There is a popular saying that we are what we eat. It is more than true for small children: you should only give them food they are capable of eating and digesting.
First of all, until your baby reaches the age of 6 months it is perfectly possible to feed her exclusively with breast milk and/or baby formula. However, you might start introducing solid foods as early as at the age of 4 months.
As some foods (like wheat and eggs) are known to cause allergies and digestive issues, you might want to delay their introduction. On the other hand, there is information that delaying potentially allergic foods can actually increase the risk of food allergy. It is always reasonable to adhere to the “start low and go slow” rule: never introduce large amounts of new foods.
Also bear in mind that children are born with a substantial reserve of iron. However, this reserve will only last for some 4-6 months: thus, it is important that you start with foods that are rich in iron. What’s more, breastfed babies usually get less iron than those fed on formula milk.
Foods that can be introduced at the age of 4-6 months:
- Iron-fortified single grain infant cereals (such as white or brown rice).
Mix the cereals with breast milk (you might need a breast pump to extract milk) or baby formula. Do not add cereal to a bottle, but rather feed it from a spoon. Start with thin cereal and gradually make it thicker by adding less and less liquid.
Foods that can be introduced at the age of 6-8 months:
- Single grain cereals such as barley, oats, rye, quinoa and wheat. It is, however, recommended that you consult your pediatrician before introducing wheat.
- Pureed fruits like pear, peach, nectarine, apple, plum, avocado and banana.
- Pureed vegetables: carrots, white potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, squash.
- Dairy products like yogurt (either whole milk or soy based).
- Mashed beans such as lentils and black, red and pinto beans.
You should only use fresh fruits and vegetables. Wash them carefully under running water. Boil, steam or bake them until soft; puree using a blender or a special baby food maker. You can also mix your fruits and veggies with rice or other cereal.
- There are conflicting views about the best time to introduce meat. Previously pediatricians used to urge moms to avoid introducing meat before the kid reaches the age of 8 or 9 months. Nowadays it is believed that 6 month old babies can tolerate meat; besides, meat is a very good source of protein and iron. You can offer your baby such pureed meets as chicken, turkey, beef, lamb or pork. Remember that moist meat is easy to swallow: use enough water to puree it.
- Pureed fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fats and phosphorus. We recommend that you give your baby such fish as light tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, haddock and cod. Avoid or limit to only one serving a month such fish as shark, marlin and swordfish: they are known to be high in mercury.