From Lisa Barnes
The American Pediatric Association recommends introducing solids between four and six months of age. A few large-scale studies suggest that this timing may lower the risk of developing type I diabetes. Feeding your baby solids before four months can trigger an abnormal reaction in his immature immune system. Many mothers are told by well-meaning family members to give baby solids very young in order to get them to sleep through the night. However, feeding a baby solids does not make them sleep any better. It may just coincide with other developments that encourage routine sleeping patterns at this stage.
On the other hand, introducing solids later than six months may inhibit the development of a child’s palate, as they will not be exposed to enough variety early on. It is best to check with your child’s pediatrician to get the green light based upon your own child’s needs and development.
In the beginning your baby will eat about one to two teaspoons of cereal or puree, once or twice per day. Although the first few times, when they’re getting acquainted with the process, your baby won’t swallow much of anything. He is still drinking about twenty-four to twenty-eight ounces of breast milk or formula each day.
Many parents, me included, look forward to introducing solids and are just waiting for the right time. But when? The biggest cue is that your child will take an active interest in watching your eat, looking at and trying to grab your food. You’ll know they’re ready when you start to feel guilty eating a meal in front of them.
Babies have a natural reflex in their tongue called a thrust reflex. This is when the tongue thrusts outward to push items out of the mouth. When this reflex is gone, your baby will be able to eat because he can then swallow food. When I began my son, Jonas, on solids at five months, he still had the reflex. I would spoon the food into his mouth and his tongue would flip up, as if he wanted the spoon under his tongue. He was not yet ready to eat. However, he enjoyed thinking he was eating (though it was on his chin and spoon only) and we continued the routine. After about three days, he stopped thrusting his tongue and learned to swallow.
It is best to keep a log of foods your baby has eaten. It may sound silly, but it is very easy to forget what your baby has tried or not tried. This information can be provided to your doctor in case of illness or reaction. This information can also prove helpful to baby sitters and family members who care for your baby. Foods will need to be introduced for three to five days in a row to check for any allergic reactions. Then, if a problem arises, it will be easy to determine the offending food.
First foods are most likely single-item fruit and vegetable purees and cereals. In commercially prepared foods, some companies call these “Stage 1” foods. Rice cereal is the most common introductory food in baby’s culinary adventure because it’s easy to digest and isn’t likely to cause allergies. This is best purchased commercially prepared, because these cereals have an extra boost of iron, which your baby needs after six months of age. There are a few brands to choose from, with organic and GMO-free options. The cereal can be mixed with formula, breast milk, or water. Once introduced, the cereal can also be mixed with fruit, vegetable, and meat purees.
Some parents think that children introduced to vegetables before fruits will not have a sweet tooth. Most nutritionists and doctors disagree with this idea. Children will like sweets. There are also many opinions about the order of food items to introduce. Some experts recommend serving vegetables in order of color—lighter yellows to oranges to lighter greens, then dark greens. This suggestion is because lighter-colored foods tend to be milder in flavor; then as your baby’s palate matures the food flavors will increase with color intensity.
When To Stop
No one wants to waste food; however, forcing your child to eat or “finish their plate” is not advised. Before your baby can speak and tell you he’s finished eating, he will give you cues. These include: refusing to open his mouth, looking away, becoming agitated, appearing distracted, or squirming in his chair. According to nutritionist Mary Ellen DiPaola, most children can regulate their own appetites in their early stages of eating. If you force children to eat, they may lose the ability to read their own hunger and full signs. Feeding should be enjoyable for baby and parent, in a relaxed atmosphere, and at your child’s natural pace and appetite.
Foods To Avoid
There are a few reasons to avoid certain foods when introducing solids. The reasons include allergens, food intolerances, family history, special dietary needs, nitrite levels, and choking hazards. The biggest concern is potential food allergies and intolerances. Symptoms include rash, hives, respiratory problems, diarrhea, gas, and vomiting. Food allergies and intolerances are often linked genetically, so if parents are allergic they should be cautious and delay introducing these foods to children. Potential allergens include: wheat, cow’s milk, soy, nuts, shellfish, strawberries, and egg whites.
Some foods are more likely to cause adverse reactions. Doctors agree these should not be introduced as first foods, but how long to wait is often debated. Some believe these foods should not be introduced until after one year of age, while others, such as Brock Bernsten, M.D., my son’s pediatrician, believe some of these foods, such as yogurt and wheat, should be introduced between six and eight months of age. Otherwise you may miss an important window of opportunity when children will try new foods. He cautions, however, to give these foods each day for five to seven consecutive days, rather than the typical three- to five-day recommendation.
Nuts and peanuts are a special concern because of the severity of allergy symptoms affecting the upper respiratory system. Less than 1 percent of children and adults have the allergy. However, there are many processed and prepared foods that you may not realize contain nuts, including cookies, crackers, sauces, and ethnic foods. Many nutritionists suggest waiting to introduce nuts and nut butters until your child is two years old or older.
Organic Sweet Potato Puree
I never met a baby who didn’t love sweet potatoes. They are much sweeter in taste and higher in nutrients than the basic white potato. They pack more beta carotene (an antioxidant) than any other vegetable and are loaded with fiber and vitamin A. Baking the potatoes in the oven may take longer but the flavor is much richer than steaming in the microwave or stovetop.
Makes 4 servings
2 medium (7- to 8- ounce) organic sweet potatoes
Water, formula, or milk
Oven Method: Preheat oven to 425°F. Prick potatoes with a small knife, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until tender, and skin is wrinkled. Potatoes should pierce easily with a toothpick. Set potatoes aside to cool before handling.
Using your fingers, peel potato skin from flesh. Mash with a fork for thicker potatoes, or puree in a food processor with a steel blade until mashed. For a smoother and less sticky texture, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, formula or milk, at a time. Add liquid and process until you’ve reached desired consistency.
Microwave Method: Prick potatoes with a knife and place potatoes in a microwave-safe dish. Add ¼ cup water and cover tightly, allowing a corner to vent. Microwave on High for 3 minutes and turn potatoes over. Re-cover and cook for 3 to 6 minutes, or until tender. Check for doneness, cool, and proceed with directions above.
It’s all in the name. The names sweet potatoes and yams are used interchangeably in the United States, although true yams are different from sweet potatoes. Only sweet potatoes can be found in the U.S. You will notice different varieties (with varying shades of orange) in stores, most common are Jewel and Garnet.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Excerpted from The Petit Appetit Cookbook
Image Credit: © Eric Gevaert | Dreamstime.com
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com
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