Introducing Solid Food For Beneficial Toddler Nutrition
At about 5-6 months of age, your child should begin to explore solid food. Always introduce only one food at a time and avoid some types of food altogether.
When your baby reaches the age of 5-6 months, it is time to introduce new foods. Up to that time, breast milk or formula has been able to meet all the infant’s nutritional needs. Now the baby needs a more varied diet. The baby has also developed the ability to sit up and to swallow thick foods easily, skills necessary to be able to handle solid foods.
Introduce only one new food at a time, and give the baby a few days between each new food.
This way, if the baby has a reaction to the food, it is obvious which food is causing the problem. For the same reason, don’t give the baby a mixed food (e.g. mixed vegetables) until each ingredient has been introduced.
Think of foods in 4 groups: cereal, fruit, vegetable, meat. We recommend starting with rice cereal because most infants like it and it has extra iron, a mineral that the baby is beginning to need. The next food, a few days to a week later, can be a fruit or a vegetable or a meat. The next cycle, start
one of the remaining group, and then the fourth group. At this point, the child is taking a well-balanced diet, although not one with much variety. Every few days, a new food can be added.
In the first year of life, there are certain foods to avoid. Honey, because of its association with infant botulism, a life-threatening food poisoning. You may introduce cow’s mild at 1 year of age. Whole milk or 2% milk may be used, depending on your child’s growth pattern. Discuss with your provider which option is best for your child. Be especially observant for reactions when introducing highly “allergenic” foods, such as eggs, peanut products, and seafood. The AAP no longer recommends waiting until 1 year of age to introduce these foods.
You can use the prepared baby foods available in the store, or you can prepare food for your baby yourself. If you make your own baby food, there are some guidelines that can help:
- Keep the food pure. Don’t add seasonings (salt, sugar, etc.)
- Cooking is best done in the microwave, where the vitamins are best preserved. Steaming is 2nd best, and boiling is the worst.
- Mash the food to a consistency that you are sure the baby will not choke on.
- Make up a large batch and then freeze it in an ice cube tray. At meal time, you can take out a “cube of food”, thaw it quickly in the microwave, and you’re ready to go.