Baby Food: Introducing solids

Mis à jour : sept. 23

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN BABY IS READY?

Some babies are ready to start eating solids earlier than others. There are many clues that your child will exhibit to let you know that he/she is ready. Be sure to follow your baby's development and not base your decision on a specific age or date. Also, be sure to discuss your plan with your child's healthcare provider before you start. Here are the signs to look out for:

  • Baby has doubled his/her birth weight.

  • Baby Is capable of sitting up and holding head steady without support.

  • Baby's tongue reflex is present, and baby does not spit the food out.

  • Baby’s teeth start growing.

  • Baby is eating more frequently and still seems hungry.

  • Baby shows interest in food and observes parents eating.

  • Baby is able to hold food and place it in his/her mouth.

If your baby does not show much interest when offered food, does not open their mouth when presented with food or spits the food out more than once, your baby may be telling to hold off on solid foods a little longer. Wait a week or two then try again.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START?

Babies have immature detoxification systems and their brains and nervous systems are still developing, so they may be particularly susceptible to toxins. This is why it is best to buy organic as much as possible if you can afford it and also to avoid genetically modified produce.

You can save money and stay within your budget by stocking up when there are special offers and promotions in supermarkets and organic stores or by purchasing directly from farms. You can then prepare and freeze several individual portions and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost, place portion needed in refrigerator for 1 day or warm up in a double boiler (bain-marie). NEVER defrost in microwave oven.

However, if you cannot afford to buy exclusively organic produce, then try to adopt the following guidelines:

  • Produce: check out the most recent “Dirty dozen” and "Clean Fifteen" produce lists to find out which crops are subjected to the most use of pesticides and which are subjected to the least amount so you can decide when to pay extra for organic (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php),

  • Animal products: try to meats and animal products from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones.

  • Fish: favor varieties low in mercury (see table below) and preferable wild not farmed.



WHAT ARE FOOD REACTIONS?

A food reaction is not the same as a food allergy.

A food allergy is an abnormal immune response to certain foods. It typically occurs rapidly, within a few minutes to a few hours after consuming the offending food. Symptoms of a food allergy range from mild to severe, sometimes including life-threatening anaphylactic reactions such as lip or tongue swelling, hives, wheezing or difficulty breathing or swallowing. If severe symptoms develop you should seek medical attention immediately.

A food reaction or food intolerance is not life threatening because it does not trigger an immune response, it is a non-allergic hypersensitivity to certain foods. It happens when the body cannot fully digest a particular food, thereby causing discomfort. Symptoms of a food reaction can occur immediately or up to a few days after exposure and many of them mimic a viral infection, so it might not be initially clear that it is a food reaction. This is also why you should never introduce a new food if your baby is ill in any way or has a skin or diaper rash.

The 4-day wait plan method

Some babies react to many foods, some react to none, and some react to a few foods. You will only find out which baby you have once you start introducing foods. Since food intolerance symptoms do not always occur immediately using the “4-day wait plan” method will help you identify if any food is causing a reaction. If you introduce new foods faster or give your baby table food, often containing several ingredients, it will be exceedingly difficult to determine which food is the culprit.

Signs of a food reactions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Diarrhea, mucus in stool, green stool

  • Irritable bowels, gas and bloating, increased burping

  • Constipation

  • Vomiting

  • Skin reactions: face, around mouth, bum rash, around anus or urethra, eczema…

  • Hyperactivity, lethargy, changes in personality, irritability

  • Runny or stuffy nose, flu-like symptoms

  • Ear infections

  • Allergic shiners (dark circles under eyes)

  • Cough, sneezing

  • Watery eyes

  • excessive irritability


WHICH FOODS AND WHEN?

Start with one food at a time, if your baby has no bad reaction to it after 4-7 days, you can add it to the "tolerated foods" list and introduce another. Once a food is well tolerated you can mix and match with other tolerated foods.


If your baby develops a bad reaction to a food (see symptoms list above) discontinue the food and do not introduce any other new foods until all symptoms have completely resolved. This rest period is necessary to allow baby's immature digestive system to rest and also ensures that you are very clear on which food caused the reaction.


Adding flavors and spices is a good idea, however, in general avoid very spicy or hot flavors. Some great choices to start with are cinnamon, basil, thyme, oregano, and anis.


HOW MUCH AND HOW OFTEN?

Start by offering solid foods once a day only, eventually, your child will eat 3 meals and 1 to 2 snacks a day. You will know your baby is ready for an additional meal when:

  • Baby readily eats the meal(s) you are already offering

  • Baby seems hungrier

  • Baby has great interest in the meal you are eating

Start by offering the pureed food once a day only, in the morning 1 hr after breastfeeding, 1-2 teaspoons is enough for a start, you can slowly increase to 1-2 tablespoons according to your baby's needs.


