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Baby Food Basics
by Rebecca Garland

Beginning solid food, or what passes for solid food, is one of the most exciting milestones in a parent’s life. Babies get excited, too – but usually not until after the first few attempts wind up everywhere but in her stomach. As you begin baby food, there are many schools of thought on how to begin, what to feed when, and how to move through the various stages. Every child and every family is different, but the most parents and doctors accept some universal baby food basics.

Starting Solids
At the moment, the recommendation is to delay any solid foods until a baby is a full six months of age. However, some doctors recommend starting babies closer to four months. Some parents start their children even earlier, although baby tummies are not often ready for baby foods much sooner than four to six months – it varies by the child.

Your child will begin to show signs which can give you an indication that she is ready to sample the world beyond milk. Signs of readiness include:

  • Good head control
  • Ability to sit with support
  • Interested in the foods you eat
  • Consuming more than 32-36 ounces of milk or formula and still showing signs of hunger.

When your child is ready, start her off with a bland food such as iron fortified rice cereal or oatmeal as these have fewer allergic responses in children.

Mix it liberally with formula or breast milk and feed her a bite on a spoon. Avoid cereal or baby food feeders as they do not help your child learn to eat properly.

The bite will most likely come right back out due to her tongue thrust response, and even when she is able to overcome that response after a few meals, your baby will “chew” by squashing food on the roof of her mouth for a long time making mealtimes messy, but fun.

Ages and Stages
First foods (4-6 months)
The first month or two of solids will be a time of introductions. First you will introduce a cereal (or other bland food if you prefer.) Your baby will learn how to take food from the spoon and how to show you she is done. She’ll do this by closing her mouth, turning her head or fussing.

You’ll gradually introduce basic foods such as single grain cereals, vegetables, and fruits. Wait 3-5 days between new foods to check for any allergic response, and avoid mixed foods until your baby has been introduced to all foods separately. Every time you introduce a new food, wait a few days for her response.

Eating Meals (6-7 months)
While your little one is learning about foods and you are introducing new fruits and vegetables, full meals are most likely not required. But as you approach seven to eight months, and you little one’s appetite continues to increase, you can offer her up to three meals a day, with breast milk or formula as part of the meal and separately throughout the day.

A full meal consists of 2-4 tablespoons of cereal mixed with formula, breast milk, juice or water, 4-5 tablespoons of a veggie and/or 4-5 tablespoons of a fruit. This can be a lot for some babies, and others might need a few extra tablespoons of cereal to help them stay full. Remember, your baby should be drinking 24-32 ounces of formula per day in addition to her meals. Formula or milk mixed with cereal is included in this total.

This is also a good time to introduce 100% fruit juices, but limit juice intake to 2-4 ounces per day. You can offer juice in a cup to help her learn that important skill.

Expanding Options (8-10 months)
By eight months, your baby has probably sampled most fruits, vegetable, and cereals and is eating at least two meals a day at regular times – in addition to bottle or breast feedings.

Starting around eight months, you can expand baby’s diet to include protein, finger foods, and dairy. Protein sources can include egg yolks, pureed meats, lentils or cheese. Dairy should be whole fat items including yogurt and cheese, but not whole milk – it is too harsh on baby’s stomach.

First finger foods should be soft and easy for baby to pick up and hold. She will first grasp the food and gum it – so toast or crackers are a good choice. As her pincher grasp develops, you can move on to small pieces of cheese, pasta, dry cereal, cut fruits and veggies and very small, soft pieces of meat.

A Little Person (11-12 months)
As your baby approaches a year, she is starting to eat like a regular person – or as close to it as a finger-food-eater can be. She should have three meals a day with two snacks. Her formula, juice and breastmilk can be served in a cup or bottle, but a cup will help with weaning.

All food groups are included in her diet, and encourage self feeding although she won’t be able to handle a spoon well for some time. At one year, she can be moved to whole milk or a toddler formula which should be served in a cup as she is weaned from the bottle. Remember to avoid foods such as hard candy, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter, and whole grapes that are choking hazards until your child is able to chew them properly – probably close to four or five years of age.

Want to read more? Here is another article related to baby food.

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