The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding (no formula or solid foods). Breast milk contains antibodies that support immune function as well as optimal nutrient ratios that change as your child grows. Until approximately 6 months of age, a baby’s digestive tract is not able to adequately digest most foods. At six to nine months, their gastrointestinal tract develops in a way that makes them ready to start some solid foods. Early introduction of food may result in food allergies and/or sensitivities.
Since the gastrointestinal tract is an extension of the immune system, food introduction is one of the most important times in your child’s health. The choices you make set up the foundation of health for the rest of your child’s life. Introducing foods in a way that will not cause allergic and immune reactions will help build a stronger foundation and enhance the overall health of your child.
Babies receive all the nutrients they need from breast milk and/or organic formula, so there is no need to rush your baby onto solids. When s/he is always grabbing for food, allow exploration. But when uninterested, don’t’ force it – let your baby lead. Remember, imitating adult behavior at the table is not always an indication that the gastrointestinal tract is mature enough to digest solid foods. Up until the first year, the benefit of trying solid foods is being exposed to new textures and learning hand-mouth coordination. Prior to one year, most babies’ gastrointestinal tracts are not mature enough to absorb most nutrients from solids, so if your child isn’t eating a lot of solids, it is not compromising nutrient intake as long as s/he is still drinking breast milk, organic formula or UltraCare for Kids.
New foods should be introduced one at a time. Wait a few days after introducing each new food to see how and if your baby reacts to the food. It is pertinent that you observe your child for signs of reaction. If your baby has any of the following symptoms below, remove the food for two to three months and then try again. If your child has a life-threatening reaction, such as difficulty breathing, call 911.
|Symptoms that may Indicate a Food Reaction Include:
- Red marks or dry/patch skin around the mouth or anus
- Redness of the face/cheeks
- Diarrhea, Mucus in stool, or Constipation
- Colds/Flu, Ear Infections
- Runny/Stuffy nose or Sneezing
- Hyperactivity or Lethargy
- Skin reactions, Rashes, Eczema and/or Diaper Rashes
- “Allergic Shiners” (dark circles under the eyes)
- Other unusual symptom(s) for your child
Even though it is a common practice in our culture to give babies powdered rice cereal, this is not an evidence based practice. Processed rice and other infant cereals are a source of empty calories with little to no nutrient value. The following schedule is a general guide for introducing foods that promote healthy development. You can hang it on the fridge and put the date next to each new food you introduce so it is easier to remember what your child is eating and monitor for any reactions. If your child has a chronic illness, special needs, or signs of allergies/sensitivities, a modified schedule may be necessary.
|Schedule for Introducing Solid Foods
Choose Organic, Non-GMO foods whenever possible
6 – 8 Months – Hypoallergenic, purred, mashed foods.
Organic, Free-Range Meat
Organic Egg Yolks
9 – 10 Months – Mashed with more texture and small, soft chunks. Begin incorporating herbs and spices. All vegetables and fruits EXCEPT: tomatoes, strawberries, corn, eggplant, citrus (pineapple, lemons, limes, oranges)
|Legumes/Beans (except soy)
Fermented Dairy (cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir)
11 – 12 Months – Small, soft chunks.
All vegetables and fruits EXCEPT: tomatoes, strawberries, eggplant
Gluten-free Grains Lentils Oranges Pineapple Tahini
12 – 24 Months – All vegetables and fruits EXCEPT: strawberries.
Cheese Tomatoes Eggplant Non-GMO Tofu
Nuts & Nut Butters (EXCEPT Peanuts and Peanut Butter)
Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk (Rice, Almond, Coconut)
2 – 3 Years – Strawberries, Egg Whites
3 + Years – Fish, Organic Peanuts/Peanut Butter
Enjoy this time as your baby explores new textures and tastes! Be playful with your child at meal time. Instead of always focusing on getting your child to eat, use meal time to be social, sing songs about foods and learn colors or numbers. Your child’s tastes will change over time, so if s/he doesn’t like something, re-introduce it later. Make it easier on yourself by modeling good nutrition to your child and sharing some of your meal, instead of making two meals. Sitting down to eat and enjoying our meals improves digestion and overall quality of life. Do what you need to for yourself to de-stress meal time and enjoy the time with your family.
To read more in depth on the importance of introducing foods in a specific order, the transition from breast to bowl and more tips/recipes click on the article title below.
The following book and article give comprehensive information on which foods to introduce and when: Feeding the Whole Family: Whole Foods Recipes for Babies, Young Children and Their Parents.