Take Baby Steps
Starting Infants on Healthy Food
As parents, you are in charge of your baby’s health behaviours starting right from the time they are born. When the time comes to begin introducing solid foods and weaning them off of breast milk, it is the perfect time to properly introduce healthy whole foods-it is never too early to start! This time of your baby’s young life can be very stressful and overwhelming for you, the parent, when it comes to determining what they will eat and choosing when the best time is to introduce the chosen foods.
Typically, infants begin on solids from about six to nine months old. It is wise to wait this length of time, ensuring your baby is ready, because they need adequate time to fully develop the right enzymes to properly digest the solid foods. If you jump the gun and begin before 6 months, you can put your baby at risk for a potential increase in the risk of infections, allergies, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), iron deficiency, and gastroenteritis. It is best to wait as long as you can and think through your approach because there are some foods that should be introduced before others.
Why should we wait to introduce solids?
- Baby’s intestines are immature
- Baby’s tongue thrust reflex hasn’t developed, and the swallowing mechanism is immature
- Baby needs to be able to sit up
Now that you have waited the six months or so, how do you determine when the baby is ready? Make note of when your baby seems to take interest in the solid foods on your plate, observing what you are eating and when they make chewing motions. Typically this will happen when they develop their first few teeth.
What foods can your baby begin with?
When it comes to introducing solid foods, you always want to begin with soft, nutrient- dense foods like pureed bananas, avocados, and apple sauce. This is a transition period from breast milk to solid foods so it is important to ensure the foods are soft so the baby can begin to learn the textures of the foods. After a month or so at the soft foods stage, more foods can be introduced including mashed sweet potatoes or rice cereal, and mashed peas or green beans.
At the beginning stages of the introduction of solid foods, babies do not require a lot of variety. The mother’s breast milk is providing most of the calories and nutrients still so the new solid foods are acting as a supplement.
Certain foods should be avoided when introducing solids to babies, usually for allergenic reasons. Since this will be the baby’s first time being exposed to anything other than breast milk, it is important to take caution. Here is a list of foods that your child should avoid until 12 to 18 months old:
- Honey-can cause botulism
- Strawberries and kiwi-allergenic
- Tomatoes-too acidic, which can cause an unpleasant rash on their faces and bums
- Citric fruits-a drop of lemon and lime at most!
- Nuts-allergenic, pay attention to your family history of nut allergies and sensitivities
- Wheat (gluten): introduce gluten-free grains first, observe your baby’s reactions for signs of celiac disease
Introducing solids can feel like a frustrating process, learning about your baby’s wants and needs. Below are some tips to help make this process a more enjoyable one for both baby and parents:
- It takes babies 8-12 times of trying a new food to adapt to the new flavour so patience is key! Keep on trying!
- When milk supply is low, this is your time to introduce and feed solid foods.
- Feed one new food at a time and avoid overwhelming the baby.
- If your baby is cranky or sick, skip introducing something new-it will save you a lot of frustration.
- Leave plenty of time for feeding because it is a long process. Take your time because you want this experience to be a positive and successful one for you and your baby.
One last piece of advice is to remember to continue to encourage nutritious, whole foods as your baby continues to grow beyond the initial introduction of solid foods. Never stop feeding them the fruits and veggies they once ate in pureed form, because they won’t want to go back!
Tips for whipping up your own baby food!
When it comes to making your own homemade food, you want to choose the best quality organic whole foods.
- Peel, core and chop fruits or vegetables into smaller cubes so they steam more quickly.
- Fill a saucepan with enough water to steam and not evaporate. Heat over high heat until boiling.
- When the water is boiling, put the fruit or vegetable into a steamer basket and place it on top of the water. Steam on medium heat.
- Steam until the fruit or vegetable is tender.
- Empty the contents into a bowl and mash by hand, in a blender or in a food processor before adding any water.
- Add water by very small amounts until you get the consistency you want.
- Puree until it’s the texture of a smooth, thick soup.