A Pediatrician’s Advice For Introducing Solid Foods
Updated: Mar 20, 2019
A Pediatrician’s advice for introducing solid foods
Introducing solid foods can be such a fun and messy milestone for your baby to achieve. Your super mama powers of making breast milk have sustained your little one for all of these months.
Now it is time to start down the path of teaching your child how to eat solid food.
There are many resources available to help guide you in this process. I wanted to share with you some of the newer recommendations and personal pediatrician mommy thoughts about how to get started. Let’s look at some key points and things to remember when introducing your baby to this new skill.
Iron rich foods are your friend
While breast milk is perfect in most every way, your exclusively breastfed baby’s iron stores that were set in place at birth are at their lowest by 4-6 months of age. While the iron in breast milk is more bioavailable (ready for the body to use) than in formula, it is not enough to sustain your baby’s needs beyond six months. Iron rich foods such as iron fortified baby cereals, ground or pureed meats and dark green vegetables should be some of the first foods that you introduce to your baby.
Your pediatrician might recommend starting an iron supplement at four months of age based on guidelines from the AAP and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. Other pediatricians are comfortable with a baby getting their iron from their diet as long as they are taking in iron rich foods. These recommendations apply to babies who are exclusively breastfed and were born full term. If you have questions, ask your pediatrician at your 4 month well child check.
Start allergenic foods early
This is a newer recommendation and based on the LEAP study which was published in 2015. The study showed that early introduction of peanut protein actually lowered the risk of a child have an allergic reaction to the food. So, does that mean that you should be feeding your 6 month old baby big globs of peanut butter? No, definitely not.
There are safe ways to introduce peanut protein and other allergenic foods. You can put a small smear of peanut butter on a cracker or soft piece of fruit, feed peanut butter baby puffs or mix powdered peanut butter into your baby’s cereal or yogurt. The same goes for eggs and fish. Small soft scrambled egg, diced up boiled egg or crumbled pieces of soft fish are great ways to introduce these allergenic foods. If you have a family history of severe allergies, ask your pediatrician’s advice before following these recommendations.
Don’t depend on pouched baby food
This recommendation is my personal opinion as a pediatrician and a mom. Pouches of baby food offer convenience when you are on the go, and are not harmful to offer your baby on occasion. The trouble with them comes when you are depending on them exclusively to feed your baby.
The process of actually learning to eat whole foods by touching them, picking them up and exploring their textures and smells are an important skill for babies to acquire as they learn to eat.
By eating pieces of whole foods, babies not only develop these physical skills but also learn to listen to their full and hunger cues.
It is easy for a baby to consume a pouch of pureed food even when they are not necessarily hungry and this is part of what makes them not a good option.
There is more to eating that just consuming calories. Teaching your baby to learn to eat different kinds of foods will also help avoid being stuck in some of the picky eating habits as they enter their toddler years.
Best method for food introduction
Baby led weaning, pureed baby foods, food in jars, only homemade foods- does it really matter how we do it? Not really. The studies on the subject are inconclusive at best. There is no one way to do it, so don’t let your mom friends make you feel guilty for doing it differently.
The important thing to remember is to make sure whatever you are feeding your baby will not cause them to choke and that they are seated and supervised during mealtime. If you choose to make your own baby food, just make sure you follow safe food handling for preparing and storing the food.
Incorporate your baby into family mealtimes. Once you have completed the process of introducing new foods one at a time, sit them in their high chair and feed them smashed up version of what the rest of the family is enjoying for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Make sure to continue breastfeeding. Babies should still be getting most of their calories from breast milk until the age of 12 months. Between the ages of 6-12 months, they should take about 24- 32 ounces of breastmilk per day (or nurse on demand) in addition to solid foods.
Enjoy this fun milestone and take lots of pictures!
Dr. Andrea Wadley
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