All babies deserve a fantastic start to life, which includes nutritious, whole foods that support growth and development. The first three years of a child's life are a window of opportunity for forming lifelong, healthy eating habits. To get your child off on the right track, it is best to teach him or her to enjoy the flavor of homemade, freshly-prepared, unsweetened, whole foods. This will become the standard and your child will not like the flavors of canned, artificial, overly-sweetened, or refined foods. Baby will thrive!
Ideally, an infant is breast fed for 12 months or more. In that time period, the baby will also begin to show interest in eating solid foods, which is usually around four to six months of age. When the baby’s first teeth appear, that is a good indicator that their intestinal tract is ready for digesting solid foods. When the baby nurses it mother’s milk, the sucking and swallowing used is an automatic reflex when the milk touches the back of the throat. Now, the baby will need to learn how to keep the solid foods in their mouth and swallow without spitting it out, which will take time. Solid foods will also mean a change in the consistency of the baby’s stools. They will firm up, and there should not be diarrhea or constipation.
The best foods to introduce first are vegetables and some fruits. These foods are rich in vitamins and minerals. The whole food can be steamed until soft, mashed or pureed, and cooled before serving. Great foods to use are carrots, yams, squash, apples, and pears. The baby may only take in one or two teaspoons at first. The feedings should be two or three times per day to start. Many cultures also introduce grains, often a rice mixture, but it is not as nearly as nutritious as vegetables. In the United States, sugar is often given to babies, which is not healthy and will set the child up to have a sugar cravings and perhaps a sugar addition. The amount of foods eaten is determined by the size of the baby.
A baby’s first foods should be low on the allergen scale. They should be introduced one at a time, and new foods should be added every four or five days. When introducing each new food, the baby should be watched for any reaction such as a runny nose, sneezing, abnormal stools, or a rash that develops around the mouth, anus, or urethra. Allergic responses in behavior may manifest as a change in personality, crying more, sleeping more, and being more irritable. These non-allergenic foods should also be rotated every five or six days in order to minimize sensitization, which could occur from eating the same foods routinely. Common allergenic foods should be avoided. They include cow’s milk, wheat, citrus, eggs, chocolate, nuts, soy, and corn. (See a more complete list at end of article.) Pure water can also be introduced in addition to breast milk, which helps with hydration and digestion.
At around nine months, foods that are high in zinc will enhance the baby’s immune system. Mashed foods, including string beans, cabbage, oatmeal, potatoes, millet, and blueberries are very nutritious. At twelve months, the child may be eating dark leafy greens, parsnips, avocado, sprouted grains, acorn squash. Goat’s milk and yogurt can be introduced, too. This is often the time the baby naturally starts to wean off of breast milk, so naturally he or she will take in more whole foods. Between twelve and eighteen months, foods that are high in calcium and B vitamins are great for the baby. It is time to introduce soaked nuts and seeds, tahini, beets, more greens, and some animal proteins like fish, lamb, and chicken. Between eighteen months and two years, fermented dairy products can be introduced.
Protein needs of the baby increase as it grows. The needs are approximately 13-15 g per day up to six months of age. 14-15 g per day at six to twelve months. 16-18 g per day for thirteen months through two years, and 20+ grams per day at ages three and four. Many babies may use dairy foods a protein source. This should be monitored closely and not be relied upon as a primary protein source, because dairy is a very common source of allergens and causes mucous in many people by inflaming the mucous membranes. If the child seems to have the enzyme capacity to digest dairy well, it can be an occasional food.
Bartholomy, P. (2008 ). Introduction to Solid Foods. MHNE 608. Lecture conducted from Hawthorn University.
Most and Least Allergenic Foods | Ask Dr Sears® | The Trusted Resource for Parents. (2013, August 23). Retrieved December 16, 2014, from http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/feeding-infants-toddlers/food-allergies/most-and-least-allergenic-foods
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