4-6 Months: 1-2 teaspoons each day of pureed food

  • Avocado (a great first food full of healthy fats and mild in flavor)

  • Carrots

  • Sweet potato

  • Winter squash

  • Pear

  • Apple

  • Banana

  • Poultry


6-9 Months: 1-2 tablespoons each day of pureed or mashed foods

  • Apricot

  • Blackberries

  • Cherry

  • Grapes

  • Kiwi

  • Peach

  • Prune

  • Broccoli

  • Cauliflower

  • Jrusalem artichocke


9 months: 2-4 tablespoons per day of pureed food, start small finger foods

  • Berries (except strawberries, which can be allergenic – wait until 12+ months to introduce them)

  • Papaya

  • Kale, chard, cabbage

  • Cucumbers

  • Potato and sweet potato

  • String bean

  • Lamb

  • Pork (definitely organic)

  • Beans and lentils (you can mix them with some chicken stock)

  • Sunflower and pumpkin seed butter (thinned)

  • Oatmeal, millet and rice cereal

  • Blackstrap molasses (excellent source of iron and calcium), can be added on anything

12 months, mashed or finger foods

  • Orange and other citrus

  • Strawberries

  • Asparagus

  • Mushrooms

  • Tomato

  • Eggs

  • Peanut butter (avoid completely if someone else in the family is allergic)

  • Barley, rye and non-GMO wheat (many people react to GMO wheat but not to non-GMO)

  • Honey

  • Soy

  • Beef


WHICH FOODS TO AVOID AND WHY?

  • Choking foods: babies under 9 months of age tend to choke easily, so use caution; no bites or chunks of any kind at 4 months

  • Honey or corn syrup should never be given until 1 year of age due to risk of botulism

  • Sugar or sugar substitutes

  • Salt (babies's kidneys are still immature and cannot handle large amounts of sodium)

  • Caffeine, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, also be cautious with natural flavors

  • Juice, soda, high sugar-carb drinks (rice milk), may lead to nutritional deficiencies, loose stools, damage tooth enamel as well as lead to obesity & multiple health problems (during 2nd year of life, 1-3 oz always diluted in water are acceptable)

  • Dried fruit, it is exceedingly high in sugar & sticks to the teeth increasing the chances for tooth decay

  • Raw meat, fish, eggs or dairy


HOW DO YOU KNOW YOUR BABY IS FULL?

  • When baby spits the food out, or

  • Stops looking at you, or

  • Turns head away when you present food, or

  • Does not open mouth when you present food, or

  • Pushes food away

  • If you see these signals from your baby, you know the meal is over.


HOMEMADE, POUCHES OR JARS?

  • Read labels if ready-made baby food– make sure you know exactly what you’re giving baby.

  • Don’t double dip the spoon. If baby is not going to finish the jar use a bowl and spoon feed from there. Double dipping the spoon introduces bacteria that can cause the contents of the jar to spoil

  • Keep open jars refrigerated. Discard open jars after 2 to 3 days

  • Choose BPA-free pouches

  • Pouches are very practical and baby can feed alone but they are often high in sugar because of their high fruit content and they also bypass the normal eating mechanism of gumming or chewing and swalling with slurping and swallowing. This method exposes the teeth and gums to a longer contact with sugar and may increase the risk of dental decay. Use them during outings and for busy days but not a the standard way of feeding your baby.

  • Homemade is the best and healthiest option: you can add water or pumped breast milk to the food to achieve desired consistency. You can make large batches and freeze in small portions.

  • Table food: Whatever the family is eating gets pureed and fed to baby. Likely the easiest option.


WHY IS RICE CEREAL IS NOT THE BEST CHOICE?

Rice cereal has little nutritional value: it is high in carbohydrates with little or no protein or fat and very few vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, recent research indicates that arsenic levels are higher in all brands of rice cereal as opposed to non-rice cereals.


SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT?

I. Iron

Iron reserves of a full term breast baby combined with the highly absorbable breast milk iron are usually sufficient to maintain adequate hemoglobin until 6 to 9 months of age. The iron found in baby formulas is much less absorbable than the iron in mothers’ milk:

  • Maternel milk 50-70%

  • Baby formula fortified with iron 3-5%

  • Cow's milk 4-10%

  • Cereals with iron 10%

If a blood test determines that a baby has insufficient levels of iron, it is a good idea to increase nutritional sources and retest after a few weeks before deciding to supplement. Foods rich in iron include molasses, red meats, certain types of fish, poultry, egg yolks, prunes, legumes (lima beans, fava beans, lentils…), as well as green vegetables such as spinach, parsley, Swiss chard, watercress, nettle among many others.

II. Vitamin D

  • Babies born in early spring or summer get sufficient vitamin D with a 5-30 min exposure to sunlight (without sunscreen) per day from April until September.

  • The darker the baby’s skin the longer the exposure needed

  • Babies born after end of August need to supplement with 400 iu of vitamin D from September until end March until 2 years of age (cod liver oil is a good option)



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