Introducing Solid Foods to Babies
Randall Neustaedter OMD – Excerpt from Child Health Guide, North Atlantic Books
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At five to six months it is time to start introducing your baby to the idea that some objects in the world, other than a breast or bottle, taste good. Give your baby tastes of food on your finger or on a small spoon if she expresses any interest. Usually she will make a face and push the food back out at you with her tongue. It takes practice for babies to learn how to swallow solids because a new skill of muscular coordination is necessary to get those solids from the tongue into the throat. Up until now your baby has only ingested food by sucking. There is no urgency to get solid foods into your baby at any particular age. Babies do fine on just breast milk for nine months if necessary. Some babies are more interested in solids than others. Some six-month-olds will be grabbing the food out of your hand. Others seem to show no interest at all. Follow your baby’s clues, and keep offering different types of foods. Do not feel compelled to get your baby to eat. Giving too many solids may discourage your baby from the all-important task of breastfeeding.
The first foods for babies, other than breast milk or formula, should be cooked fruits and vegetables and mashed bananas. These simple carbohydrates are the easiest foods for your baby to digest. The enzymes that break down solid foods develop slowly. Start with very simple carbohydrates and gradually introduce more complex carbohydrates and proteins later. Do not start your baby with rice cereal. Grains are too complex, and the early introduction of grains is associated with later development of allergies and the formation of autoantibodies associated with diabetes. Go slowly, introducing one new food at a time, wait two or three days to observe reactions and introduce another.
Common allergic reactions are a rash around the mouth or anus, runny nose, diarrhea, or fussiness. Allow your baby to play with new foods and observe her face afterwards to see if she develops a rash. The most allergenic foods are egg whites, dairy products, nuts, wheat, soy, corn, citrus, and berries.
Infants should get only pureed or mashed foods. Any foods with chunks can cause choking, which is a very serious danger. Of course you need to be vigilant about anything that goes in your baby’s mouth. Avoid hard foods and small round foods such as raisins or whole beans until your baby has molars for chewing. Never let your child run or play vigorously with anything in her mouth. A general rule for solids should be, the more teeth your child develops, the more capable she is of coping with firmer foods.
Dangerous Solid Foods: Choking Hazard
- Whole nuts (especially peanuts) until three-years-old
- Popcorn (hulls are dangerous)
- Raw carrots
- Raw apples (watch out for peels)
- Beans unless mashed
Use fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Cook them yourself. This is not as difficult as it may sound, and it is more nutritious and safer than using prepared baby food from jars. Organic is always best. It is not safe to feed an infant pesticides or fertilizer byproducts.
Baby food jars themselves contain a chemical that may be hazardous to a baby’s health, regardless of the nutritional value of the product inside. Baby food jars contain a substance known to cause cancer, liver damage, and genetic modifications. The chemical, called semicarbazide, is found in the plastic sealing gaskets of glass jars with metal lids. The chemical leaches into the foods contained in these jars. The nutrient content of baby food products in jars may be considerably inferior to their freshly cooked counterparts. Nutrients in single ingredient baby foods (first-stage foods) vary depending on the amount of water present in the jar. The carbohydrate content of first-stage foods is a measure of the amount of fruit or vegetable present compared to the amount of water. The brand with the highest carbohydrate content contains nearly 80 percent more carbohydrate than the brand with the least amount (Stallone, 1995).
I encourage parents to make their own baby food from organic vegetables, fruits, grains, and meats whenever possible. Several excellent books provide detailed instructions for home preparation of foods for children aged 5 months to 3 years, Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron being one of the best. I agree with most of her methods except for the use of microwaves, a certain hypervigilance about microbes, and the early introduction of cereals.
Do not microwave your baby’s food or bottles. A Swiss study showed that changes in the blood of test subjects could be detected after eating foods cooked in microwave ovens. Several studies observed the formation of known carcinogens when vegetables, milk, meat, and grains were heated with microwaves. Russian researchers also reported a marked acceleration of structural degradation in microwave heated foods leading to a decreased nutrient value of 60 to 90 percent in all foods tested (Lee, 1998).
Egg yolks supply cholesterol, which is needed for mental development. Remember, babies need fats. Organic, cage-free chicken’s egg will also contain omega-3 fatty acids that stimulate brain development. Feeding your baby one egg yolk every day from the age of five or six months will provide these essential nutrients, as well as vitamin A and amino acids.
You can either crumble a hard-boiled egg yolk and mix it with other foods, or scramble the yolk in a pan with coconut oil or butter. To separate the yolk from the white before cooking, place a funnel into a cup and crack the egg into the funnel. The white will drain out into the cup and the yolk will remain in the funnel. You can do the same thing with your hand if you like. Crack an egg into your palm and allow the white to drain out between your fingers into a bowl. Do not give your baby raw eggs or soft-boiled eggs because of the slight chance of salmonella contamination.
Order of Solid Food Introduction
Five to Six (5-6) Months (pureed or mashed foods)
Egg yolk (organic only)
Carrots (organic only-+)
Yams, sweet potatoes
Seven to nine (7-9) months (soft or mashed foods)
Cereal (organic rice cream brown rice flakes, or oatmeal)
Ten to twelve (10-12) months (begin to give soft solid pieces)
Yogurt (whole milk organic plain)
Cooked vegetable pieces
After twelve (12) months (protein and calcium sources)
Whole wheat breads and crackers
Cheese and cottage cheese
Cashew and almond butter
Grapes and raisins (seedless)
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