Following these simple infant nutrition guidlines, when introducing solid foods, will insure that your infant get the highest nutritional value from mealtime for growth in the first year of life.
Because of the high nutrient needs of the infant it is recommended that the infant be fed only breast milk or formula for the first six months of life. Then, as the infant physically develops the ability to chew, swallow, and sit unattended, solid foods may be added gradually to the diet.
The main purpose of introducing solid foods is to provide nutrients that are no longer supplied adequately by breast milk or formula alone. For example, the iron stores from birth have diminished at around four to six months of age and because of babies' increased weight gain, more iron is needed to prevent iron deficiency anemia. It is important to note that foods should never replace formula or breast milk but should be a supplement to them. It is also important that cow's milk not be introduced until after six months of age due to protein in the milk that is too large for the infant to digest. This may induce an allergic reaction to the milk. The food chosen must be foods that the infant is developmentally capable of handling and metabolizing. Until about four months of age, all solid objects entering the mouth are pushed out through the sucking action of the tongue. This action prevents the infant from swallowing foods and other objects. Sometime around four to six months of age the infant is able to move foods from the front of the mouth to the back to facilitate swallowing of solid food. This action develops around the same time that the infant is able to sit unattended. At this time the infant can sit in a high chair and turn his or her head when satisfied and no longer hungry.
Along with the physical signs of development the intestinal tract is also developing in order to handle solid food in digestion. The appropriate timing of the introduction of foods may prevent the onset of an allergic response to foods. To prevent allergy and for it’s prompt identification, should it occur, it is recommended that only simple ingredient foods be introduced first. They also should be selected to provide variety, balance and moderation. Commercial baby foods provide a wide variety of nutritious food, in a safe and convenient form. Homemade baby foods can be as nutritious, as long as the nutrients are not lost during the preparation, and precaution is used in the preparation to prevent contamination or infection. The preparation should also be done without added salt, sugar, or seasonings.
The first food introduced should be iron-fortified cereal. Rice cereal is usually the first because of it's low incidence of allergic reactions. Most cereals are available in dry form and premixed. In the beginning, the dry should be used and mixed with water, formula or breast milk in a very thin consistency. Other varieties can be followed, as long as they are added in small portions with around four to five days between new introductions. This will allow you to observe your child for signs of allergic reactions. The second and third food following cereals should be vegetables or fruits. Some believe that introducing fruits before vegetables may cause the infant to dislike vegetables due to their less desirable taste. All experts, however, do not support this belief. At around eight months of age the infant may be introduced to commercially prepared yogurt for infants or reduced-sugar varieties of regular yogurt. Vegetable and meat combination foods can be added at this age followed by single meat varieties. Single meat varieties may be less readily accepted than other foods at first but the infant is getting plenty of iron from cereals and formula or breast milk, so there is no cause for concern. Last, desserts may be added to the diet. The dessert foods add more calories and fewer nutrients than other infant foods and should not replace any of the above foods.
All solid foods should be fed with a spoon while the infant is sitting in a high chair. When the child turns away from the spoon as to show that he or she wants no more, this is usually a good sign that the child is full. As an infant begins to cut teeth, finger foods may be added in the same variety as above. Some good examples of finger foods are Cheerios, small chunks of cheese, vegetables, fruits and meats. Other foods are not recommended due to their high choking hazard. Some of these foods are popcorn, hotdogs, peanut butter and grapes. The subject of choking hazards should be further researched.