Is your baby nearing that six month mark? Are you starting to think about introducing solid foods? Most parents are told to start with boring, bland, highly processed rice cereal. Baby’s first solid food does not have to come in this form.
The very best thing you can do for your baby is to introduce him to whole, nutritious, unprocessed foods. Doctors often recommend starting with cereals because they are fortified with iron, which prevents anemia. However, this synthetic iron is poorly absorbed by the body. Meats, dark greens, peas, beans, and lentils are all good sources of iron, and can be introduced to your baby around 6 months of age. If you are concerned that your baby is anemic, a simple blood test can be done to determine if he is.
If your baby is truly old enough to begin solid foods, he does not need foods that have been fully pureed. Choose whole foods that can be easily shredded or fork mashed. Start with foods that are less sweet, like vegetables and beans. Then, when your baby’s pallet is used to these foods, introduce sweeter fruits.
When preparing foods for your baby to eat, cut pieces small enough that he can easily swallow them whole. Some babies have trouble with textures when they first start eating solid foods. If your baby struggles with pieces or chunky foods, use a blender to make a smoother texture.
Avocado is a great first food. It is nutritious and full of good brain developing fats. Mash a ripe avocado with a fork until it is smooth, like guacamole before feeding it to your baby.
Cook fresh carrots until they are very soft and can be well mashed with a fork. No salt added, canned carrots are also a good, fast choice and mash easily.
Bake or steam squash until it is very soft and mash it with a fork. If your baby has trouble with the texture at first, you can also puree it in a blender, with a little water for a smoother texture.
Microwave or bake a sweet potato in the oven until soft, and then mash, or blend for a smoother texture. You can also cut it into very small pieces and let your baby experiment with feeding them to himself. You don’t need to add salt or butter.
Boil potatoes until fork tender and then mash them with a little bit of breastmilk or formula until smooth. You don’t need to add salt or butter to these either.
Banana is also a good nutritious first food, but is sweet and should be introduced when your baby has gotten a taste for less sweet vegetables and proteins, first. Bananas get sweeter as they ripen. Start with a banana that is yellow, and not turning brown, to avoid excess sugars. Banana can be fork mashed to any consistency, or cut into very small pieces that your baby can pick up and gum.
A ripe pear has a great texture for getting your baby used to solid foods. Fork mash or cut ripe pear into small pieces.
Meat is a good source of iron and can be introduced as soon as your baby has a couple of teeth. Use meats that have been prepared to a soft consistency and then finely shred or chop them for your baby. Your baby can then feed himself a few pieces. Your baby is still getting most of his protein from breastmilk or formula, so there is no need to eat a lot of meat. A few pieces will suffice until he is older and eating more solid foods.
Beans are another great source of protein and iron. When they are cooked and mashed to a soft consistency, like refried beans, they are a great first food.
Introduce new foods one at a time and watch your baby for signs of food allergies. Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t eat a lot at first, or has trouble liking new foods, with practice and patience, he’ll get the hang of it.