Post on: July 10, 2015.
Posted in: Read.
Q: When should I start introducing solids?
According to experts, go ahead and grab a spoon if your baby has good head control, can sit up well, shows interest in eating, puts toys in his mouth and can demonstrate when he is full or done eating. For most moms this happens somewhere between 4 to 6 months of age but, remember every baby is a unique person: “My eldest was grabbing the spoon and gobbling it up at six months, but my youngest could care less about solids,” says Alexandra of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The World Health Organization suggests that a baby should be eating solids around 6 months of age. This is based on research that by 6 months of age breast milk lacks sufficient nutrients to meet a baby’s growing needs. Even after starting solids, the WHO encourages women to continue breastfeeding (up to 2 years of age or beyond).
Yet, despite experts’ recommendations to introduce solid foods into a baby’s diet no earlier than 4 to 6 months, over 40 percent of mothers are doing so earlier, according to a study published in the April 2013 issue of Pediatrics. The study notes that introducing solid foods early raises concerns: a baby’s body is not yet prepared for these foods and thus early introduction may increase the risk of some chronic diseases.
Q: What foods should I start with?
By 6 months of age, a baby’s nutritional needs for iron and zinc exceed what is available in breast milk, which kick-starts the nutritional need to introduce solids. Your growing baby’s body may also need more vitamin D, particularly in northern countries like Canada where little sunlight exposure occurs. A growing baby also needs lots of protein and B vitamins. As well, research is showing the importance of including sufficient essential fatty acids in a baby’s diet to promote healthy eye and brain development.
With these nutritional factors in mind, baby cereal has been a long standing favourite as it is fortified with iron, zinc and B vitamins. Further, its consistency can be adjusted easily to appease any picky eater. However, some babies do not like the taste, consistency, or react they to the rice or gluten. There are other, potentially better, foods to consider giving your baby first.
The best place to start is to focus on iron-rich foods. Green peas are packed with B vitamins, iron, zinc and protein making them an ideal first food for baby. Tofu or beans are a great source of iron and zinc, and can easily be cut into fun, finger-sized bites for babies. Fish, eggs and meats are also good sources of iron and zinc. Since fish isn’t always palatable to babies try adding a squirt of fish oil (or an omega 369 formula) into your baby’s food.
Once you’ve served up some iron-rich foods into your baby’s diet you can have fun with fruits and vegetables – avocado is a great food to start with as it is creamy, delicious and is a source of iron and folate (a B vitamin).
Q: What about food allergies?
“The allergy question is a big one I hear from parents a lot, especially in light of new information regarding the dangers of waiting too long to introduce allergens,” comments pre-school teacher Katie of Burlington, Ontario. Previous theories suggested parents delay the introduction of allergen foods to babies until 9 months to one year of age. However, newer research suggests there is no benefit to delaying the introduction of any specific solid food, including highly allergenic proteins (fish, eggs, peanuts) beyond six months of age to prevent food allergies from developing. The latest guidelines from the Canadian Pediatric Society suggest parents do not delay the introduction of allergenic foods – this is consistent with those introduced in 2008 by Europe and Australia.
Q: How do you start solids with a picky eater?
It seems almost every week another one of your baby’s shirts is too tight. Babies grow quickly and when they aren’t eating well it can be stressful for parents. Mom of two, Tricia of Hamilton, Ontario asked, “What do you do when babe won’t eat that lovely baby cereal, even though ‘everyone’ says they need to?” Her youngest refused to eat baby cereals and most purees. Tricia found soft finger foods were a hit with her youngest, and decided to give up on purees and cereals. Finger foods like cooked beans, tofu, avocado and green peas can be great first foods for some picky eaters.
It can be very concerning to a mom when their baby is being a picky eater. “I was stressed about what nutrients he was missing and how to get them into him,” says Anne of Barrie, Ontario. Anne’s son spit out or refused to try most foods. Unfortunately, you can never make a child eat at any age. All a parent can do is keep offering healthy choices. If your child refuses to eat a food, offer them another healthy option or vary the way it is prepared.
Q: Is there any truth to the saying, “Food under one is just for fun”?
Some confusion surrounds this expression. It may have evolved from theories about baby led weaning which has evolved to help encourage women to keep breast milk as the main food source for babies. However, some websites have taken this statement farther suggesting babies do not need complimentary food until they are one year old. Clinical research has found that breast milk is the ideal food for babies, yet by 6 months of age a baby’s need for iron, essential fatty acids and some vitamins exceeds what breast milk offers. As such, nutritional guidelines from the World Health Organization and other health organizations recommend all babies eat complementary foods from 6 months of age onwards.
Some Solid Foods for Baby that have a Great Nutritional Profile
- Baby Cereal
- Cooked beans (navy, black, kidney)
- Green Peas
Wondering about what foods to eat when you are pregnant? Check out 11 Things to Know About Prenatal Nutrition.
Clayton, H. et al. Prevalence and Reasons for Introducing Infants Early to Solid Foods: Variations by Milk Feeding Type. Pediatrics – Vol. 131 No. 4 April 1, 2013
Canadian Pediatric Society – Statement – Dietary Exposures and Allergy Prevention in High Risk Infants