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Starting Solid Foods Part 3

You’re feeling a bit less overwhelmed about the whole solids thing.  You’ve got a few baby foods on deck, you’re well-read, you’ve got your chart up on the fridge (No?  Is it really just me?) – you’re ready to go.  Here are a few things you might not be aware of, that you should keep in mind as you start this phase.

First, the allergy thing.  I know it seems like a lot of over-kill to wait five days between foods.  And the allergy thing can be a bit mystifying if you personally don’t have a history of food allergies, but trust me; you need to follow the guidelines.  Babies often have food allergies that they outgrow in their first year of life if it’s left alone.  Cow’s milk, for example, could cause an allergic reaction in an 8-month-old, but if that same baby waited until 14 months to drink milk may exhibit no reaction whatsoever.  Once you’ve “awakened” the allergy (not the scientific way of describing it!) the baby is much more likely to be allergic his whole life.  So give your child a fighting chance with soy and strawberries, and wait.  Even if you don’t have food allergies, if you or your spouse have any allergies, such as pollen or cat dander, your baby is much more likely to have a food allergy, so make sure you talk it over with your doctor.  According to foodallergy.org, 90% of all food allergies are accounted for in the following eight foods: cow’s milk, egg, peanuts, wheat, soy, tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, etc.), fish, and shellfish.  To find out more, and read up on when to introduce these foods, read these pages (these links go directly to their allergy info) –

Wholesome Baby Foods
Kelly Mom
Ask Dr. Sears
Food Allergy.org

And as a final word on the allergy thing, apparently the baby food manufacturers have not read all the allergy websites that I have.  Once you get into Stage 2 foods, or finger foods, you see milk or whey in many products, and cereals and fruit mixes loaded with no-nos like strawberries and raspberries.  Not to mention the wheat pastas, cheese wheels, corn, the list is endless.  If you are buying your baby’s food, stick to what you and your pediatrician have decided.  Don’t assume Gerber knows better.  Wholesome Baby Food has a list of the most allergenic vs. least allergenic foods.

The other reason to wait on certain foods is baby’s immature system.  Citrus can often cause an allergic reaction, but the high acidity can also wreak havoc on baby’s digestive system, which is why you avoid citrus and high-acid foods like tomatoes and cranberries until later.  Another non-allergy food to avoid is honey.  DO NOT GIVE YOUR CHILD HONEY THE FIRST YEAR OF HER LIFE!  Honey may contain botulism which baby’s stomach cannot combat.  Babies die from eating honey.  So as much as you want to share your favorite honey-and-peanut-butter sandwich with your 9-month-old, don’t do it, because of both the peanut butter and the honey.  I’ve seen some people say cooked honey is ok, and some people say it isn’t, so I err on the side of caution and avoid the honey graham crackers and honey-nut Cheerios as well.  Check out Wholesome Baby Food’s suggested timetable for introducing risky foods.

Second on my “Don’t” list: whether or not you make your own food, keep this in mind as you’re dishing up baby’s lunch: once a spoon has been in your child’s mouth and then back to the food dish, you cannot save any leftover food.  Any food that’s been touched by your child’s saliva can grow harmful bacteria –even in the fridge – that are too hard for baby to deal with.  So especially in the beginning, don’t feed baby straight from the jar unless you know he’s going to finish it or you’re comfortable throwing the rest away.  That’s why freezing food in ice cube trays is great; each “cube” of food is about one ounce, so not much is wasted.

And whether or not you make your own food, don’t taste the baby food, think, “It’s too bland!” and add salt to it.  First off, babies have much more sensitive palates than we do.  Second off, they have much more sensitive kidneys than we do.  Babies’ kidneys cannot process the extra salt, so leave it for later.  Seasonings in general should wait at least a few months; a six-month-old will find green beans strange enough without a healthy dose of garlic added!  You can gradually add in spices like cinnamon as baby gets older and his food palate expands.  As far as added sugar, etc., wait.  There’s plenty of time for your child to eat nutrition-lite food with lots of added fillers and empty calories.

A word on juice – don’t do it.  That’s my personal opinion.  What’s the point?  If you want to give them the vitamins, puree an apple instead.  Juice is empty calories and will fill a baby’s tummy, leaving no room for the breast milk she needs.  Plenty of time to introduce Junior to Hawaiian Punch and grape juice later.  Water isn’t harmful, but some pediatricians still encourage you not to give too much, citing again that it’ll push mom’s milk out of the picture.  We offer water at every meal, but only because she’s not interested.  We keep trying to get Maddie to like water so that when she’s constipated we can get some extra water in her (on the advice of her pediatrician!).  A baby that’s getting enough breastmilk or formula will be completely hydrated.  And of course, don’t give your baby cow’s milk until after one year of age.

Once you’ve got your baby started on solids, it will be tempting to offer a variety of finger foods.  I’m a Nervous Nelly and waited to dive into those for quite a while.  There’s no real need, other than the fun factor, and good first finger foods like Cheerios have wheat, which shouldn’t be given too early, or are multiple ingredients: those Gerber Baby Puffs are great because they dissolve in the mouth (thereby relieving Paranoid New Mommy’s fear of choking), but they’ve all got added sugar!  Not only, that, but one of the flavors is corn, a high allergy food!  So I waited until Maddie was nine months.

And finally, have fun!  Don’t ever force meal time, or force a baby to finish her food; studies have shown this leads to eating disorders and obesity down the line.  Solid food meal time should be about exploring new foods, seeing your baby’s face the first time she tries mango.  Follow your baby’s cues; if she starts tightening her lips, turning her head away, or whining, she’s not interested in eating any more, and that’s ok.  Any food after that will be overeating, and starting to override her innate “I’m full” mechanism.  Don’t worry if he goes through a period of not eating any green vegetables, or only liking fruit.  When your child is two, it will be much much worse, I promise.  This is about exposing baby’s palate, and her preference for fruits right now is not indicative of a coming decade of vegetable refusal.  Just keep offering everything and stay relaxed. 

And speaking of staying relaxed, don’t assume that your baby hates avocado if she turns her nose up the first time you offer it.  Most experts say it takes a baby 15-21 times of trying a food to determine if they like it.  Again, keep offering it.  And know that some of it may be texture; when I first offered avocado, Maddie didn’t like it until I diluted it with a bit of water.  The texture was creamier than what she was used to.  Now, of course, we’re getting into chunkier and creamier foods, but it’s been a gradual change.

Tomorrow (last one, I promise, and then I let you loose!) we’ll talk about the gear you need for this next phase of life.

At last, we get to the shopping!


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