Luckily for us, when babies are first born, we are equipped with the most perfect all-natural food for them right from the beginning. Breast milk is the most vitamin-rich and complete source of nutrition that a baby needs. But, as time passes, baby’s development will outgrow the caloric supply that breast milk can provide, and he will need to be supplemented with additional foods. However, it is difficult to know when is the right time to introduce certain foods, what quantity, which order and most importantly which foods to avoid.
Here, we will attempt to review some basic guidelines to assist you in understanding these very fluid transitions. This review is not meant to be viewed as a comprehensive discussion, but rather as an overview by which you may research certain topics further to suit your individual needs.
For the first 4-6 months of life, a baby needs only his mother’s milk. Between the ages 4 and 6 months, you can begin introducing your baby to certain grains, fruits and vegetables to supplement breast milk. It is not necessary at this age for them to have additional protein or dairy. Acceptable grains for 6-month-olds include rice, barley and oats. Rice and oatmeal are typically the least allergenic. A baby’s first fruits are typically apples, bananas and pears, while first vegetables are usually acorn or butternut squash, sweet potatoes and green beans. Except for bananas, both fruits and vegetables must be cooked until they are a soft consistency until a baby is at least 8 months of age, or until choking is no longer an issue. It is important to only introduce a single new food at a time for a few days to assess for any intolerance or allergic reactions. Once you know your baby can tolerate different foods, it is perfectly acceptable to mix known foods together, for example rice cereal and bananas or apples with squash.
Between 6 and 8 months, you may increase your baby’s dietary vocabulary to include some protein and dairy while expanding his menu of fruits and vegetables. This time frame is typically when you start to build in more orange and green vegetables, like peas and carrots. Don’t be afraid to build your baby’s exotic palate with mangoes, peaches and avocados, which are rich in essential fats. Plus, you can begin slowly building in turkey, chicken and tofu for protein sources. However, meats must be thoroughly cooked without any pink in the center. Never serve a baby raw fish or meat. Finally, plain whole milk yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and great for making smoothies.
Between 8 and 10 months old, the grains list becomes extensive to include foods such as quinoa, Cheerios, toast, flax and crackers. Babies’ meals become in sync with the family’s menu and include such things as onions, peppers, mushrooms and potatoes. Protein sources expand to egg yolks and beans/legumes, pork and beef. Now, your baby can digest all sorts of hard and soft cheeses. And finally, fruits now include berries, melons, grapes (cut) and peeled mashed kiwi and papaya.
As baby rounds out his first year, his dietary options explode into a wonderland of flavors and textures. He can enjoy pasta and bagels. Now, he can try his hand at any variety of citrus options, including tomatoes. Vegetable choices include salad favorites such as cucumbers, spinach, beets, and corn. Don’t forget to continue to mix these choices in different combinations into nutritious smoothies that he is independently enjoying in his big boy “sippy cup.” He can begin tasting whole eggs and fish for the first time and drinking whole milk as an alternative as he weans from breast milk or formula.
All of these choices are delicious and nutritious and cost saving when made at home. See this first year as a time of rebirth and discovery of your own relationship with food. Witness the joy on your child’s face as he navigates and discovers new taste sensations, and commit to making healthier choices for your family’s future. Don’t you owe it to yourself and your health?