Whether breastfeeding, bottlefeeding, or a combination, your infant will show interest in "real" food before you are likely ready to start offering solid food. Beginning at just a few months old, your baby will notice you eating and watch as you eat and drink. He may reach for your fork or mimic your chewing as he watches.
When you introduce solid food depends on a few factors, including input from your pediatrician. The American Academy for Pediatrics (AAP) recommends beginning solids at six months , but there may be reasons your physician recommends you begin earlier or later.
As you begin to offer solids, keep a log of what you offer. It is a helpful way to track possible allergic reactions, but is also a handy resource when you are tired and can't think what to make. It's like a menu for your baby!
(A note about allergies: Some children show a sensitivity to new foods -- such as a red circle on their bottom or other mild symptom. This is different than an allergy, but the symptoms can be similar. If you have concerns or questions, consult your physician, but know that a one-time mild symptom doesn't necessarily mean your child will suffer from life-long allergic reactions.)
Parents have many options available for offering first foods. There are several brands of infant-specific foods available in grocery stores. And many parents find it just as easy to offer food they already have around the house or to prepare food without special processors.
Here are some recipes for feeding your baby, age 6-12 months:
Mix a small amount of powdered cereal in breastmilk or formula. Starting with a very thin mixture will be most familiar for your baby. Try different flavors -- oatmeal, barley, wheat, rice, or a combination.
No Fuss Ice Cube Purees:
Use a steam basket on the stove or a bowl in the microwave to steam vegetables and fruits. Allow to cool and pulse in a blender or food processor to puree the food. Freeze in regular ice cube trays. Two full trays will give you 24 servings -- enough for two weeks or more, depending on your young eater. After freezing, store the cubes in marked bags in the freezer. You need a pretty small amount of food to make these cubes -- a half sweet potato will make 6-8 cubes.
Combine a tablespoon or so of cooked and pureed vegetables -- peas, carrots, squash, sweet potato, etc. -- in the milky cereal mixture. Over time, you can change the proportion of milk, cereal and vegetables to change the flavors and texture.
Mix a few tablespoons of avocado and banana and mash it up thoroughly. The sweet and fatty combo is great for new eaters, and the consistency is great for babies holding their own spoons.
Foods to avoid:
- Honey -- Unpasteurized honey can contain bacteria that can be dangerous for the immune systems of babies
- Milk -- Cow's milk should not replace breastmilk or formula until your baby is older than one year. It is fine to use milk in recipes, you just don't want to fill him up on cow's milk, which is nutritionally insufficient for young babies.
- Choking hazards -- Without teeth or lip and tongue coordination, some foods are difficult for young children to navigate. Foods like blueberries, grapes, cherry tomatoes, hot dog chunks, popcorn should be delayed until the child has more experience eating, and children should always be supervised with food.
And around the time this becomes a comfortable routine, you'll be ready for the next step. Part 2: Feeding your Toddler coming soon!