What are the best foods to start your baby on
Do's and Don'ts for Baby's First Foods
Breastfeeding has been shown to improve infant, child and maternal health outcomes and help control healthcare costs, but how long should breastfeeding last and when should parents introduce solid foods?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend exclusive breastfeeding, meaning the infant receives only breast milk, during the first six months of life for optimal nutrition and health benefits.
Once solid foods are introduced, health professionals recommend continuing breastfeeding through 12 months of age and, after that, as desired by mother and baby. Introducing your baby to solid foods is an exciting milestone. When you start introducing children to the world of solid foods, you are helping them shape their relationship with food and establish a healthy eating style. The timing for introducing solid foods will depend on the infant, but it is not recommended before the age of four months or after the age of six months.
Not sure how to get your baby started on solid foods? Consider these helpful tips.
Is Your Baby Ready to Transition?
Each child's readiness for solid food depends on their own rate of development. Signs a baby may be ready to start solid foods include sitting up with minimal support, demonstrating good head control, bringing objects to the mouth or grasping at small objects. Check with your pediatrician before starting solid foods.
Getting Started With Solids
Solid foods may be introduced in any order. However, puréed meats, poultry, beans and iron-fortified cereals are recommended as first foods, especially if your baby has been primarily breastfed, since they provide key nutrients. Only one new single-ingredient food should be introduced at a time.
Softer textures are very important when first introducing foods. Infants usually start with pureed or mashed foods around six months. As infants develop chewing and motor skills, they are able to handle items like soft pieces of fruit and finger foods. As the child ages, a variety of healthful foods is encouraged.
Weaning From Breastfeeding
When deciding if you should wean your baby to a bottle or a cup, consider their developmental readiness. Between 7 and 8 months, most infants will drink small amounts of liquid from a cup or a glass when someone else holds it. Older babies and toddlers often have the coordination to drink fluids from a cup by themselves.
If your baby is under 12 months of age and you are not continuing to breastfeed, wean from breast milk to iron-fortified infant formula. If your baby is 12 months or older, whole cow’s milk is appropriate.
Food Safety Do’s and Don’ts
Food safety concerns for infants and toddlers include food allergies, choking and risks for foodborne illness. Keep the following safety tips in mind:
Do talk with your pediatrician about the risk of food allergies. Introducing one new food at a time, every several days, allows time to monitor for allergic reactions. Current evidence does not indicate needing to wait beyond 4 to 6 months before introducing potential allergy-causing foods such as eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts and fish. In fact, introducing peanut-containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months of age may help prevent a peanut allergy. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends introducing potentially allergenic foods when other complementary foods are introduced to an infant’s diet. Parents with concerns about food allergies should discuss how to include these foods with their pediatrician.
Don’t feed your baby solid foods from a bottle. It can be a choking hazard and despite a popular misconception, putting cereal in a baby's bottle won't help with sleeping through the night. Other foods that are considered to be choking hazards are listed below.
Do supervise your child while eating. Infants should be able to sit upright and face forward when you first introduce solid foods. This makes swallowing easier and choking less likely.
Don’t feed directly from the jar of food but instead spoon some food into a separate dish first. Feeding directly from the jar may introduce bacteria from your baby's mouth to the spoon and back into the food, creating a food safety issue.
Don’t feed honey to children under 12 months of age due to the risk of foodborne illness.
Examples of appropriate solid foods listed by age:
- Well-cooked and pureed meat, poultry or beans
- Ground, cooked, single-grain cereal or infant cereal with breast milk or formula
- Cooked and pureed vegetables
- Mashed banana or avocado
- Well-cooked, minced or finely chopped meat, poultry or beans
- A variety of cooked vegetables cut into small, ½ inch pieces, such as squash and green beans
- Sliced and quartered bananas or small pieces of other soft fruits
- Soft, shredded meat, poultry or fish
- Small pieces of cooked vegetables
- Small pieces of soft, easy to chew fruits
- Mixed food dishes the family is eating in appropriately sized pieces
Not recommended for those under 4 years of age due to the risk of choking:
- Popcorn and whole kernel corn
- Nuts and seeds
- Large chunks of meat, poultry and cheese
- Candy, gum drops and jelly beans
- Hard, raw fruits or vegetables such as apples, celery and carrots
- Whole grapes and cherry tomatoes, unless cut into quarters
- Hot dogs, unless cut into strips and age appropriate, bite-size pieces
- Sticky foods, such as peanut butter, which can get stuck in the back of the mouth – peanut butter is okay if spread thinly on bread
For toddlers and preschoolers, chop grapes, meat, poultry, hot dogs and raw vegetables and fruits into small pieces (about ½ inch or smaller).
