Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Feeding your baby solid foods

Jennifer Struble, Registered Dietitian, Alberta Health Services - Starting solids foods can be an exciting time for parents and their infant. Most babies are ready for solids around six months of age. Your baby should show signs of readiness before solids are introduced.

These signs include:
  • Sits up with little help 
  • Has good head and neck control 
  • Opens mouth when food is offered 
  • Turns head away when full 
There are risks to starting solids too early as well as too late. If you start baby too early on solids they may drink less breastmilk or formula leading to possible under nutrition. Early introduction will also limit the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months as this benefits the baby’s immune system. If parents introduce solids before four months of age it may increase the risk of choking due to baby’s immature ability to chew and swallow.

Starting solids after six months of age increases the risk of your baby being slow to accept new foods and flavors, difficulty learning to eat new textures and lacking vitamins and minerals, like iron.

Your baby’s first foods should be iron rich foods such as:
  • Infant cereal with iron 
  • Meat such as beef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork, turkey or wild game 
  • Meat alternatives may include beans, lentils, split peas, tofu, or eggs 

Offer iron rich foods at each meal. Your baby will still need breastmilk (or store bought infant formula) even when your baby starts eating solids. Wait until your baby is at least 9-12 months old before introducing 3.25% cow’s milk.

Once you have introduced iron rich foods try other healthy foods including:
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, peppers, squash and sweet potato 
  • Fruits such as apple, avocado, banana, kiwi, mango and peach 
  • Whole grains such as barley, couscous, pasta or quinoa 
  • Milk alternatives such as yogurt and cheese 
Vitamin C in vegetables and fruits help your baby’s body to absorb the iron in foods. Honey, even in cooked foods, should be avoided in the first year due to risk of botulism (food poisoning). Other foods to be cautious of because of choking risk include hard candies, gum, popcorn, marshmallows, whole nuts and fish with bones.

Your baby can start enjoying many of the same healthy foods your family is eating. Change the texture of foods as baby grows and develops better eating skills. Start with pureed or mashed and progress to lumpy, minced, grated or diced. Once your baby is ready to feed with their own fingers you can offer soft or cooked foods cut up.

Offer a few sips of water from an open cup if your baby is thirsty. Water should not replace breastmilk or infant formula. If you decide to give juice, choose only 100 percent juice in an open cup as part of a meal or snack and limit it to half a cup per day. The only drink that should be offered from a bottle is expressed breast milk or infant formula. By 12-14 months of age infants should be drinking from a cup and be weaned from the bottle.

For more information please call your local Community Health Unit or see the links below:

Jennifer Struble is a Registered Dietitian with Alberta Health Services, Nutrition Services. She can be reached by e-mail,

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