Around 4 to 6 months of age, your baby will gain good head control, start pulling off the breast or bottle to look around (for other things to do or eat), and be able to move food from the front to the back of her mouth. This is such a fun, exciting and important time, as what you feed your baby at this age can impact the trajectory of their future food preferences, weight, allergies and overall health.
Research shows that starting solids before 4 months in some babies may increase risk for obesity later on, and current studies are trying to determine if early introduction of specific foods can decrease the chance that a child will develop food allergies. Thanks to the LEAP study, we do know that early introduction of peanut products (after 4 months of age) may decrease risk of peanut allergy later on, and many experts feel that early introduction of all allergenic foods (around 6 months of age) could potentially decrease risk of food allergy.
With all the recent changes in feeding guidelines, what should you feed your baby as a first food? I usually tell moms that the exact baby first food doesn’t matter as much as the variety of healthy foods you serve your baby in the first few months of eating solids. That said, here are some of my favorite first solid foods for baby:
1. Pureed or mashed avocado because it’s a good source of healthy fat for baby, and so important for brain development.
2. Pureed green veggies as they have so many important nutrients and the younger and more frequently you introduce green veggies, the greater chance your baby will learn to love eating them!
3. Whole Milk Yogurt made especially for babies like Stonyfield YoBaby® organic yogurt. YoBaby has calcium and live and active cultures, along with added vitamin D and the probiotic BB-12®. Fat is useful for healthy brain development, calcium and vitamin D are important for strong bones, and probiotics support a healthy gut microbiome and aid in digestion.
4. Peanut Butter Oatmeal is a great way to get healthy peanut butter into your child’s diet early on to decrease the chance of a peanut allergy. You can make 1 ounce of whole grain baby oatmeal and melt 1 teaspoon of healthy creamy peanut butter in it by adding extra fluid to thin texture.
Whatever you choose to start your baby on for solid foods, make sure it is a healthy, nutrient rich choice and a consistency your baby can handle (usually liquid puree or creamy first, then thicker or mashed). Over the first few months of eating solid food your baby will progress at her own pace.
Around 9 months babies are able to self-feed small pieces of soft food (or whatever you are eating). I like to start with healthy options that are easily mashable by soft gums – even without teeth your baby can mash soft food with their gums. Try steamed soft peas (you can buy fresh frozen organic and thaw them) or soft scrambled egg pieces. Other ideas are small pieces of soft table food such as steamed veggies, beans or lentils, whole grain bread or chicken. All fruit, even strawberries and other berries, are delicious and nutrient rich, and easy to cut up into small pieces for babies.
There really isn’t anything you need to avoid, other than raw honey under 1 year of age (because of the risk of infant botulism, a deadly disease). It’s also important to stay away from anything that could be a potential choking hazard such as popcorn, whole nuts and whole grapes.
Otherwise, offer your infant a variety of healthy options. As a parent you are your child’s best role model when it comes to enjoying healthy food now, and as they grow up. The wider variety of healthy options you introduce now, the more your baby will get used to the taste of healthy, whole, nutrient rich food, and what could be healthier than that?
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