Nurturing Healthy Relationships with Food
Establishing a positive feeding relationship during infancy can have lifetime benefits. Keep in mind that children are responsible for how much and whether they eat so always wait for your baby to pay attention to each spoonful before you feed them. Don't be afraid to let your baby touch the food in the dish and on the spoon. You wouldn't want to eat something if you didn't know anything about it, would you? In addition, know the cues that your baby is done eating. A common cue babies are full is head turning.
Whatever happens, don't get discouraged and enjoy the experience. With a little patience and creativity, you can make your baby's first solid food eating experience fun for everyone involved!
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When to Start Baby Food
Starting solids is an exciting and important milestone in baby’s development—one that not only opens them up to a brand-new world of flavors and textures, but also puts them on the right path to growing healthy and strong. Here’s what you need to know about how and when to start baby food for a smooth transition.
In this article:
When to start baby food
How to start baby on solids
Best first foods for baby
Introducing allergenic foods
When to Start Baby Food
Knowing when to start baby food is both crucial and tricky. Starting baby on solids too early means you might increase the risk of choking, obesity and bellyaches, but introducing solids too late means you might slow baby’s growth and encourage an aversion to solid foods, among other conditions. Fortunately, doctors have zeroed in on a sweet spot for starting baby food, which is sometime between 4 and 6 months of age—though, ideally, baby should be receiving their nutrition exclusively from breast milk until the six-month mark, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). How to tell if it’s time for starting solids for your little one? Baby will give you clues, including:
• Baby can sit in a high chair comfortably on their own. This is a major sign in terms of when to start baby food, says Lauren Kupersmith, MD, a pediatrician at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone in New York City. It means baby can hold their head up and doesn’t need to be propped up to stay in the upright position, which is important to avoid choking.
• Baby looks interested at mealtime. Babies likes to mimic what we do, so if your child likes to sit up like a big kid and watch you eat, then by all means let them try eating too.
• Baby can move food to the back of their throat to swallow. But if baby tends to push the food out of their mouth—not because they don’t like it, but because they can’t seem to get the food to where it needs to go—hold off on starting solids.
How to Start Baby on Solids
At 4 to 6 months, most of baby’s nutrition will still come from breast milk or formula, so don’t worry if baby doesn’t like eating food right away. Introducing solids is a gradual process, and every baby learns in their own time. Here are some general guidelines for how to start baby on solids:
• Feed baby with a spoon. Letting your child go at it with their hands may seem tempting (and super-cute), but it’s best that they learn the right way from the get-go. (And even then, be prepared to clean up more than a few messes!) Also, never put cereal (or any other food) in baby’s bottle—it’s a choking hazard.
• Start slowly. When introducing solids, a half spoonful will do at first—you may even want to talk baby through it (“Yummy!”). To make it easier for baby to get accustomed to the idea of swallowing solids, start mealtime with a little breast milk or formula, then offer some food (again, no more than a half teaspoon at a time) and finish off with more breast milk or formula. If baby cries or turns away when you present the spoon, try again some other time. Start off with introducing solids at one meal a day, then slowly work your way up. The morning is a good place to start, since baby is often hungriest at that time. When starting solids, baby typically won’t eat more than an ounce or two in one sitting.
• Try new foods more than once. Since babies’ tastes will evolve, you may need to try a food 20 times before a baby actually likes it, says Kupersmith.
• Stick with the same food for three days before trying another one. This makes it easy to track whether baby is allergic to a particular food.
• Try foods in different forms. If baby doesn’t like pureed food, try it mashed. After all, baby is learning about new textures as well as new tastes. It may be a case of trial and error until you find a winner.
