How to Grow a Healthy Eater – Starting Solids

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Eating is one of the first life skills your baby will learn, and good nutrition is key to keeping your growing family healthy & happy.  Healthy food is synergistic with healthy children, and the best way to ensure this is to start them young – from a baby’s very first foods!  Below are some key tidbits of information for parents starting to introduce solids to their little ones.  In the end, remember to trust your intuition – you know your baby best – and have fun with it.  It is an exciting time of growth and development not just for your child, but also for your whole family.

When should I start introducing my baby to solid foods?
Pediatricians, the World Health Organization, and Health Canada generally advise that supplemental (solid) food not be introduced before six months. Most babies will be ready for solid foods between 6 and 8 months.  Breast milk and/or formula are sufficient for a babies’ nutritional needs until this point, and solid food introduction should not be seen as a replacement for milk – just an introduction!!

What are the signs that my baby may be ready for solid foods?
– Sits up without support
– Turns head when full
– Absence of the tongue-thrusting reflex
– Presence of a tooth (possibly)
– Interest in what mom & dad are eating
– Doubled birth weight

How do I start and with what foods?
Start slowly! Introduce a small amount of food on the tip of your finger or with a spoon to start.  In the beginning, solid foods are meant to taste and play more than a means of consuming calories. Increase to approximately 1 tablespoon, or more if the baby is showing signs of continuing hunger.

Introduce one new food at a time and wait 3-4 days before trying a new food.  This way you can watch for signs of allergic reactions and delayed food intolerances.  Allergies or intolerances typically occur with foods if they are introduced before a baby’s digestive system is mature, if a parent has an allergy, or with genetically modified foods.

At 6-9 months, start with hypoallergenic foods that are pureed and mashed.  My recommendation is to begin with nutrient dense fruits and vegetables such as sweet potato, avocado, banana, pear, squash, carrots, beets and peas.  These foods provide easily absorbed nutrients such as beta carotene, iron, and zinc; fibre for promoting healthy digestion and probiotic flora; as well as encouraging a young palate that will continue to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables into the future.

How will I know if my child has an allergy?
In the week following the introduction it is important to look for signs of food reaction such as skin or diaper rash, runny nose or watery eyes, hyperactivity or lethargy, dark circle under the eyes, gas, constipation, fatigue, fussiness, or sneezing.   If one of these symptoms occurs, go back to the foods that are safe (or milk alone) and wait until your child returns to normal.  You can retry the food again in a few weeks.  If your child still reacts we advise waiting 3-6 months before trying the food a third time.

Here are some additional tips to note when starting your infant on solids.

When to see a doctor:
Fever over 101° F, lethargy, severe diarrhea or constipation, severe diaper rash, thrush, extreme irritability, inconsolable crying or colic.

Foods to avoid for babies, especially under 12 months of age:
Caffeine (including soda and chocolate), chemical additives (including artificial colors and flavors), raw honey, salt, sugar, and allergic foods (commonly wheat, dairy, citrus, corn, egg whites, peanuts, soy and tomatoes).

Foods that are Easy to Choke on:
NEVER give the following foods to a baby less than 1 year of age:

Apple chunks and slices, dry cereal, grapes, hard candy, hard cookies, hot dogs, tofu dogs, meat chunks, peanut and nut butters that are not thinned, popcorn, potato chips, raw carrot slices or sticks, hard rice cakes, whole nuts and seeds, whole berries.

About the Authors:

Bronwyn Hill is a Toronto-based Naturopathic Doctor & Doula.  Her practice focuses pregnancy & post-partum-specific care, and pediatrics.  For more information, visit www.sproutnaturopathic.weebly.com.

Elizabeth Ronan is the Store Manager of Peaches & Green, a health dispensary in midtown Toronto. She is also an experienced Doula & mom to an adventurous toddler. For more information, visit www.peachesandgreen.com.

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