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The period from childbirth to a baby’s first birthday is full of rapid changes. One day you’re breastfeeding your baby, and the next it’s time to feed your baby their first solid food.
There is an incredible amount of information on what to feed and how to feed your baby, and this article will consolidate all the information with evidence-based research.
When to Start Feeding Your Baby Solid Foods
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. After that initial feeding, there are two main types of feeding: complementary and supplementary.
Complementary feeding is when you introduce solid foods to your baby at 6 months. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, you should introduce solid foods at approximately 6 months of age in a soft-liquid or semisolid form. (1)
Supplementary foods are those foods that are eaten after 1 year of a baby’s life. These foods are not much different apart from their texture. Since babies’ teeth erupt by the time they turn 1, they can chew soft foods such as boiled or steamed veggies, soft cooked rice and lentils, finely shredded meat, and crispy cereal such as rice puffs.
Foods to Start With
You can safely feed the following solid foods to your young one(s).
1. Oatmeal or rice
Rice is a staple food in many households. It becomes extremely soft and mushy when cooked and is least likely to get stuck in the baby’s food pipe.
In addition, cereal grains are a great source of energy and important nutrients such as B-complex vitamins, iron (in fortified rice), and magnesium, and they can be easily mashed to soften.
Rice is also not a common allergen and can be mixed with other foods to alter its flavor. (2)
Oats can also be made into a soft or liquid porridge that packs a ton of nutrients. In addition, oats are rich in the soluble fiber called beta glucan, which can improve gut health by increasing the gut’s microorganism diversity. This also improves immunity and also reduces constipation and gas while the baby transitions from milk to solid foods. (3)
Cook oats with water to reduce the risk of allergies to milk.
Lentils are also staple foods in some households and are rich in nutrients including vitamin A, folate, B-complex vitamins, vitamins E and K, iron, selenium, and zinc. They are also an abundant source of protein and can be a good way to transition babies into eating solid foods. (4)
Depending on how long you cook lentils, you can alter their texture from soft to semisolid to liquid.
3. Sweet potato
Root vegetables such as potato and sweet potato are also great foods to start your baby on. They can be mashed and do not present a choking hazard.
Sweet potato is rich in vitamin A and beta carotene, which are great antioxidants. Studies have also identified sweet potato as an effective and highly nutritious addition to a baby’s diet in low-income countries. (5)
Banana is a soft and delicious food for a baby’s diet. Studies have identified bananas (ripe) to be useful in improving the weight of babies and managing malnutrition. (6)
Unripe or green banana is also used to relieve diarrhea. (7) Just make sure you use cooking methods such as boiling or stewing to soften the unripe banana.
Though banana is not likely to cause allergic reactions, there has been a case of a 4-month-old baby presenting with allergy symptoms upon eating bananas. (8) Thus, introduce banana as a single food (not mixed with other foods), and pay close attention to any rashes or redness that may appear on the skin.
You will find apples in most store-bought baby foods and rightly so. Population studies have discovered that adding apples to a child’s diet at all stages was useful in reducing the risk of obesity. (9)
Apples are replete with phytonutrients that offer protection from diabetes and obesity, improve the detoxification ability of the body, and reduce inflammation. (10)
You can stew apples by adding a whole apple with peel into a pot of simmering water for 3–5 minutes. The flesh will become tender and can be easily fed to the child. It can also be blended or cooked into applesauce.
Cooked peas are a great and easily digestible source of protein for babies. (11) They can be mashed and fed to the baby.
Whole peas can also be placed in front of the baby to encourage them to pick them up to improve motor control.
Pears are a rich source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. This fiber along with the fructose content can be effective in relieving constipation. Their naturally sweet flavor is also preferable and makes them a good choice as first foods for babies. (12)
Pears can be stewed similarly to apples to soften their texture.
Carrots are teeming in beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin C. It acts as an antioxidant and can be great for boosting immunity as well as preventing constipation. (13)
When cooked, carrots can turn soft and can be mashed to reduce the risk of choking.
Avocados have recently gained popularity and are being preferred as first food for babies. They are rich in fiber and can improve the diversity of gut microorganisms in babies.
They are also a great source of healthy fats and can fulfill the nutritional needs of the baby well. (14)
Mangoes are rich in vitamin A and beta carotene. (13) They have a preferable flavor profile and can be mashed and easily fed.
Mangoes also contain some amounts of vitamin C and can increase the absorption of iron from other sources you would include. (15)
Top Tips to Remember When Feeding
Keep these guidelines in mind when introducing solid foods to your baby: (16)
- Start with liquid or semisolid foods. Foods such as cow milk, yogurt, and mashed foods are ideal.
- Introduce one food at a time and continue it for 3–5 days before introducing the next new source. This helps identify potential allergies and preferences.
- Cut food into small pieces and remove seeds, bones, or peels to eliminate choking hazards.
- Cook grains/lentils well and mash before feeding.
- Make sure your baby is sitting upright to avoid the risk of choking.
Precautions to Consider
It is crucial to remember that not all babies receive food the same way. You can repeat the introduction of new foods after every few weeks.
In addition, prioritize making baby foods at home to prevent the addition of additives or other possible toxins.
Most-Asked Questions About Feeding Solid Foods to Babies
Can I give meat to my baby?
Meat is a great source of protein and can boost the nutritional value of meals. However, do not begin the phase of complementary feeding with the addition of meat. You can introduce it after a week or two of complimentary feeding.
When can I mix foods together?
Once you have introduced individual foods and have checked for the risk of allergies, you can start combining foods to improve flavor and boost their nutritional value. Sweet potato, carrot, and pear are a good combination to try. Rice or lentils can be cooked together to make a nourishing porridge.
Solid foods are usually introduced to babies at the 6-month mark along with breastfeeding or infant formula. Cultural and social norms heavily influence food choices, and there is a variety of foods you can pick from.
Foods such as rice, oats, lentils, carrots, pears, apples, avocados, and mangoes are great and nutritious starting points. Make sure you introduce one food at a time to identify potential allergens.
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