Best First Foods for Baby
Got baby safely strapped into the high chair and bib? You’re ready to finally start feeding baby solids! There aren’t any official food rules for babies starting solids, and there’s no scientific evidence suggesting you should introduce one type of food before another, assuming the foods aren’t choking hazards. Nevertheless, baby cereal (such as oatmeal, rice and barley) is an “easy training food,” says Kupersmith, which is why it’s often recommended as baby’s first food; you can always mix it with more milk to build up to a thicker consistency. Many doctors also recommend starting vegetables before fruits, but there’s no evidence that this would make babies like vegetables more when they grow up—babies innately love sweets, and the order of introducing solids to baby doesn’t change that.
So why not simply start introducing solids with something you think baby will like? Here are a few common first foods for baby that are healthy and easy to eat (and, in the case sweet potato and banana, also easy to digest). Whatever you decide to feed baby, mash it with a fork or puree before serving whenever introducing solids.
- Baby cereal, such as oatmeal, rice, barley
- Sweet potato
- Green beans
- Butternut squash
If your child has been breastfeeding, check with your pediatrician about getting a jump on pureed chicken or beef when you’re starting solids. These foods contain easily absorbable forms of iron and zinc, which baby needs by 4 to 6 months, according to the AAP.
At around 9 months, baby should have already worked their way up to a variety of foods, including cereal, vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs and fish (see below regarding the last two). (Keep in mind, though, that baby will still get the majority of their nutrients from breast milk or formula until age one.) By now, baby will probably settle on three meals a day along with two snacks. Let them consume about 4 ounces of solids at each meal (equivalent to a small jar of strained baby food) and about half that amount for each snack.
Save honey and cow’s milk for after baby’s first birthday—there’s a risk for infant botulism with honey (a type of bacterial poisoning), and baby’s tummy isn’t prepared to digest large amounts of cow’s milk until they’re about one year old. Avoid adult processed foods and foods that are choking hazards (such as sticky foods, like large gobs of peanut butter; hard foods that are difficult to gum, like raw vegetables, nuts, seeds and popcorn; and round, slippery foods that haven’t been cut up, like grapes and cherry tomatoes). Instead, the first foods for baby, and those in the months that follow, should be soft and served mashed, pureed or (once baby seems ready to move up from the really mushy stuff) cut up into really little bits. “There’s pretty much free reign at that point,” Kupersmith says.
Introducing Solids Chart
Hesitant about improvising your first foods for baby? That’s okay too. If you prefer an “introducing solids chart” to help you plan out baby’s path, the guide below can come in handy.
Image: The Bump
Introducing Allergenic Foods
Much of the confusion around when to start baby food stems from questions concerning allergenic foods. These are foods that babies are most often allergic to. The major culprits include dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts and tree nuts. In the past, parents were advised to hold off on exposing baby to these foods, but now doctors recommend introducing them early, often and in age-appropriate format, which means starting off with purees and soft textures.
“Dairy is an easy starting point, given options such as yogurt and cheese,” says David Stukus, MD, director of the Food Allergy Treatment Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. You can also try scrambled eggs in small amounts, although baby may not be too pleased with the texture at first.
As far as peanut products go, the National Institutes of Health issued new guidelines in 2017 that encourage parents of children at high risk for peanut allergies to incorporate them into baby’s diet at 4 to 6 months of age. Giving these babies peanut products before the age of one actually decreases their risk of developing a peanut allergy before age 5 by 81 percent, compared to kids who are introduced to peanuts later in life. Parents of kids without the food allergy risk can start peanut products whenever they’d like, as long as the nuts are in an age-appropriate form: Peanut butter can be thinned out with water or mixed into a fruit or vegetable puree, and peanut powder can also be mixed into cereal and fruits. Don’t give whole peanuts or pieces of peanuts, since they’re a choking risk.
Allergic reactions to food are never just a fluke; they will happen with every exposure. Symptoms can range from mild (such as a rash or vomiting) to severe (such as trouble breathing). If baby has a food allergy, you’ll notice a reaction within minutes or up to two hours after eating the problematic food, Stukus says. If the symptoms are severe, call 911 right away. Otherwise, talk to your pediatrician; she can help confirm whether it’s an allergy or some other type of condition (such as a viral illness).
