When do I start?
According to the Canadian Pediatric Society it is recommended to start solids at 6 months whereas the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting as early as 4 months. As a compromise I decided to start at 5 months. Recent research has shown that introduction of solid beyond 6 months is associated with higher risk of allergies. However, it is also important to make sure your baby can sit up, in a secure high chair, and is able to hold their head up before you start feeding solids.
How do I introduce solids?
Introducing solids to a baby is not like it used to be. Before, there were restrictions on the type of food. Now, it is recommended to start any food (even whole eggs, peanuts & fish) as long as you follow a gradual introduction process and proper preparation with a texture appropriate to age.
What is the introduction process?
When starting a new food you want to do it one food at a time to ensure that it does not cause a reaction for your baby. To do that, you have to go through the process of trying a new food item for two days and observing whether or not your child has a reaction. An allergic reaction could be in a form of a rash, diarrhea or vomiting. When you are assured that it is safe, you can start combining it with another food item. For example: zucchini for two days, then zucchini and sweet potato. If there is no reaction then add another and so on.
What do I start first?
Anything, except honey and cow’s milk are NOT to be given before 1 year. Juices and sugary drinks are also not recommended at any age.
The first food I gave my baby was an Avocado. Avocados, to me, were perfect in terms of texture, nutrition and neutral taste.
Of course don’t expect your baby to eat a full meal from the start. The first time was more of an introduction of the texture of solids compared to the liquid consistency of milk. You have to build up to that point, with consistency and patience.
My approach was to try to always choose less sugary fruits as much as I could; to make sure that sweet is not the only taste that is experienced, which could lead to picky eating in the future.
Milk first or food first?
- Up to 6 months: milk first, then food.
- After 6 months: food first then milk (if needed)
- Since milk inhibits the absorption of iron, make sure to wait an hour before or after giving any milk/dairy. (If you wish to give yogurt, make sure to buy ones that are age appropriate to avoid added sugar and other additives)
- Try not giving milk right before bedtime to avoid tooth decay. If you do, make sure to brush the teeth with baby toothbrush and water.
What kind of food should I focus more on?
Since babies beyond 6 months of age have depleted their iron storage, it is very important to make sure that there’s always a source of iron in your baby’s meals.
Baby cereal is fortified with iron (up to 100% per 1/3 cup) and other vitamins. I don’t recommend that cereals are the main source of nutrition since babies should have a variety of foods, but it does help meet the requirements. Just make sure when choosing the cereal, look for whole grain, organic and not just rice cereals. Also, make sure that it is “added” to a pureed fruit because Vitamin C aids in iron absorption. (see table below for combination options)
When buying fruits & veggies try to find organic to avoid pesticide residue.
When buying meat & poultry try to find organic to avoid antibiotics and growth hormones.
When buying eggs try to find pasture raised (farmer's market eggs) to avoid antibiotics and growth hormones as well as unnatural raising settings that lead to less nutrients in the eggs.
These are just ways to guide you to make better choices for your little ones, by limiting the exposure to these substances since babies are more susceptible that adults.
How often do I feed my baby?
How do I prepare the food?
Fruits & veggies: when you first start feeding your baby food, it’s better to peel the fruit or vegetable to avoid stomach issues since the baby is not used to solids. Cut into cubes and steam for 20-25 minutes. Then purée.
Meat & poultry: Poach for an hour with water, onions & a few mild spices (optional) I use cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf & sometimes rosemary. Then purée.
Eggs: hard boil for 10 minutes. Then purée.
DO NOT ADD SALT OR SUGAR.
What do I use to make the food?
I started using the normal pot attachment steamer. Which worked fine but I didn’t have a proper food processor. I later bought the Beaba Babycook Plus, I have been using it for the past couple of months and I love it.
Menu sample options
Make sure that every meal has the following a Iron source, Vitamin C source & Fiber
Use the lists below to mix & match from each side. I usually choose 1-2 iron options and as many vitamin C options as I like.
Please keep in mind these are just examples and you are not limited to these choices only.
Vitamin C Sources: (To aid absorption of iron)
LUNCH & DINNER OPTIONS:
- Red Meat
- Fish*: low mercury options: light canned tuna, Salmon - Chum, Coho, Pink, Wild Pacific
*not more than 2 servings of 75 grams or 2.5 ounces or about half a cup per week.
- Kidney beans
Vitamin C Sources: (To aid absorption of iron)
- Yellow bell pepper (my go to Vitamin C source – I add it to any savory puree)
- Sweet potato (my power food – I add it to any savory puree)
- Brussels sprouts
- Kale (has both iron & vitamin C)
This post has been written based on the combination of my knowledge as a nutritionist, my husband's knowledge as a pediatrician & our joint experience as new parents. However, it does not substitute medical advice, so please consult with your own pediatrician for individual feeding issues.