For the first four to six months of your baby’s first year all she will need is breast milk or formula. During this time she should start to be introduced to solids when she is ready. It is important to know that not all babies will be ready for solids at the same time.
So how do you know when she’s ready? There are a few simple guidelines that you can follow that will give you the information that you need to start your baby on solid food. You should check with your doctor as well for his/her professional advice. Here are the guidelines for clues as to whether your baby is ready for solids or not:
· Your baby has doubled her birth weight.
· Your baby shows an interest in the foods that you are eating and may try to grab the food from you.
· Your baby consumes 32 oz or more each day of breast milk or formula.
· Your baby often puts things into her mouth.
· Your baby can sit up with some support and can turn her head when she is full.
If your baby can do all of the above she is probably ready to be introduced to solid foods. Another indicating factor is that your baby always seems to be hungry. You do not want to introduce solids too early into your baby’s diet. If solids are introduced too early there is an increased risk that she will develop a food allergy.
Another reason for waiting for four to six months before introducing solids is because your baby needs to be able to properly chew and swallow before she can start eating food safely. Your baby’s digestive system has to mature a bit so that she can handle the new foods in her diet.
The first six months. During the first six months of your baby’s life breast milk or formula will be all that she needs for nourishment. If you are breastfeeding you will be using cues from your baby as to when she is full or hungry. If you are using formula you will likely have been following the guidelines for how much formula to feed your baby, as well as taking cues from your baby as to when she is full and when she is hungry. The following chart is a guideline for formula feeding:
GUIDE FOR FORMULA FEEDING (AGE 0 to 5 MONTHS)
Age & Amount per feeding & Number of feedings per 24 hours
1 month - 2 to 4 ounces - 6 to 8 times
2 months - 5 to 6 ounces - 5 to 6 times
3 to 5 months - 6 to 7 ounces - 5 to 6 times
A note on giving up night feedings: By the time your baby is six months old you will want to think about giving up those night feedings if you haven’t already done so. You should start by offering your baby less and less breast milk or formula during night feedings. Eventually she will stop waking as her body adjusts to not eating during the night. If you are bottle-feeding you can substitute water in your baby’s bottle in place of milk or formula. Your baby is almost ready to start eating solids and once she does she shouldn’t be as hungry at night.
Four to six months: Introduction to solid food. You should try to wait until your baby is at least four months old before introducing her to anything other than breast milk or formula. You should start by offering your baby tiny amounts of baby cereal thinned with breast milk or formula. You can introduce your baby to fruit juices that are thinned with water. You may want to hold off introducing orange juice for another month or two since orange juice may be too acidic.
Six to seven months: Adding fruits and vegetables. Once your baby has been introduced to cereal you will want to add mashed/strained fruits and vegetables. Start with small amounts (one teaspoonful), increasing gradually as your baby gets used to the new food. You should only introduce one new food at a time and wait 2 to 4 days before introducing something new. This is so that if your baby has an allergic reaction you will be able to pinpoint which food is the culprit.
Make mealtime a happy time with your baby. Make sure that you only put milk or water into baby bottles and juice into a cup or glass. Putting juice into your baby’s bottle can lead to dental problems later down the road due to the sugar content of juices.
Seven to eight months: Adding protein. From seven to eight months you will want to think about adding protein foods to your baby’s diet. Protein foods include strained meats, cottage cheese, egg yolk, yogurt, and dried beans. As with the fruits and vegetables, you will want to introduce one new food at a time and wait 2 to 4 days before introducing a new food, starting with a small helping (one teaspoonful) and gradually increasing.
Eight to twelve months: Adding other foods. By now your baby will be ready to start eating what the rest of the family is eating. Start by adding soft table foods to your baby’s diet such as mashed potatoes, squash, soft meats, and soups. As your baby gets more teeth she will be able to add more foods to her diet.
There are some things that you should keep in mind as your baby tries more and more types of foods.
1.Your baby does not need to have sugar, salt, desserts, pop, or sweets in her food.
2.Talk to your doctor about the right time to add pasteurized cow’s milk into your baby’s diet.
3.Avoid feeding your baby nuts, seeds, popcorn, raw carrots, and other hard foods.
4.Be sure to feed your baby a variety of good, healthy food so that you are promoting healthy eating habits.
5.It is very important to let your baby feed herself. As messy as this process may get it is a very important step towards your baby’s independence and motor skills.
As you gradually introduce your baby to food during the first year you should keep in mind that every baby is different and therefore the process of integrating solid food may or may not follow the “usual” course of action.
You will find that your baby soon has her favorite foods that she looks forward to eating as well as food that she will refuse to eat. Try to listen to what your baby is telling you while remaining within the guidelines outlined here.