Making appropriate food choices for your baby during the first year of life is very important. More growth occurs during the first year than at any other time in your child's life. It is important to feed your baby a variety of healthy foods at the proper time. Starting good eating habits at this early stage will help set healthy eating patterns for life.
Do not give solid foods unless your child's physician advises you to do so. Solid foods should not be started before 4 months of age because:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all infants, children, and adolescents take in enough vitamin D through supplements, formula, or cow's milk to prevent complications from deficiency of this vitamin. In November, 2008, the AAP updated its recommendations for daily intake of vitamin D for healthy infants, children, and adolescents. It is now recommended that the minimum intake of vitamin D for these groups should be 400 international units (IU) per day, beginning soon after birth. Your baby's physician can recommend the proper type and amount of vitamin D supplement for your baby.
When starting solid foods, give your baby one new food at a time--not mixtures (such as cereal and fruit or meat dinners). Give the new food for five to seven days before adding another new food. This way you can tell what foods your baby may be allergic to or cannot tolerate. Research is still unclear whether delaying foods thought to be highly allergic (such as cow's milk, fish, eggs, and peanuts) until a child is older can reduce the chance of food allergy. Talk with your child's pediatric care provider about food allergy concerns.
Begin with small amounts of new solid foods--a teaspoon at first and slowly increase to a tablespoon.
Begin with dry infant rice cereal first, mixed as directed, followed by vegetables, fruits, and then meats.
Do not use salt or sugar when making homemade infant foods. Canned foods may contain large amounts of salt and sugar and should not be used for baby food. Always wash and peel fruits and vegetables and remove seeds or pits. Take special care with fruits and vegetables that come into contact with the ground. They may contain botulism spores that cause food poisoning.
Infant cereals with iron should be given to your infant until your infant is 18 months old.
Cow's milk should not be added to the diet until your infant is 1-year-old. Cow's milk does not provide the proper nutrients for your baby.
AAP recommends not giving fruit juices to infants younger than 6 months of age. Only pasteurized, 100% fruit juices (without added sugar) may be given to older infants and children, and should be limited to 4 to 6 ounces a day. Dilute the juice with water and offer it in a cup with a meal.
Feed all food with a spoon. Your baby needs to learn to eat from a spoon. Do not use an infant feeder. Only formula and water should go into the bottle.
Avoid honey in any form for your child's first year, as it can cause food poisoning.
Do not put your baby in bed with a bottle propped in his/her mouth. Propping a bottle has been linked to an increased risk of ear infections. Once your baby's teeth are present, propping the bottle can also cause tooth decay. There is also a risk of choking.
Help your baby to give up the bottle by his/her first birthday.
Avoid the "clean plate syndrome." Forcing your child to eat all the food on his/her plate even when he/she is not hungry is not a good habit. It teaches your child to eat just because the food is there, not because he/she is hungry. Expect a smaller and pickier appetite as the baby's growth rate slows around 1 year of age.
Infants and young children should not eat hot dogs, nuts, seeds, round candies, popcorn, hard, raw fruits and vegetables, grapes, or peanut butter. These foods are not safe and may cause your child to choke. Most physicians suggest these foods be saved until after your child is 3 or 4 years of age. Always watch a young child while he/she is eating. Insist that the child sit down to eat or drink.
Healthy infants usually require little or no extra water, except in very hot weather. When solid food is first fed to your baby, extra water is often needed.
Do not limit your baby's food choices to the ones you like. Offering a wide variety of foods early will pave the way for good eating habits later.
Fat and cholesterol should not be restricted in the diets of very young children, unless advised to by your child's physician. Children need calories, fat, and cholesterol for the development of their brains and nervous systems, and for general growth.