Lauren Kupersmith, MD, IBCLC, is a pediatrician and clinical instructor at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone in New York City, as well as a certified lactation consultant. She earned her medical degree from New York Medical College in 2005.
David Stukus, MD, is the director of the Food Allergy Treatment Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, an associate professor of pediatrics in the division of allergy and immunology and a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. He earned his medical degree from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2002.
Updated January 2020
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
Note to mothers: useful products for the child
A growing child needs strength for the great discoveries that happen to him every day. In order for a child to grow up healthy and active, his diet must be varied and balanced. ELLE will tell you how to create the most useful children's menu.
A child's health depends on many factors, and nutrition, physical activity and a favorable environment play an important role in its development. Healthy foods for children contain a boost of vitamins and minerals necessary for active growth. Knowing the list of the most necessary products for the child, you can easily create a menu, each time offering the child a new tasty dish.
Intuitively and so it is clear what foods are good for children. The diet of children should be based on dairy products, cereals, vegetables, fruits, berries, greens, meat and fish, eggs, nuts. It is important that every day the child eats a variety of foods high in proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.
We start with breakfast, and there is no better dish than porridge for the first meal. Cereal cereals energize the body and give a feeling of satiety. The most useful cereals with a low glycemic index are rice, buckwheat, and wheat. These cereals are rich in vitamins A, B, C, D, E, saturated fatty acids. The complex carbohydrates in rice help to generate the energy that students need in the learning process. Buckwheat porridge is rich in vegetable proteins. The least useful porridge is semolina.
Another indispensable product for the full development of a child is a chicken egg. They contain a lot of animal protein, amino acids, vitamins A, D, B2. In the absence of individual intolerance, the child can eat eggs at least every day. Moreover, there are many recipes for cooking eggs that will not get bored day by day. Omelet, poached eggs, Benedict, egg in a toast, scrambled eggs, hard boiled or bagged - such a breakfast will be eaten in a minute by a little hero.
A fruit salad can be offered to a child for lunch. The composition of all fruits in different dosages includes vitamins and trace elements. It is believed that the body is better able to digest fruits and vegetables that are suitable for its place of birth and growth. In our country, the most useful fruits are apples, plums, pears, peaches, apricots, rich in vitamin A. This vitamin is important for the formation of hormones in a young body, improves visual acuity, helps improve the quality of skin, hair, strengthens bone tissue and teeth.
Citrus fruits contain a lot of vitamin B1, which is responsible for the body's metabolic processes. For the proper development of the nervous, cardiovascular and muscular systems and the prevention of beriberi, you need to eat at least 100 g of pineapple, kiwi, grapefruit per day. Children should eat fresh or frozen fruits. Canned fruits additionally contain sugar, which increases the calorie content of the dish, and all useful components, as a result of long-term storage, come to the child in a lower concentration. It is advisable to eat different fruits every day.
The child's lunch should be hearty, but moderate, and must include protein foods. If the child is not brought up in a vegetarian family, then for lunch he should be offered fish or a lean meat dish. Rabbit meat, turkey, veal are considered dietary. Dishes prepared from these types of meat and poultry are rich in protein, iron, zinc, vitamins B2 and B6. Steamed, boiled or stewed meat is better and faster absorbed by the body.
The healthiest foods for kids can be found in the fish section of the grocery store. Swedish scientists, using the example of the children of their country, proved to the whole world what the benefits of fish are for a young organism. According to their research, the content of fish in the children's diet improves the mental abilities of children by 2 times, in comparison with those who do not eat seafood.
Fish is rich in proteins, iron, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin B12, fish dishes should be included in the child's diet at least once a week. The most useful varieties of fish for children are cod, pike perch, trout.
Meat and fish dishes at lunchtime are best served with boiled side dishes - potatoes, buckwheat, rice, durum wheat pasta.
For an afternoon snack, offer your child a glass of milk or kefir, any dairy product. The norm of dairy products for a child is at least 500 ml of milk and 50 g of cottage cheese per day. You should choose products with low fat content, from 2.5 to 3.5% is suitable for milk, up to 9% for cottage cheese%. Healthy dairy foods for children contain calcium, the most important element for bone growth, animal fats and vitamins, as well as lactobacilli that are beneficial for the digestive system and intestinal tract.
