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Baby Food Basics


New parents want to make the best choices for their children. Proper nutrition and good eating habits should be established at a very young age and affect a childâ??s health for a lifetime.

New parents want to make the best choices for their children. Proper nutrition and good eating habits should be established at a very young age and affect a child’s health for a lifetime.

The digestive systems of babies younger than six months old are immature; young babies should be fed breast milk or formula exclusively. Parents often feel anxious about when to begin solid foods. The good news is that babies often give you clues when they are ready. Most babies are ready to eat solids when they’ve doubled their birth weight (or weigh about 15 lbs/6.8 kg).

First Meal

You’ve decided that your baby is ready and willing to eat food. What do you begin with? A hypoallergenic cereal such as barley or rice mixed with breast milk or formula is a good place to start. One to two teaspoons fed by a rubber-tipped spoon is plenty. At first, eating will seem very foreign to your baby, and most of the food will end up everywhere but in her mouth. Be patient, and continue to feed your baby once a day; all she needs is a little practice.

As your baby grows, she’ll be more eager to sample food from your plate, and you’ll be eager to introduce some variety to her diet. Keep in mind that not all foods are safe; some may pose a choking hazard, a few aren’t good for your baby’s still developing digestive system, and others may be potential allergens.

Adding New Foods

When your baby is successfully eating cereal one or two times per day, it is time to introduce noncitrus fruits and vegetables. Good foods to start with include sweet potatoes, squash, applesauce, bananas, carrots, peaches, and pears.

All food should be strained or mushy for a six-month-old; at this stage he’ll be pressing the food against the top of his mouth and then swallowing. Introduce vegetables and fruits one at a time with a three-day interval between each type of food. Once you know your child has no adverse reaction to individual foods, you can blend them together.

Avoiding Allergies

Infants who have a parent or sibling with food allergies are at a higher risk of developing allergies. Reactions to foods may include diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, hives, or rash. These symptoms often indicate that your baby’s digestive system is not mature enough to digest this food or is sensitive to this food. In either case, avoid any food that causes a reaction; continuing to feed it to the baby may result in food allergies. If you have a strong history of allergies, corn or chocolate may also trigger a response in baby. Choosing organic food will eliminate your baby’s exposure to the pesticides found in many conventional foods.

Beginning to feed your child solid food is an exciting time for any parent. Feeding your child fresh, healthy foods that aren’t full of salt, chemicals, or sugar sets the stage for healthy choices throughout childhood. Besides fresh food, the other feeding essentials are a washable bib, a large cloth for wiping face and hands–and a mop for the floor!

When is Your Baby Ready for Solid Food?

  • Your baby’s hunger is not satisfied after eight to10 feedings of breast milk or formula per day.
  • Your baby will begin to display chewing motions.
  • Your baby will show an increased curiosity in food by reaching for your food or eyeing it when you are eating.
  • Your baby will sit upright when supported. Even if he’s not quite ready for a highchair, your baby will need to be able to sit upright to swallow well.

Foods to be Avoided for a Minimum of One Year to Minimize Chances That Your
Baby will Develop Allergies:

  • egg whites (yolks are fine)
  • dairy products (the protein in cow’s milk is hard for a baby’s digestive system to break down)
  • soy (many babies who are sensitive to dairy are also sensitive to soy)
  • wheat and foods containing wheat flour
  • honey (it may contain botulism spores that are life threatening to the baby)
  • shellfish
  • peanut butter (if a parent has allergies to peanuts, wait until the child is three years old to introduce)
  • tree nuts (walnuts and pecans)


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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD