Food introduction to babies is an exciting milestone, as it marks the beginning of an important transition: they are now ready to experience a more varied and solid diet! Learn how you, as a parent, can contribute to creating a healthy environment for your Little One’s development!
First steps on food introduction
Before 6 months of age, babies are only ingesting breast milk or formula (according to what your baby’s pediatrician recommends). Starting from 7 or 8 months old, food introduction can begin and it will likely be combined with the prior.
Make sure the food you’re offering is appropriately adapted to your child’s current development phase. This might mean you need to change its texture before offering it to the baby.
How do I know it’s time for a food introduction?
Besides appropriate age, is there anything else that might be happening in your baby’s body by the time they’re ready for food introduction?
If you baby can:
- Hold their head high;
- Make movements using their tongue (up and down, side to side movements);
- Open their mouth wide;
- Demonstrate interest in food and in eating (i.e., staring at your food or trying to reach out to it);
You can also take this into consideration and start to plan the next steps on food introduction!
Preparation phase for food introduction
Sometimes, what’s more dangerous around the idea of food introduction is not only the food itself, but how it’s served.
Ultimately, you don’t want to offer food in a shape that could make your baby choke and harm them in any way.
So let’s see how you can prevent accidents with food from happening.
Cut food into small pieces
Remember that by the time they’re 6+months old, babies still don’t have teeth. So serve food that can be easily dissolved with saliva.
Adapt food format
Babies usually have better acceptance of food that’s been smashed or puréed.
Choose something that won’t make the baby choke. For example, a sausage, although it can be soft, can get stuck into the babies’ throat if it’s cut in a circular shape. To prevent it, choose to serve it in a cylindrical form.
Choose one food at a time
Don’t present different combinations all at once. Select a specific food, select ways to prepare it, and observe how your baby reacts to it.
Watch out for any signs of allergy or intolerance. When in doubt, talk to your baby’s pediatrician to get medical guidance.
Wait and see
Not only introduce one food at a time, but also wait a few days before presenting something else. An interval of 4 to 5 days between foods is a reasonable amount of time to see how your child responds to the newly added option.
Watching out for potential allergenics
Introducing potentially allergenic foods include a wide range of options, like eggs, cow’s milk and variations, peanuts, soy, and nuts.
Although it’s not recommended that cow’s milk is introduced before 12 months of age, food derived from it (like yogurt) can be served sooner.
Less is more!
if you decide to offer fresh food to the child, do not season it with anything – especially, but not exclusively, salt.
When giving processed food for the child, pick one that’s age appropriate.
Do not offer food designed for adults and older children because the amount of sodium and other additives are probably not suited for babies.
Making things work during food introduction
What should you watch out for when your baby is discovering new possibilities of nutrition and food?
Stick around during food introduction
Always supervise your baby while they are eating to ensure their safety and help them if they encounter any difficulties.
All bodies are unique, and it’s no different with children. This is why it’s paramount to keep an close eye on children during food introduction and checking their response to it.
Common signs of allergy in babies include skin reactions (hives, swelling around the face area, rash or eczema); gastrointestinal discomfort (vomiting, diarrhea, excessive colic or bloody stools); even respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose).
Still around the allergy topic: remember that not all adverse reactions to foods are necessarily allergies. Some babies may experience food sensitivities or intolerance, which can lead to similar symptoms of allergies – like fussiness, gas, or mild digestive discomfort.
Food allergies, on the other hand, involve an immune response and are typically more severe. Always check with your doctor so you know the right way to assess each situation.
Iron and zinc are particularly important substances at this point of the baby’s life.
These two minerals influence their growth, development, and overall health, so it’s critical to contemplate both during the food introduction phase.
When do you know it’s time to offer food in different formats, sizes, textures? As mentioned before, always take it slow and be patient when introducing new textures to babies.
From 6 to 8 months old, food is processed into a purée.
Around 8 to 10 months, gradually increase the thickness of the purées to a slightly thicker consistency. This can include mashed foods with small lumps.
From 10 to 12 months, your baby is likely becoming more adept at swallowing and chewing. This means it’s time to start introducing soft, bite-sized pieces of food.
From 12 months onwards, offer finger foods like small cubes of cheese, soft fruits (e.g., ripe bananas, avocado slices), and cooked vegetables.
How to offer food?
Here are a few suggestions on how you can prepare yourself emotionally and tactically for the food introduction moment!
- Take your time when offering food for babies. Let them touch the food, explore its texture and use their senses to learn about it. Remember that food introduction can get messy! And you shouldn’t feel like there’s something wrong if some of the food is not actually in your child’s mouth, but around them!
- Make sure you have the right set of tools: baby bib, spoons, and forks that that child can hold and take it to their mouth safely.
- Breast milk or formula can be mixed into some types of food to help in the adaptation process. After all, that will be a taste they already know mixed with something else.
- Every baby is unique, so it’s important to adapt the progression of textures to your child’s readiness and comfort level. If you have concerns or questions about your baby’s feeding journey, consult with your pediatrician or a registered dietitian for personalized guidance.
You’ve navigated through the seas of food introduction. Congratulations! Now you’re better equipped to read your baby’s cues and continue to expand their food exploration. If you’re interested in continuing to learn about child nutrition, you might enjoy understanding how to handle picky eaters and how to prevent it from happening!