The first solid foods that parents typically serve their babies include iron-fortified rice, barley or oat cereal mixed with warm breast milk or formula to give it a thin and smooth consistency. Starting off with single-ingredient foods and introducing just one new food at a time will allow you to monitor the infant for food reactions. Signs of an allergic reaction can include a rash, diarrhea or frequent spitting up.
To start, offer just a teaspoon or two of each food and wait a few days before introducing another food. Introducing solids after a baby has eaten some breast milk or formula but before he is completely full may increase the success with first feedings. As the baby wants more food, increase the amount of food offered to one to four tablespoons two to three times per day. Since a baby’s stomach is roughly the size of his fist, his portions will be small. Always look for signs of fullness when feeding and stop if a baby signals he is full.
Over time, pureed strained vegetables and fruits, meats and age-appropriate finger foods can be added to the baby’s meals. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, while single-grain cereals are usually introduced first, there is no medical evidence that introducing solid foods in any particular order has an advantage for babies. The Academy goes on to state that though many pediatricians will recommend starting vegetables before fruits, there is no evidence that your baby will develop a dislike for vegetables if fruit is given first. Babies are born with a preference for sweets, and the order of introducing foods does not change this.
And while many pediatricians recommend against giving eggs and fish in the first year of life because of allergic reactions, there is no evidence that introducing these nutrient-dense foods after four to six months of age determines whether a baby will be allergic to them, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
If you are preparing homemade baby food, it’s important to note that spinach, beets, green beans, squash and carrots are not good choices to serve babies younger than 6 months as they contain high levels of nitrates which can cause anemia in young babies. When preparing these foods at home, the March of Dimes recommends feeding small portions and not serving these vegetables if they have been refrigerated more than 24 hours. These foods should also not be used to prepare juice for a baby. Commercially prepared versions of these foods are safer because they are tested for nitrates.
When preparing and serving baby foods, do not add sugar, salt or fat such as butter. You can use a blender or food processor to puree fresh foods or use a fork to mash soft foods prior to serving. Fruits and vegetables should always be washed and peeled before preparing and meats should always be cooked to the appropriate temperatures.