The most important food after birth for your new baby is milk, either breast milk or formula, which will supply all the calories and nutrients that your baby needs for growth until the baby reaches 13-17 pounds or about 4 to 6 months of age. Signs that your baby may be ready to start solids include wanting to breast feed more than 8-10 times daily or wanting 32 ounces per day from the bottle. In addition, your baby may appear to be dissatisfied due to hunger or may begin to awaken consistently at night.
In the past solids were introduced as early as two weeks of age. It is currently felt that the early institution of solids may promote allergies in some children. In addition, early feedings with solids may predispose a child to being overweight when he or she grows up.
To avoid problems and to be able to recognize problems with new foods, they should be introduced one at a time. A new food should be given for 3-5 consecutive days before beginning another food. Usually any food intolerance will be noted in this amount of time. As new foods are started you should watch for rashes, diarrhea, irritability and wheezing. Theses symptoms may indicate an allergy and you should contact your doctor if they occur.
The following foods should be avoided:
- Wheat until 6 months of age
- Honey until one year
- Peanut products (including peanut butter) until 3 years of age
The solids are usually started as stage one or pureed foods. These foods introduce new tastes and textures to your baby. When your baby has tried all single ingredient foods you may begin stage 2 or strained foods. Stage 3 foods are more coarse in texture and may be started when the baby begins to teethe. If you choose to make your own baby food, Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron is a great resource.
Solids are usually introduced in the following manner:
- Cereal – rice, barley, oatmeal. Start at 4-6 months of age. Begin with 1 tbsp. and increase to 4 tbsp. mixed with formula or water. This may be started morning and night.
- Fruits – applesauce, pears, peaches, bananas, and prunes. Start at about 4-6 months of age, 1/2 to 1 jar per feeding.
- Vegetables – initially carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes, then peas and green beans. Start at 4-6 months of age, 1/2 to 1 jar per feeding.
- Meats – chicken, ham, turkey, veal. Start at 7-10 months of age, 1/2 to 1 jar per feeding.
- Juices – apple, pear, white grape juice. Juices are unnecessary for babies. If you choose to introduce them always dilute them to 1/2 strength. Juices should not be substituted for milk feedings and should not exceed 6 ounces of diluted juice per day.
Table foods may be started after your baby has tried the first three stages of solids and is teething. This is usually around 7-9 months of age. Be prepared, the institution of finger foods can be messy! Soft table foods are usually started first and include:
- soft, canned fruits, ripe bananas
- soft, cooked, cut up vegetables
- strips and bits of lean tender meat
- starches—mashed potatoes, rice, macaroni, and noodles
- zwieback, toast, crackers—watch for choking
- legumes – hummus, refried beans, baked or black beans
You should avoid foods that could cause your baby to choke such as nuts, popcorn, and hard candy. Even soft foods such as hot dogs and grapes should be quartered lengthwise before being chopped up.
Remember, when your baby is self-feeding it is best to:
- not leave your baby alone
- use easy to handle utensils
- use bite-sized pieces
- make sure baby remains seated
2% or whole milk may be started at 12 months of age and your baby should be weaned to a cup by 10-15 months of age.
During the second year of life your baby will grow less rapidly. You will notice that as a result his or her appetite will diminish. The biggest complaint of parents of children from 1-2 years of age is that they don’t eat. Actually they eat just as much as they need to grow and no more. This is nothing to worry about. The following general rules apply:
- Your baby’s milk intake may decrease to 12 ounces per day
- Your baby may eat one good meal a day or well for a day or two then poorly for a few days
- You may find that four or five small feedings per day will be taken better than three large meals
- Your baby will be using utensils and cup drinking by 15 months and should be off the bottle by 15 months of age
- You can decide what, where, when your baby eats; your baby should be allowed to decide how much