Breast milk or formula supplies all the nutrients and vitamins that babies need until they are about six months old. These days the infant formulas you can feed your baby have come a long way and are much better than they have been in the past and are much closer to breast milk.
However, breast milk is still best if you are able or desire to breastfeed your baby. If you are unsure about it, you can get information from your local La Leche Breastfeeding Mothers League.
But once your child needs to start something more substantial, how do you go about introducing first foods for infants and what kinds of food should it be?
Introducing Solid Foods to Babies
It’s not encouraged to give infants any solid foods until they are around six months old due to the fact that their swallowing muscles are not fully formed, plus they could get a food allergy if a food is introduced too soon, and until that timeframe the milk provides more of the nutrients babies need.
Be sure also to keep giving breast or formula and not cow’s milk until after a baby is a year old. The first solid foods given to infants should be an iron enriched single grain baby cereal like rice since it is easily digestible. \
You can add either breast milk or formula to the cereal and make it somewhat runny at first, and gradually make it thicker as baby gets more used to eating it.
Then, you can slowly start to introduce things like pureed fruits or vegetables one at a time so they don’t produce allergies. You can try one new food about once a week for best results and it can be foods you have pureed yourself or commercial baby food products. Good choices can include foods like pureed sweet potatoes, squash, applesauce, bananas, peaches, and pears.
Signs Your Baby is Ready for Solid Foods
Some of the ways to tell if your baby is old enough or ready for solid foods is if he is able to:
- Hold his head up
- Turn his head away if he isn’t hungry
- Sit up with support
- Open mouth in anticipation of the food
- Keep the food in his mouth and swallow it, not spit it all out
- Has a bigger appetite and may be hungry even if he eats 8-10 feedings of breast milk or formula
Once you decide to start feeding your baby solid foods, you should do it when you expect him to be the most hungry, not when he is grouchy or sleepy. You should expect a mess, especially the first few times since he isn’t used to anything except liquids and it is a very new experience.
Once your baby gets a little older, you can feed him mashed up foods with more texture, but be careful and only do this slowly and once your child has a few teeth.
Soft foods like bits of bananas, mashed potatoes, and similar foods are good to start with. You can start feeding your baby once a day at first, then gradually go to two feedings a day.
Expect Some Bodily Changes
Once your baby starts to eat foods, his bowel movements are going to change. They may be a different color, smell differently and change in frequency. Watch for either constipation or loose stools.
You can also start giving your baby some water, which can help constipation if that is a problem. Give no more than two to four ounces so it won’t substitute for more nutritious foods.
Foods Young Babies Shouldn’t Eat
One thing to remember that is vital is to never feed foods such as honey or corn syrup to a baby under a year old. This is due to the fact that they could have spores in them and cause botulism.
Be sure also to never give a baby hard foods like nuts, popcorn, hard candy, hot dogs cut into rounds, or grapes. These foods can get stuck in the throat and cause choking. They should never be given until the child as several teeth and is capable of chewing them, most likely it’s safer to wait until over the age of two years old.
|If allergies run in the family, then be cautious with any of these foods, as your child may also be allergic.
The bottom line is that transitioning to solid foods is a big step in an infant’s development and it shouldn’t be rushed. If your child doesn’t seem ready, you can always delay it for a couple of weeks, but starting at around six months is a good timeframe. Until then, breast milk or formula is best and will meet all of their nutritional needs.