Starting infant solid baby foods has much greater flexibility now than a generation or two ago. No longer do informed pediatricians specify only one correct way. There are still some sound general principles, of course.
- Start one new food at a time every 3-5 days to make the cause of an unlikely allergic or sensitive reaction recognizable, e.g. lip or eyelid swelling, generalized hives or whelts, vomiting, diarrhea, persistent cough or wheeze, a flare of dry itchy eczema skin, etc.
- Begine each food with a fine puree or 1st food, then over time move to thicker purees or 2nd foods, to allow exercise of baby tongue and cheek muscles.
- Increase variety amond the food groups so that by 9 months your baby is on a wide variety of healthy foods.
Although babies have been started on iron-fortified infant cereals for many decades, we still find some babies iron deficient with anemia at age one. For that reason, many pediatricians are following a new routine to prevent iron deficiency anemia.
- Offer fine pureed meats, one new meat at a time_beef, veal, lamb, pork (in no particular order), fowl (chicken, turkey) and seafood (no bones, of course) e.g. pureed shrimp, salmon, scallops, etc. Meats are the foods richest in iron.
- As you introduce purred meats, you can also start iron-fortified cereals. In other words you do NOT have to go through the entire list of meat items before adding to your baby's variety. So once you've begun a few meats, then cereals become a breakfast item and meats quickly move to lunch and dinner options.
- As you then add pureed fruits and veggies, or veggies and fruits, meats can have a side-dish of veggies and fruits become a nice desssert.
- Now we advise starting eggs, dairy and pureed nuts like peanut butter and almond butter (never whole nuts or popcorn until your child is 5 to 6 years old to avoid choking hazards) between 6 & 10 months of age to reduce the chances of developing food allergies. The old way of delaying eggs, dairy, strawberries, and nut butters until after age one NEVER worked to prevent food allergies. Evidence slearly shows starting these food items after 6 months of age helps the baby's immune system develop tolerance and minimizes the chances of food allergy.
- We still delay whole milk until one year of life to minimize protein stresses on the kidney and prevent microscopic blood loss into the bowel, so how do you introduce dairy if you wait on cow's milk? Offer small amounts of yogurt, one new flavor at a time, as part of baby's varied diet. Biscuit pieces are baked containing milk protein and can be gummed by baby. Small amounts of whole milk can be mixed with baby cereal at breakfast. Peanut butter and other nut butters can be smeared into cereals and other purred foods_about 1 tsp every day or two. Scrambled eggs also can be gummed for breakfast or mixed into other pureed foods or cereals. So you can see that between 6 and 9 months, a great variety of flavors and tastes can offer baby much delight.
Other than these few general principles and the above new guidelines, parents still have great flexibility in creating a healthy and interesting menu for baby.