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When Should Infants Start Solid Food?

by Jessica May MS, RD/LD
Source: AND pediatric nutritional care manual

Q: What are some feeding recommendations for an infant just starting to eat solid foods?

A: Foods introduced to an infant while they are also still reliant on formula or breast milk are called complementary foods. An infant will most likely be ready for complementary foods anywhere from around four to six months when certain developmental signs are apparent such as the ability to sit with support and the loss of the tongue thrust reflex.

One of the very first foods that should be introduced to your child is baby cereal such as rice cereal. This seems to be the most tolerated and has the least risk of triggering a food allergy. Once rice cereal is tolerated well it is important to start introducing other foods one at a time with three to five days of waiting between different options to ensure there is no adverse reaction.

Feeding your baby mixed foods make it difficult to ascertain which specific ingredient may be causing an issue. Also allowing your child to try thing separately will allow him to experience each flavor separately and develop his own taste preferences. Just because an infant appears to be refusing a particular food item - don't give up! It can take as many as 10 to 20 exposures to a food before your baby shows acceptance. Patience is key!

Juice is not recommended until the infant is at least six months of age and even then it is recommend only to be given as 100 percent fruit juice - no added sweetners - and limited to four ounces a day. Juice should never be given in a bottle but always in a cup to discourage the child from falling asleep with the bottle in their mouths which can lead to baby bottle tooth decay.

Foods that should be avoided due to choking hazard include: popcorn, peanuts, raisins, whole grapes, hot dog pieces and hard, raw fruits. Honey should be avoided due to the risk of infection with botulism. No other milk besides formula or breast milk should be given in the first year. After the infant is one-year-old then other milks (cow, goat, sheep, etc.) can be introduced.

As far as commercially prepared baby food goes it is best to avoid baby foods with fillers in the ingredient label such as tapioca and modified food starch. Avoid baby food desserts due to the added sugar. It is better to avoid mixed baby foods when possible as these have been shown to not be as nutritionally beneficial as single ingredient foods which are kept separate and mixed by the caregiver as the baby is being fed. Never feed directly from the food jar as an infant's saliva can accelerate food spoilage.

All you need to make homemade baby food at home is a blender or a baby food grinder. Be sure to add formula, breast milk or water to thin out the mixture to the desired consistency. Homemade baby food can last as long as two months in the freezer if stored in small freezer containers or ice cube trays.

For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.

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