Posted by: Admin | April 21, 2011

Dear LC – How do I know when my baby is ready to receive solid food? And do I have to follow a preset order of solid foods when I introduce them?


How do I know my baby is ready to receive solid food?

We say that a baby is ready to eat solids when he can sit up by himself and when he shows interest in the foods we eat. At that age, around 6 months, the baby usually has an adequate amount of saliva, enough enzymes to digest foods, and more mature kidneys. His immune system should also be stronger so he should be at less risk of developing allergies. If you wait until your baby is 7 months or older, he could have more trouble adapting to new foods.
Breastmilk is still your baby’s main food at this age, but his nutritional needs are changing and other foods must be introduced to prevent anemia, caused by a lack of iron in his blood. When we say that a baby is ready to be ‘introduced’ to solids, we mean he is entering a period of food experimentation. He will taste, touch, and look at the food intently, manipulate it, and, sometimes, eat it. When he is offered puréed or mashed foods, he will swallow them easily, but you must remember that breastmilk will remain his most important food until he is one year old, so do not give him too much solid food. Solids will take a more important place in his diet once he is into his second year.

Do I have to follow a preset order of solid foods when I introduce them when my baby is six months old?

As you are only ‘introducing’ your baby to solids, you should be offering only small amounts of food. This will allow her to get used to the texture and to practice swallowing progressively more consistent foods. Be careful not to offer foods she can choke on!
While the order in which you introduce solids is not important, you should remember one thing: all through her first six months, your baby’s blood stayed rich in iron because of breastmilk. Breastmilk contains a small quantity of iron but it is extremely well absorbed (49% of the iron in breastmilk is actually absorbed by the baby, as opposed to only 4% of the iron from iron-enriched baby artificial milk). When a baby is exclusively breastfed, we do not worry about the iron in her blood until 6 months, as it takes about that long for her body’s iron stores to start to decrease. Breastfeeding exclusively is very important then, because if other foods are introduced before the baby is 6 months, the amount of iron absorbed from breastmilk decreases.
The first foods given to a baby vary according to one’s culture, but a six-month-old baby’s need for iron tells us the first solid foods to be given should be iron-rich ones, such as iron-fortified whole-grain cereals, meat, fish and egg yolk. Certain vegetables (like sweet potato, broccoli and green beans) are also a little higher in iron. In addition, fruits and vegetables containing vitamin C can increase the absorption of the iron if eaten with the iron-rich food (sweet potato has both iron and vitamin C).
You should never give a baby under one year old any foods that contain added sugar, fat or salt. Also, honey should be avoided until the baby is over one year old, as both pasteurized and unpasteurized honey may contain spores of the botulism bacteria, which can make your child very sick.
Here is an important rule to follow: introduce one food at a time and wait about three days before adding another new food. This way, if your baby shows signs of allergy or intolerance, it will be easier to identify the cause. If you need more information on how to introduce solid food, what safety measures to follow while the baby is eating these foods, how to recognize symptoms of allergies, and what specific nutritional value each food contains, please contact the nutritionist of your local clinic.
Enjoy your meal 🙂

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