracted with finger foods or by having a spoon of their own to play with.
Finger foods are small bite-sized pieces of soft foods. Most babies love to feed themselves. Finger foods can be introduced between 9 and 10 months of age or whenever your child develops a pincer grip. Since most babies will not be able to feed themselves with a spoon until 15 months of age, finger foods keep them actively involved in the feeding process. Good finger foods are dry cereals (such as Cheerios or Rice Krispies), slices of cheese, pieces of scrambled eggs, slices of canned fruit (peaches, pears, or pineapple) or soft fresh fruits, slices of banana, crackers, cookies, and breads.
Once your baby starts eating 3 meals a day or at 5- hour intervals, small snacks will often be necessary to tide him over to the next meal. Most babies go to this pattern between 6 and 9 months of age. The mid-morning and mid- afternoon snack should be a nutritious, non-milk food. Fruits and dry cereals are recommended. If your child is not hungry at mealtime, the snacks should be made smaller or eliminated.
Your child should be eating the same meals that you do by approximately 1 year of age. This assumes that your diet is well balanced and that you carefully dice any foods that would be difficult for your baby to chew. Avoid foods such as raw carrots that could be choked on.
Throughout our lives we need iron in our diets to prevent anemia. Certain foods are especially good sources of iron. Red meats, fish, and poultry are best. Some young children will eat only lunch meats, and the low-fat ones are fine. Adequate iron is also found in iron-enriched cereals, beans of all types, egg yolks, peanut butter, raisins, prune juice, sweet potatoes, and spinach.
The AAP recommends vitamin D supplementation for all infants, children, and adolescents. After reviewing the literature, it certainly looks like many children may benefit from vitamin D, although not everyone necessarily needs it. Some children are more at risk for vitamin D deficiency than others. Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include dark skin (African-americans, Indians, Hispanics), time spent indoors and not out in the sunlight (particularly in the winter months), low amount of milk consumption (less than 16 oz a day), and exclusively breastfed infants. The recommended dose is 400 IU (international units) once daily. This can be bought over the counter in either a single drop form, or with a larger dropper. Read the label carefully when dosing this to your child. Too much vitamin D can be harmful.
A multivitamin is unnecessary after your child has reached 1 year of age and is on a regular balanced diet.
Weaning is the replacement of bottle or breast feedings (nipple feedings) with drinking from a cup and eating solid foods. Weaning occurs easily and smoothly unless the breast or bottle has become overly important to the child.