Just when you start getting used to the routine of breast feeding or feeding formula, a big milestone creeps up on you before you even know it. Around the age of 4-6 months most babies are amenable to the introduction of solid foods. My recommendation is to start the process around the 5 month mark so that you are good to go by 6 months- which is when American Association of Pediatricians recommends you to start solids in earnest. If you start beyond 6 months there is danger that the child may reject the texture.
There is a checklist that I have borrowed from various blogs including www.healthychildren.org which I found really useful to decide whether the child is ready for solids or not.
This is what you should be looking for .
- Can the baby sit upright
- Can the baby hold his head up
- Does he open his mouth when the bottle is brought near his mouth
- Has the baby mastered toungue movement and is able to push food from a spoon into his throat.
- Is the baby able to keep food in his mouth instead of letting it leak out.
- Is the baby still hungry after his regular portion of milk
- Has the baby at least doubled its birth weight
So you checked and looks like the baby is ready. So the next question is what do I feed him or her.
I have highlighted in bold the fruits and veggies that are safe for 4-6 month old babies.
Important thing to note
- Starting solids does not mean discontinuation of milk or formula, it only means addition of solids.
- When doctors say solids – they mean purees not hard crunchy solids.
- You can whip up these purees with a food processor and some basic veggies and fruits – and that is enough.
- But many of you may not have time to make these meals all the time and that’s ok. There are multitudes of choices in fruit and veggie purees available everywhere but the expenses can quickly add up.
- The first foods that you give your baby must be easy to digest and unlikely to provoke an allergic reaction.
- Introduce new foods slowly, they tend to recommend 3 days between each new ingredient so you can pinpoint allergies.
- Introduce new foods in the morning rather than night time so that you can monitor for allergies etc.
- Don’t be tempted to add salt or sugar to your baby’s food, however bland. Salt may harm your baby’s kidneys and sugar will encourage a sweet tooth.
- For the first few weeks it is not a good idea to give mixtures of foods other than baby rice mixed with a fruit or vegetable puree. When mixed together it is hard to pinpoint which foods are causing allergy and you might make the same mistake again.
- Introducing solids can cause constipation in some babies. So look for some help with this in order to address the issue.
- No whole milk till they are a year old and no yoghurt or cheese till they are 8 months old.
- Not all 6 month olds will eagerly lap up the solids that you serve them. My suggestion is keep trying with a few days break between each attempt.
- Babies should always be fed sitting upright in a high chair and no food should go into their mouth when they are in reclined position.
- Do not give any food which could pose a choking hazard – such as grapes, popcorns or any of the recommended food that is cut into large chunks.
- No finger foods should be given till they are at least 8 months old.
So what do you start with. Any of the following
- Fruits – Start with bananas, apples, pears and avocados
- Bananas and Avocados can be eaten raw. Other fruits need to be boiled to help with the digestion. Choose organic for the important few.
- Apple puree is very easy to digest, so it makes great baby food. The BRAT diet (that is, banana, rice, apples, and toast) is popular with doctors for the relief of diarrhea. Pectin, the soluble fiber in apples, also helps fight against constipation.
- Papaya flesh is easy to swallow, so it makes ideal weaning food. It is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, and 3 ounces of papaya will provide a young child’s daily requirement of vitamin C. Papaya is also high in soluble fiber, which is important for normal bowel function. Papaya also contains enzymes that aid digestion.
- Pears are one of the least allergenic foods, so they make great weaning food.
- Bananas are full of slow-release sugars, which provide sustained energy. They make perfect portable baby food, as they come in their own easy-to-peel packaging. They are also good for the treatment of diarrhea and constipation.
- Apricots are a good source of beta-carotene and also contain fiber. They’re also a good source of iron and potassium.
- Cantaloupe is the most nutritious variety of melon. It is very sweet and rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene.
- Blueberries are rich in vitamin C and also contain beta-carotene. The blue pigment anthocyanin in the skin of the blueberries helps protect us against cancer. Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of all fruits.
- Peaches provide a good source of vitamin C, and the soft flesh is easy to digest.
- Cereals – White Rice should be the first cereal you introduce because it does not contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, oats, barley, and rye that can cause food allergy if introduced before 6 months. Baby rice is easily digested and has a milky taste that helps to ease your baby’s transition from a purely milk-based diet to solids. It is a good thickener for runny purees like pear, peach, and plum.
- Veggies – Start by boiling the recommended veggies and feeding individually. Butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrot and green beans should the veggies you start with.
- Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A, and make excellent weaning food, as babies like their naturally sweet taste. Darker, older carrots contain more beta-carotene than baby, new carrots.
- Root vegetables make the perfect weaning food because of their naturally sweet taste and smooth texture when pureed. Try carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, rutabaga, and parsnip.
- Butternut squash is easily digested and rarely causes allergies; therefore it makes perfect weaning food. It provides an excellent source of beta-carotene.
- Parsnips provide a good source of starch and fiber. They also contain the antioxidant vitamins C and E.
- Sweet potato comes in two varieties: orange-fleshed and creamy-fleshed. Both have red skins and both are good sources of potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. However, I prefer to use the orange-fleshed variety, which is also an excellent source of beta-carotene. This helps to prevent certain types of cancer and mops up free radicals.
- Zucchini is a good source of beta-carotene, but most of the nutrients lie in the skin, so do not peel it.
- Broccoli is a true Superfood, as it is a great source of vitamin C and also contains beta-carotene, folic acid, iron, potassium, and anticancer phytonutrients. Broccoli is best steamed or microwaved, as boiling it in water halves its vitamin C content. If your baby isn’t keen on the taste, mix it with a sweet-tasting vegetable like sweet potato, rutabaga, or butternut squash.
- Potatoes contain vitamin C and are a good source of potassium. They also blend well with most vegetables.
- Green Beans
- Proteins – Many pediatricians are now recommending meat, boiled and pureed as first foods – as a source of iron. It is important to introduce iron-rich foods, as a baby’s iron reserves inherited from his mother start to run out at 6 months. Breast milk does not contain adequate amounts of iron.
- Water – Babies under 6 months get most of their water requirements from breast milk or formula. You can start supplementing water once they are 6 months old.