PLN Parenting 101: Introducing Solids—Best Foods for Babies
Feeling intimidated and unsure about how to get your baby started on solids? We’ve been there and got you covered. Here is second in a three part series on the whole new world of real food.
What foods should I start with?
Until very recently, parents were advised to start with a variety of fruits and veggies, and then to move on to other foods.
Health Canada now suggests starting with iron-rich meat, meat alternatives (like cooked lentils or tofu), and iron-fortified cereal as the first complementary foods.
From there, safe finger foods to begin with could be: pieces of soft-cooked (boiled, baked or steamed) vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower; soft and ripe fruits such as banana or avocado; finely minced, ground or mashed cooked meat, deboned fish, and poultry.
And then what happens?
From this point, you can gradually increase the frequency and variety of foods you’re introducing, making sure to continue to include plenty of iron-rich food. Once your baby is happy with the idea of eating, some great everyday foods might be: toast with hummus, purees of cooked lentils with vegetables, fruit pureed with yogurt, rice, pasta plain or with a little sauce, well-cooked eggs mashed or sliced into strips, or sticks of cheese. If you’re concerned about a dairy or egg allergy, be sure to start these foods alone, without any other foods that haven’t been introduced yet, so that if there’s a reaction, you can identify the culprit right away.
Once you have introduced a wide variety of foods, and tested for allergies, it’s a good time to start thinking about how to adapt what you’re eating for baby.
Maybe add salt or chilli to your meal at the table instead of during cooking, so that your baby can have what you’re having.
Are there any foods babies cannot eat?
Over the years, there has been conflicting advice on foods babies absolutely shouldn’t have, but these days, experts have a fairly short list. Honey should certainly be avoided before the age of one, due to a very small (but very serious) risk of infant botulism. Salt and sugar should not be added to baby’s food for the first year (and sparingly after that). Babies’ kidneys do not cope well with salt, and nutritionally-void sugar can contribute to tooth decay. Also, most foods should be cooked through (e.g. no runny egg yolks, no raw shellfish). Shark, swordfish and marlin are not recommended under the age of 5 as they may contain high levels of mercury. Nuts carry a risk of choking, so be careful with those too.
What about drinks?
Until six months, babies only need breastmilk or formula.
Really. Most experts agree that water is the best alternative to offer from six months to a year. Juice, even fresh squeezed or pressed, contains a lot of fruit sugar and acid, and can be bad for teeth. Go for the actual fruit itself for less sugar and the added benefit of fibre. If you decide to give juice, diluting it with water is a great idea. And serving it in a cup, rather than a bottle, will discourage them from drinking it all day long and decrease the amount of time it is in contact with their teeth. Full-fat milk can be introduced from about 9 months, but should not replace formula or breastmilk until after baby is one year old.
When can I stop giving formula or breastfeeding?
At the beginning, your baby should continue to have as much breastmilk or formula as they always had. Once you feel like they are eating a substantial amount of food at least once a day, feel free to try dropping a feed at a time when you think they’ll notice it the least. As you gradually increase the amount of food, you can gradually decrease the amount of breastmilk or formula. Formula can be replaced by full fall milk at age one. Some companies do make a “follow-on” formula for baby’s second year, but most experts don’t believe this is necessary. Breastfeeding can be continued as long and as frequently as you would prefer.
Do you have advice for other moms? Let us know what worked for you and what didn’t.