Courtney Morris Gardner, a nurse practitioner with McDowell Pediatrics, offers expert advice on when your baby should start eating solid foods, as seen in WNC Parent.
You have survived the first half-year of your infant’s life and you are doing wonderful. Now, as your baby shows exciting signs of interest in solid foods you have many theories in which to navigate. Relax, as there are many correct ways.
One fact that is agreed upon: waiting is best. There is no need to introduce solids until 6 months of age. Infants younger than 6 months old are still working to prime their belly to properly digest these foods.
Breastmilk or formula provide more nutrients than any solid food. In the first year, solids are complementary foods — bonuses — to teach and allow baby to practice eating. Breastmilk or formula is essential in providing proper nutrition, vitamins and minerals until baby has mastered a large dictionary of foods, which usually occurs around age 1. Contrary to urban myth, starting foods early does not help baby sleep longer at night and could possibly do more harm than good.
Jarred, canned and pouched baby foods are convenient, but unnecessary. You can easily give baby delicious healthy homemade foods for a fraction of the cost. Avoid high amounts of sodium but otherwise keep the spices and herbs. Allowing baby to taste a variety of foods will help her develop a diverse palate in years to come.
There are a few standard guidelines: Do not feed honey to a child younger than a year old to avoid the rare but real risk of botulism. Be sure to avoid choking hazards such as nuts, popcorn and raisins. Your child does not need cow’s milk or plant milks until her first birthday as they do not provide those crucial nutrients that are so important in her development.
Often it takes 10-15 tries before a child will accept a new food. Do not despair — this is normal. Keep trying.
Get creative: Try avocados, blueberries, sweet potatoes, soft meats, quiche, beans, spinach, tomatoes, the sky is the limit. Watching your baby try a new exotic food or a common seasonal fruit can bring so much joy. Watch her as she experiments by using her senses to investigate a new item. Feel his excitement as he recognizes the same delicious food he loved before. Pull baby up to the table and allow her to share food with you. How exciting that baby can now participate in such a lavish and enjoyable activity with her family. Starting in infancy, you can create a family ritual that will create many memories for years to come.
Courtney Morris Gardner, MSN, RN, CPNP, is a nurse practitioner with McDowell Pediatrics in Marion. Call 828-652-6386 for information and appointments.