Know what foods will benefit your baby and which you have to avoid…

During the first year of life, your baby’s diet will change a lot so you need to keep up with it and know when and what to feed him. You should always discuss the diet adjustments that your baby will need with your pediatrician since it will depend on his individual development.  This is not a strict plan and you do not have to follow a specific order to introduce new food items to your baby. You just have to know what foods will benefit your baby and which you have to avoid.

Feeding baby – the first few months

During the first four months of life, your baby will only need breast milk or formula to keep healthy and grow well. His digestive system is simply not developed enough to handle solid foods until he reaches four to six months. The recommended amount of milk intake varies from baby to baby but it is normal to expect around eight to ten feedings in the first two months, seven or eight feedings in the third month and then an increase in the fourth month but for shorter periods of time. Babies should eat around 2.5 ounces of formula per pound of body weight each day. But you should never force your baby to eat more when he is full.

Getting ready for solids

Feeding a babyFrom four to six months your baby starts to show signs that he is ready for solid food. The main signs are being able to hold his head up, sitting well in a highchair, making chewing motions, doubling his birth weight, showing interest in food, losing the instinct to push food out of the mouth, being hungry after a normal breastfeeding and starting to teeth. By this time, you can complement the breast milk or formula with one teaspoon of cereal and pureed fruits and vegetables such as apple, banana, peach, pear, squash or sweet potatoes. This transition is easier if you mix the food with breast milk or formula.

Also, you should start to feed him solid foods right after a feeding with just a bit of food in the tip of a soft plastic spoon. There is the misconception that babies should start solid foods by eating a single-grain cereal but there is no medical evidence that a particular order when introducing solid foods will benefit your baby. If you cannot see these signs for the introduction of solid foods during these months, it is normal, your baby is unique and will take more or less time to be ready. Just do not force him to eat if he does not want to.

Introducing other foods

From six to eight months of age your baby should start eating solid foods if he has not started yet. You can now introduce additional items such as pureed meats (chicken, pork or beef), tofu, unsweetened yogurt and pureed legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils. If your baby started feeding on solid foods a while ago and you notice that he wants more food you can increase the amount of it gradually up to half a cup of fruits and vegetables and three to nine tablespoons of cereal in two to three feedings. You should introduce new foods one at a time to make sure that your baby does not have any allergies.

Solids and finger foods

From eight to ten months your baby can start showing signs that he is ready for solid and finger foods. The signs are an increase in motor coordination by picking objects with thumb and forefinger, transferring objects from one hand to another, transporting objects to the mouth and moving the jaw in a chewing motion. You have to keep feeding your baby breast milk or formula but you can now give him small bits of pasteurized and cottage cheese, banana, scrambled eggs, potatoes, crackers and pasta. Just be sure that you are paying attention to your baby while he eats to help him and so he does not choke with any food item. You can increase the amount of solid foods to one third of a cup of dairy products, half a cup of cereal, half a cup of fruit, one quarter cup of protein, and half a cup of vegetables.

More complex foods

From ten to twelve months, there will be signs for additional solid food items if your baby swallows easily, has several teeth, is trying to use a spoon and does not push food out of his mouth. By this time in addition to the milk and foods you have introduced before, you can now give your baby more complex foods such as pasta and casseroles. The daily amount of food should be increased to third of a cup of dairy products, half a cup of cereals, half a cup of fruit, one quarter cup of protein, and half a cup of vegetables together with one quarter cup of complex foods in two to three meals a day.

Understanding your baby is full

It is also important to know when your baby has had enough food. The signs will be pretty obvious since he will start to turn away from the food you present him, leaning back on his chair or start playing instead of paying attention to the food. You should keep in mind that during the first year of life nothing can replace the nutrients provided by breast milk or formula; therefore you have to keep giving it to your baby daily.

It will take time for your baby to get used to new foods so you need to be patient and feed him a new item only after a few days, which will also help you to identify any allergies. It is also good to help him transition by starting with semi-liquid and pureed foods and only proceed to finger foods when the baby is used to the new textures. You have to see what your baby preferences are and adjust according to that, however if he does not seem to like a certain food item he might change his mind if you introduce it again a few days later.

Foods to avoid

There are some foods to avoid in the first year of life since they can be dangerous for your baby. For example, honey can have bacteria that cause botulism; cow’s or soy milk can trigger allergies; sticky or hard foods can be choking hazards (nuts, uncooked vegetables) and unpasteurized cheese can contain harmful bacteria. There are some misconceptions about what to feed your baby that you should avoid. For instance your baby is already born with a preference for sweet tastes so introducing fruit first instead of vegetables will not make him more prone to develop a taste for sweets.

Some people have also misconceptions about allergies. It is not possible for your baby to be allergic to your milk, but he can be allergic to something you have eaten and passed on to your milk; also, if you have allergies it does not mean that your baby will have them to.