For dinner, also prepare a meat or fish dish and vegetable salad for your child. Vegetables contain fiber, without which the full digestion of food is impossible. The most useful vegetables for a child are fresh or steamed. In this form, vegetables will retain most of the vitamins.
- Healthy food
7 foods that are undesirable for children under one year old
soda and cream cakes. What else can not eat children under one year old? We made a list of 7 less obvious foods.
Excess salt in the diet is harmful to the baby's kidneys and can lead to swelling and dehydration. Of course, a lack of salt is also not useful, but in real life, with a normal diet, it practically does not occur: salt is contained in sufficient quantities in most foods, and there is no need to add salt on purpose. And if for us, adults, baby purees and cereals without salt and sugar seem tasteless and disgusting, don’t worry, for a baby, the situation is completely different.
The taste perception of young children is not yet spoiled by excessively sweet and salty foods, flavors and flavor enhancers. If your child refuses mashed broccoli, then most likely he just does not like the taste and texture of broccoli, and not at all the lack of salt.
Everyone knows the dangers of excess sugar - dental problems, obesity, associated cardiovascular diseases and the risk of developing diabetes. However, it can be very difficult to refuse a cookie or candy to a child familiar with the sweet taste, and tears are usually inevitable. What to do?
The secret is simple - introduce foods with added sugar into your baby's diet as late as possible, at the earliest in the year, although it is better to wait until two years. The National Nutrition Optimization Program for Children aged 1 to 3 years recommends limiting sugar in the diet of babies 1 to 3 years old to 25-30 grams per day, taking into account the sugar found in special baby foods, juices, yogurts, etc.
It would seem that honey is a wonderful and healthy alternative to sugar, so why is it not recommended for babies under one year old? In fact, the reasons several. First, honey can contain spores bacteria Clostridium botulinum. The immune system of adults and children older people can easily cope with them, but in babies they can cause a deadly disease called infantile botulism.
Secondly, honey is the strongest allergen, so it is better to postpone acquaintance with it until a later age.
4. Fruit juices and drinks
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released in 2017 New recommendations for adequate intake of fruit juices in infants, young children and adolescents who begin with advice to completely avoid fruit juice for feeding infants life. According to AAP, excessive juice consumption can lead to diarrhea, overeating or, conversely, malnutrition, as well as to occurrence of dental caries*. At the same time, babies can and should be offered Whole fruit, mashed or pureed.
A various fruit drinks and nectars in addition to natural sugar from fruits often contain added sugar, which makes them perfectly unsuitable for feeding babies up to a year.
Breeding of juices and nectars with water does not completely solve the problem, since it does not reduce dental risks. If your child refuses to drink water, try compotes and fruit or herbal teas.
5. Foods that are easy to choke on
The danger of a product to children is determined by several characteristics: consistency, shape, and size. Most often babies gagging slippery, round, sticky, fibrous and hard products.
The most dangerous are all round and large enough to block the airways: lozenges, grapes, cherry tomatoes, nuts**. Not far behind in sad dangerous food rating other candies (especially sticky ones), fish bones and meat and, in fact, the meat itself ***.
Remember that theoretically a child can choke on any food, so never leave your baby unsupervised eating.
6. Egg white
Have you ever wondered why in all complementary feeding schemes is it the yolk, not the whole egg? Nothing surprising: egg protein is one of the strongest allergens. Up to a year is better limit the baby to only the yolk, and introduce the protein a little later.
Only make sure the eggs are thoroughly cooked. Raw and half-raw eggs may contain a bacterium that causes salmonellosis, a disease deadly for young children.
7. Cow and goat milk
Surprised? Whole cow's milk is the main cause of allergies in children under one year old. In addition, it contains a large amount of lactose, milk sugar, which some babies have difficulty digesting due to the fact that their gastrointestinal tract is not yet sufficiently developed. There are studies linking the early introduction of animal milk into the diet as a substitute for mother's milk or infant formula with an increased risk of iron deficiency anemia and type 1 diabetes.