As a new parent you probably have many questions about food and nutrition. Starting solids is an exciting milestone for both you and your baby. Parents play an important role in creating healthy eating habits that will last your child’s lifetime. Earlier this year, Health Canada, Dietitians of Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, and the Breastfeeding Society of Canada revised their feeding guidelines for infants age 6 -24 months.
How can I tell my baby is ready for solids?
The recommended age to start healthy full term babies solids has changed over the years, you’ll probably hear your parents or in-laws talk about introducing solids before six weeks. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society , Health Canada, Dietitians of Canada and the breastfeeding Committee for Canada recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months up to 2 years of age with complementary feedings starting around six months of age . These recommendations take into account that your baby is physiologically ready and showing signs of readiness. Furthermore, at six months your baby’s iron stores are becoming depleted and needs to replenish her stores from iron rich food sources.
It is important to note that your baby’s digestive system is not fully developed at birth and does not have all the enzymes needed to fully digest solids. Thus, breast milk is more easily digested and facilitates in the development of a healthy digestive system. Furthermore, babies are born with small tummies and require small frequent meals to meet their nutritional needs.
Like every baby your baby is unique and may be showing signs that she is ready for solids before six months, check the signs and symptoms and always check with your health care provider prior to starting solids.
*** Health Canada recommends all babies who are breastfed should receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily.
Signs your baby maybe ready to start solids:
Baby can sit upright with assistance
Baby can hold his head steady
Baby shows interest in what your eating by grabbing at your food or smacking her lips while you are eating
Baby will open his mouth or lean forward when food is offered
Baby no longer demonstrates tongue extrusion (pushes food out of mouth)
Introducing new complementary foods:
Introducing your baby to solids is an exciting time for both you and baby.
When starting solids, its important to note that breast milk or iron fortified formulas will continue to be their main source of nutrition, to promote healthy growth and development.
Start slowly by offering 1 tablespoon of iron rich food mixed with breast milk or iron fortified formula 2-3 times per day, gradually increasing to 3-4 times per day. When introducing solids to your baby you want to start with single foods and one food at a time to make easier to identify any possible food allergies. The recommendations for introducing a new food is 2-7 days.
Iron rich foods are recommended as first foods for your baby. Iron fortified single grain cereals such as rice or barely, have traditionally been the first food introduced to babies because they easily digested. However, meat and meat alternatives are also a good first food. Meat is a rich source of iron and the iron is absorbed better than iron from non meat sources. Iron is also found in lentils, legumes, tofu, eggs, and some vegetables. Incorporate daily iron sources into your babies diet twice a day.
Now that your baby has a good handle on iron rich foods its time to start vegetables and fruit. To help your babies eat a well balanced diet think of a rainbow. Offer your baby vegetables and fruit that are rich in color such as kale, broccoli, kiwi, carrots, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. Furthermore, feeding experts recommend children over the age of two to eat at least one dark green vegetable per day. In addition to color think about the season. Eating foods that are in season helps to ensure you baby’s diet is well balanced and incorporates a variety of flavours and textures. A good way to determine which foods are in season is to visit your local farmers market. Shopping at farmers markets also teaches your kids where their food comes from and the importance of eating seasonally and locally.
New evidence suggests delaying the introduction of high allergy foods such as eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, seafood, soy and sesame does not protect against food allergies. Instead parents should introduce high allergen foods early and to continue to serve them to maintain their tolerance level.** If a reaction were to occur it would most likely happen within 48 hours. Parents should wait two days between introducing new foods to help identify a possible allergen.
Please note these are general guidelines and do not apply to infants whom have already been diagnosed with a food allergy. Parents with a history of food allergies are encouraged to talk to there healthcare provider before introducing common allergen foods.
Foods to avoid:
In healthy term infants the only two foods that should be delayed are milk and honey. Homogenized milk and milk products should be delayed until at least 9 months of age. Honey and any foods containing honey should be avoided until 1 year to prevent botulism poisoning.
No sippy cups:
Starting from 6 months the new gold standard is to serve water in a open cup. Research suggests open cups help infants develop feeding skills. Start offering small amounts of water and be prepared for a mess but with a little patience and time she will get the hang of it.
Responsive feeding is following your baby’s cues. As parents it is our role to decide what is being served and your baby’s/child role to decide how much. It is important to pay attention to baby’s cues and respond to their hunger and satiety needs.
Make eye contact
- Follow baby’s lead, watch for mouth opening.
- Use age appropriate utensils
- Respond appropriately to hunger and satiety cues. i.e turning head away or getting fussy is a sign they are no longer interested.
As parents we play an important role in shaping our kids eating habits. Infants are curious and often open to trying new foods. By eating family meals together and offering a wide variety of foods and flavors we play an important role in shaping our children’s acceptance of different foods. Know that your child will often try a food if it is served as a family meal with the rest of the family.
Have family meals at the table with few distractions i.e tv and cell phones
Encourage young kids to get involved i.e wash the lettuce, stir the salad dressing.
Provide foods that are nutritious most of the time ie limit processed foods, sugar and sodium.
Provide regular healthy snacks for all children over the age of 1