Healthy First Foods for Baby
Discussions about what to feed your infant can get messier than her first bib. Every kid is different, and the experts don't always agree, but there are a few basic guidelines to follow. From jars to pabulums, here's how to set your baby up for a lifetime of healthy, happy eating.
Age: six to eight months
Most experts, including Health Canada, say to begin introducing solids at six months (but don't discontinue breast milk or formula). Until this age, all of the nutrients a newborn needs are found in breast milk or formula, and a young digestive system is too immature to handle whole foods. But when it comes to choosing your baby's first food, everyone seems to have a different opinion.
"I'm a big advocate of single-grain cereals or vegetables first because they're easy to digest, healthy and not overly sweet," says Joey Shulman, a Toronto-based registered nutritionist. "Also, starting with fruit can help develop a sweet tooth later in life."
Lianne Phillipson-Webb, a registered nutritionist and the founder of Sprout Right, a Toronto-based nutrition company for new parents, favours starting with fruit and veggies. "Cereal is a bland processed food that doesn't encourage a healthy palate," she says.
So what's best? Since all experts agree that vegetables are essential edibles, they're the healthiest place to start. "Butternut squash is a great first food because it's a watery puree and easy for babies to eat," says Phillipson-Webb. Carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, green peas, broccoli, avocados, cauliflower, turnips, green beans and beets are also great choices for early veggies.
Once you've decided on your baby's first fare, spoonfeed her one to three teaspoonfuls of puree on the first attempt. Repeat this once a day for five days; if you notice any change in your child's bowel movements or a skin rash, an altered mood, vomiting, gas or a runny nose, stop the new food and mention it to your doctor. If there's no adverse reaction, continue with one meal of solids a day for about two weeks, increasing the amount as she shows interest. Your baby will let you know when she's had enough. After the first five days, repeat the process with another food. Soon, you'll have a variety of foods to offer your child.
After you've given your baby a few different vegetables, try a single-grain cereal (rice is easiest to digest) or pureed apples, pears, papayas, bananas, prunes, blueberries, plums or apricots. Despite some recent studies that recommend meat as your baby's first food (it's a great source of iron), Shulman and Phillipson-Webb think it's too early for their systems to digest.