Introducing Solid Foods

Written by Randall Neustaedter OMD, LAc, CCH   
Monday, 11 May 2009 07:47
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Excerpt from Child Health Guide, North Atlantic Books, Spring 2005

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.