Healthy Baby Food
At about 6 months of age it is about time for your baby to be introduced to healthy baby food. Breastfeeding is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics exclusively for 6 months as this is considered the healthiest nutrition that you can possibly give to your infant. It is possible that your baby will start to show you signs of wanting solid foods a little bit before 6 months.
Some of these signs include putting things in their mouth, sitting up on their own, doubling in weight, being curious about what you are eating, and not having the extrusion reflex. This is what happens when you try to put foods in the baby’s mouth and they are not ready. It includes the tongue trying to push the food out. To test your baby’s extrusion reflex, simple place a few drops of rice cereal on your pinky finger. If your baby pushes the cereal out with his or her tongue, they are not ready for solids. Remember though that even though your baby might seem interested in solids early on, you should continue to feed your child baby formula or breast milk for a full year. There are so many nutrients that infants need in that first year that solid food alone just cannot provide.
When your baby is showing interest in what you are eating, then they might be ready to try their first foods. Perhaps they are reaching for or are intently watching what goes in your mouth. Even at this stage, what YOU are eating matters. Start now to model good behaviors that your child will want to follow.
Healthy baby food is so important at this stage because you are setting habits that can have lifelong implications. Some of the first foods that mothers introduce to their 6 month olds are single grain cereals like rice cereal, apples, sweet potatoes, squash, peaches, avocadoes, pears and bananas. These can all be found in grocery and health food store baby food sections in convenient jars, but be aware of serving sizes. Baby’s first meals should be limited to about one per day. Only try one food at a time so you can observe for allergic reactions or signs that something does not agree with baby’s tummy. Most parents follow a three day rule where they start a new food every three days. This provides adequate time to track changes.
Sometimes the child will not tolerate a certain food very well initially but then has no issues with it a few months later. As long as the reaction is not severe, go ahead and try the food again in a couple of months. Keep track of any changes in sleep patterns, crankiness, and number and sizes of diapers to determine if there are any foods that do not agree with your child’s immature digestive system.
Always make sure any of the first foods you prepare yourself are cooked if necessary and then pureed so that your baby will not have any issues with swallowing. You always want to be aware of choking hazards. You can also thin foods out a little with a bit of water or 100% juice with no additional sugars added. Juice that is not 100% juice often is just appears to be healthy but in actuality, is little more than disguised soda pop. Clearly that is not a healthy baby food option! Do not offer juice to your baby until at least 6 months and even then, it should be very small amounts. Other foods to avoid for the first year include honey which can cause botulism, and cow’s milk.
At two years, your baby should be eating a wide variety of solid healthy baby food. There are still some foods to avoid at this time though. Those include peanut butter spread thick which is a choking hazard, whole grapes, nuts, hard anything (vegetables, fruits, popcorn, candies or seeds), and whole hot dogs. Juice should be limited to 6ounces or less per day. Try puddings, egg salad, tuna, crackers, soups, cottage cheese, yogurt, and soft cheeses.
The most important aspect of baby’s diet is making sure your baby is getting the nutrition it needs. Check with your pediatrician often on nutritious recommendations for healthy baby food that can help foster healthy habits for a lifetime.
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