As your baby approaches the age where he can start to eat solid foods, it can be nerve-wracking to make sure that you are feeding him correctly. Although it can be a bit overwhelming, following guidelines set out by reputable organizations, such as the American Association of Pediatrics, can help guide you to make sure that your baby is eating the right foods at the right time.
Breast Milk or Formula
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends that infants drink only breast milk for at least the first six months of life, and that you continue to give breast milk at least until 12 months, along with solid foods. If you are not breastfeeding, the AAP recommends giving your baby iron-fortified formula for the first year, combined with solid foods after six months. The AAP does not advise parents to add infant cereal to a baby's bottle at any time.
When your child is between 4 and 6 months old, able to hold his head up high and has doubled his birth weight, you can start to introduce iron-fortified infant cereal fed to him on a spoon. The AAP advises parents to make sure it is a single ingredient cereal, such as infant rice or oatmeal without any added dairy or fruit, to avoid triggering allergies. Mix the cereal with enough water or milk (formula or breast) to make it very thin at first, until your child gets used to the texture and eating from a spoon. Once he is used to the cereal, you can slowly serve it at a thicker consistency.
Meat and Protein
The AAP recommends introducing pureed meats as one of the first solid foods because of the need to give your child food rich in iron. This is especially important in breastfed babies because of the minimal amounts of iron and zinc in breast milk. Start out with pureed chicken, turkey or beef, with no additional ingredients or seasonings. Serve one type of meat at a time, taking a few days between to get him accustomed to the taste and texture. After 8 months of age, you can start to serve soft meat that is very finely diced instead of pureed. You can also serve finely diced tofu as another source of protein. While many pediatricians do not recommend serving your child eggs or fish until after a year old, according to the AAP there is no evidence that serving it to infants over 6 months of age will cause allergies. However, you should consult with your pediatrician on the matter.
Fruit and Vegetables
Pureed fruits and vegetables are the next foods to introduce to your baby. Start with just one fruit, such as bananas, and wait several days before introducing another fruit to see if he has any allergic reactions. Other fruits and vegetables to introduce include applesauce, sweet potatoes, corn and pears. As long as your baby has no allergic reaction, the AAP recommends introducing him to a variety of pureed fruits and vegetables so he learns to accept different tastes as he grows. After 8 months of age, you can start to serve diced, soft fruit and fully cooked vegetables that your baby can pick up and feed himself with.
Grains and Pasta
You can start to introduce soft, small pieces of whole-grain bread or flour tortillas, well-cooked pasta and rice to your baby at around 8 months of age. This also includes teething biscuits and baby crackers. Bread should be served in tiny, bite-sized pieces. Do not serve any type of bread or crackers that contain seeds, nuts or whole grain kernels of any kind. You can also give your child plain yogurt, cottage cheese and finely diced soft cheese. Make sure that you are serving your child full-fat dairy products, which is recommended by the AAP for most babies until the age of 2, as infants and toddlers need healthy fats for brain development.
Important Do's and Don'ts
Babies just starting out on solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age should typically be served about 1 to 2 tablespoons of solid food per meal, gradually increasing it once they are used to the food. By the time your baby reaches 12 months of age, he should be eating at least 4 ounces of food at every meal, and no more than 1000 calories a day, according to the AAP. If you make your own pureed baby foods, the AAP also recommends not preparing beets, spinach, squash, green beans or carrots at home because of the level of nitrates that they may contain.
Once your child starts eating finger foods, his chances of choking on food greatly increases. Keep choking hazards to a minimum by chopping all finger food up into pieces no larger than a 1/2 inch in size, as recommended by the AAP. Make sure your child is always sitting when she is eating and teach her to chew her food completely before swallowing. Do not give your child any hard or sticky food items, such as peanut butter, nuts, seeds or large chunks of meat such as cut up hot dogs of any kind. Do not give your young child any hard fruit chunks, such as apples, or raw vegetables either.