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Your Baby’s First Foods
When your baby is 4-6 months old, it’s time to start introducing solids. This can be scary for many first-time parents. What do you feed them? How much should you give and when should you start?
When to start? 4 months… 6 months… or in between? The jury is still out on that so the answer is… when you and your baby are ready. By the time your baby is 6 months old, breast milk or formula alone will not provide enough iron, zinc, or calories to meet your baby’s needs. If your child is not ready yet:
* He/she is less than 4 months old (ie: before 17 weeks).
* They cannot sit in a semi-reclined high chair without falling to one side.
* Your doctor has advised you to delay concrete due to a medical condition.
*Preemies are advised to delay solids based on their expected due date, check with your doctor.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. The reason for this recommendation was to reduce the number of infant deaths in developing countries. When solids or even formula are introduced in unsanitary conditions there is a high risk of gastroenteritis and infection – the bigger the baby the more likely it is to survive. However, studies in developed countries have shown no difference in the rate of gastroenteritis when solids are introduced at 4 months. The WHO also notes that exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months can lead to poor growth, iron and other micronutrient deficiencies in some infants.
So if you live in a developed country you wait up to 6 months? All children develop at different rates and your child may not be ready. Alternatively you may not be prepared as a parent – you may be away on holidays, worried about starting solids or simply enjoying the simplicity of breastfeeding. Don’t stress about waiting until the 6 months are completely healed. You need to get your baby through the first stages of solids a little faster than you started at 4 months to ensure that they incorporate meat into their diet early.
If you start at 4 months you can take it slow, there is no rush, nutritionally breast milk or formula is fine up to 6 months so food is a bonus. By the time your baby is 6 months old they will have used a range of fruits, vegetables and grains so you can easily add the meat they need to give them the iron and zinc they need. You will have a long time in the puree before transitioning to a lumpy texture.
Before you begin you will need:
* A good high chair – This is an item worth investing in as it will be used daily for the next two years. Removable tray, adjustable seat tilt, vinyl, wheels so it can be easily removed, height adjustable so you can swap from bench to dining table, harness straps for safety, a color and design you like – it’ll be in your kitchen for a while and finally it’s Will fit your budget.
YouTube has reviews for many high chairs so do a quick search for the ones you’re considering before you buy.
* Bowls – Look for suction bottom bowls so that when your little one starts self-feeding there are fewer accidents.
* Spoon – The first spoon should be soft and the head of the spoon should be smaller than a spoon.
* Bibs – I like the plastic scoops that can go in the dishwasher but if they use very large cloths to begin with – the pumpkin will stain so don’t choose white.
* Food – You can make your own and freeze it or buy age-appropriate store-bought baby food.
* Make sure everything is clean and your hands are washed before preparing or feeding your baby food.
When do I add another meal to the day? After your baby happily eats 2-3 spoonfuls, it’s time to add another food.
When do I start eating lumpy instead of puree? At 6-9 months babies start to chew even if they don’t have teeth, this is when you can start to have small soft lumps in the food. Chewing helps develop jaw muscles that are important for speech. At 9-12 months you can start finger foods. (Note if you are starting solids at 6 months start with purees first).
When can my child drink water from a sippy cup? From around 6 months you can offer water from a soft spouted sippy cup (water not juice).
When should I switch and offer breastfeeding after solids instead of before? By 9 months solid foods should be sufficient and you can start offering breastfeeding a second time at mealtimes. The amount taken in these feeds will gradually decrease.
Why do people say different things about when to introduce allergenic foods? Many years ago it was hypothesized that delaying the introduction of allergenic foods such as eggs, peanuts, peanuts, wheat, cow’s milk and fish could help prevent food allergies. Studies since then have shown no benefit, in fact new studies have shown that introducing wheat before 6 months reduced the risk of celiac disease and wheat allergy, suggesting the opposite may be true. Further studies in this area are still needed. See The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy Fact Sheet for more information on this. If you have a family history of food allergies you know that they can be life threatening, so please consult your doctor or dietitian about the best time to introduce these foods.
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