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A Solid Start: Introducing Baby to Solid Foods

Everything you need to know to begin your child on baby foods and other solids.

Babies and Solid Foods: How Much Is Enough? continued...

“Let your child do the regulating,” says Lewis. “They don’t eat for pleasure at this age; they eat because they’re hungry. An hour or two after their morning bottle or nursing session, offer solid foods and let them eat as much as they want. To some extent, you don’t need to do anything except offer your child something that’s nutritious, and not force it on them.”

Shu agrees. “Lot of parents like to know how much their child is eating and follow some kind of formula,” she says. “But it’s the child’s job to determine how much to eat. It’s the parent’s job to give them healthy foods. A child’s appetite does not always neatly coincide with the size of a jar of food or the amount of cereal you mix up. From babyhood, we should encourage children to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full.”

Baby Food Allergies

In the last decade there has been a turnaround in the long held belief that it was best to wait at least a year to offer babies certain highly allergenic foods, including wheat, eggs, fish and shellfish, and peanuts and tree nuts. But in early 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its recommendations, saying there is some evidence that eating some of these foods earlier rather than later may protect babies against allergies.

In fact, a 2015 study involving infants at high risk of peanut allergies found that early introduction of peanuts to their diet actually prevented the children from developing allergies. Shu advises, “It’s not a bad idea to wait until your baby is a little older -- say, 9 or 10 months -- before offering something like shellfish. It’s not that you’ll cause allergies, but if the baby is allergic, a reaction is a lot easier to deal with in an older baby than a younger one.”

Feeding Baby: What Foods Should You Hold Off On?

There are some foods that you should definitely wait on. Honey is one -- it can cause a potentially dangerous disease called infant botulism and should not be given to a child younger than one year. Whole cow’s milk is another, because the milk proteins and fat can irritate a baby’s stomach. (Other dairy products have these proteins broken down, so they’re less likely to cause tummy trouble and can be introduced earlier.) Popcorn and other foods that are choking hazards.

What about sweet treats, like sugar? Babies do not need them and shouldn’t be offered these foods regularly, says Shu. But what if you’re at a birthday party for an older child and your 11-month-old is reaching for a taste of cake? “One bite isn’t going to hurt," she says. "Don’t make it a habit, and they won’t develop a preference for sweet things like cake or juice. I’m a fan of moderation, not deprivation or excess.”

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Reviewed on August 27, 2015
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