It’s a big step in the care and feeding of your baby: The day you begin feeding solid foods.
While you may receive lots of well-meaning advice from grandparents, friends, and even the occasional stranger, you should recognize that recommendations may well have changed since the advice-giver was feeding their baby.
Always consult your pediatrician before starting your infant on solid foods. And brush up on some of the current prevailing wisdom on safely feeding solids.
When to start: Most babies can start eating solid food when they are between four and six months of age. That’s when they are able to swallow foods, as opposed to pushing back with their tongue against a feeding spoon. Yes, Grandma may say that she started feeding cereal when her baby was just six weeks old and it helped the baby sleep through the night, but today, pediatricians recognize infants can’t properly digest or swallow solids that young, and cereal served from a bottle can be a choking hazard.
Veggies first? You may have heard you should offer vegetables before trying fruit, so a baby used to applesauce doesn’t turn up her nose at the stronger tastes of things like pureed cauliflower or peas. Guess what? Researchers say it doesn’t really matter. Babies are born with an innate taste for sweet foods, and that preference doesn’t change whether they’re fed peas or peaches first.
Don’t hold the spice: The preference for bland, un-spiced baby food is largely a cultural issue. In other parts of the world, babies are served food that’s spiced the same way as adult food, and there’s little research that spicy foods harm children. Use common sense and stay away from really spicy things that may harm babies’ sensitive mouths and noses – no wasabi or habaneros – but a little cinnamon, ginger, cumin or even mild chiles like poblanos may tickle your baby’s palate and help them learn to eat a wider variety of foods while young.
Safety first: Baby-food recalls are often a parent’s big worry, but they’re actually quite rare. A much bigger safety issue is just following safety rules for proper feeding and food-handling.
• Do not feed baby directly from the jar of food, unless you plan to use the entire jar at one meal. Saliva from your baby’s mouth can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria in the food. If you must serve from the jar, throw away any uneaten portion.
• Never microwave baby food. Uneven heating can cause hot spots that can burn baby’s mouth.
• Never leave a baby alone with food _ not even for a minute, while running to answer the phone.
• Don’t feed honey to a baby under 12 months; some pediatricians, in fact, now recommend 18 months as the cutoff.
• Slowly introduce potentially allergenic foods like peanut butter, eggs and wheat. A few years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that research does not support holding off on allergenic foods until after age 1, clearing the way to offer them to babies sooner. However, many pediatricians still suggest going slowly, especially if your baby has eczema or there’s a family history of food allergies or asthma.