Breast milk is the perfect food for your healthy, full-term baby throughout his first year. Mothers of breastfed infants often wonder when is the best time to introduce solid food to their babies.
We hear many different forms of advice regarding this topic from our own family members, doctors, baby food companies and so on. The fact remains that each baby is different. All babies progress developmentally at different rates. Most babies are introduced to solid foods between four to six months of age. There are some advantages to waiting until your baby is around the middle of the first year.
Introducing solid food to your baby too early can cause allergies in some babies because their systems are not ready to digest foods other than human milk yet. Also, once your baby starts eating solid foods, he may not nurse as often. This will cause your milk supply to decrease. After solids have been introduced, your milk should still be your baby’s main source of nutrition during his first year. There are several signs to tell you that your baby might be ready for his first solid food.
If he is able to sit with support and is able to transfer food from the front of his tongue to the back of his mouth and swallow, he may be ready. Some babies will begin to reach out and grab for your food. Another advantage to waiting until close to six months of age is that you may be able to start your baby on foods right from the table.
These foods should be soft and be able to be mashed with a fork. Commercial baby food, for example a jar of bananas or carrots, is no more nutritious than using ripe bananas or cooked carrots that you have prepared at home. You should avoid using added sugar and salt when preparing your own baby foods. The most recommended first food is iron-fortified rice or barley baby cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. Usually one serving a day to start with and eventually the baby should be taking two servings each day.
Vegetables and fruits usually follow, introducing only one new food at a time. If a baby shows a sensitivity to a particular food, try it again in a few weeks. As your baby gets older, between 7-10 months, more table foods may be introduced. Try to introduce juice in a pup at this time also. An eight ounce bottle of juice is not necessary and can spoil your baby’s appetite. Three ounces of juice a day is sufficient.
Finger foods such as sliced toast, crackers and cereal can be offered. Very tender pieces of meat can be cut into small slivers or mashed with a fork and even mixed with a vegetable. It is a good idea to avoid eggs and dairy products until your baby is close to a year old. If you do introduce dairy products to your baby earlier, do so slowly. Perhaps start with yogurt or natural cheese rather than cow’s milk. As long as your baby is nursing there is no need to give your baby cow’s milk to drink before his first birthday.
There are some other foods to avoid while your child is small. Avoid adding sugar and salt to your baby’s foods. Avoid cookies and other sweets as long as possible. They provide little nutrition. Avoid honey in any form (even baked foods) for the first year. Honey can be contaminated and cause severe illness.
Eventually your baby will be eating 3 meals a day. At this stage he should be eating a variety of table foods including cereals and breads, fruits and vegetables, meats and juice. He may only be breast feeding four to six times in 24 hours. Most of the nursings take place after a meal rather than before a meal or as snacks in between meals. The nursing time before bed is still popular.