Introducing solid foods
For the first six months of a baby’s life, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively with the introduction of complementary foods after the baby has reached 6 months of age. Breastmilk is the main source of nutrition for your baby for the first year. Solids foods are considered an additional food and not a replacement of breastmilk. Introduction of solid foods before six months can preciptate allergies.

Signs that your baby is ready for solid foods will include his/her ability to sit up with support, the eruption of teeth (in some cases), improved hand-eye coordination, hold his/her head steady, keep food in his/her mouth and swallow and the ability to grasp objects with his/her thumbs and forefingers. He/she might stare at you while you eat, trying to reach for your food and attempting to imitate your eating behavior.

The introduction of solid foods should be a fun time for the family. It’s a gradual process that will allow the baby to get used to new textures and tastes without feeling overwhelmed. Messes are a part of this new experience. You can put some newspapers under the high chair to avoid stains on the carpet/rug and put a large bib on your baby. If possible, remove his clothes while eating and be ready to get him in the tub afterwards.

Offer the solid foods after breastfeeding as this will maintain your milk supply. Never leave your child unattended while eating.

La Leche League recommends starting your baby with mashed bananas as his first food as these are a better nutrition source than iron fortified baby cereals, which are a highly processed food. Babies fed on breastmilk absorb between 50-70 percent of the iron in breastmilk in comparison to only 4-10 percent of the iron fortified cereals and artificial baby milks. Remember, your baby is used to the sweet taste of your breastmilk, so bananas are a great first food.

Additional good first foods are sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, avocado and barley and oats cereals. The potaoes need to be cooked or baked whole to preserve the nutrients. After they’re done, mash them, add some of your breastmilk and they’re ready.

Start introducing solids once a day or every two days. Do not rush it. Start with a quarter of a teaspoon. If your baby swallows it and asks for more, he is ready. If he pushes the spoon out of his mouth with his tongue, wait a week and try again. Always follow your baby’s lead.

Give the same food for about a week before moving to a new food. This will allow you to identify possible allergy triggers. Signs of an allergic reaction include: rashes, redness of the baby’s anus, vomiting, gassiness, runny nose, fussiness and spitting up more than normal. If this happens, stop giving baby the food and allow him/her to clear it from his/her system before introducing something else.

If you have tried different foods individually and your baby has not developed a reaction/allergy, you can start mixing them and giving them to your baby.

Meats are the next step in introducing solids. They can be pureed using a food processor or baby food grinder. Stewed meat, ground beef or poultry can be cut into little pieces, or mashed with a fork and mixed with meat juices. Meat can also be mixed with a food that your baby is already familiar with. Tofu is a good alternative for vegetarian families. Cut it into small pieces and let your baby feed it to himself.

When your baby is nine or ten months old, cottage cheese, yogurt and natural cheeses can be introduced.

Water should be limited to sips from a sippy cup during meals. Fruits are always advised over juices. If you decide to introduce juices, you can make them yourself. Should you decide to buy the juice, read the label to ensure it is natural and free of added sugar, artificial flavors and colors. In both cases, dilute the juice with water.

Avoid sugar or artificial sweetener, molasses, puddings, candy, soft drinks and condiments such as: salt, mustard, ketchup, pepper and horseradish.

Highly allergenic foods such as wheat, corn, peanuts, pork, fish (especially shellfish), tomatoes, onions, cabbage, berries, nuts, spices, citrus fruits, chocolate, egg whites, and cow milk are not recommended until your baby has reached a year old.

Honey should not be given to a baby younger than a year. It contains Bolutism spores which the baby’s immune system cannot handle.

Also avoid small foods that pose a choking hazard such as nuts, seeds, popcorn kernels, hot dogs (whole or chunks), hard beans, hard candy, raw carrots, whole grapes, stringy foods and meat chunks.

Reference:
La Leche League International “Your Baby’s First Solid Food”