|Starting Baby Foods
Are you receiving conflicting advice about when or what solid foods to start feeding
your baby? Traditionally, pediatricians had recommended introducing solids between 4 and 6 months and starting with infant rice cereal. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ current policy statement recommends breastfeeding for your baby’s first 6 months and then continuing to breastfeed with the gradual introduction of solids from around 6 months until at least 12 months.
What solids should you start with? Those recommendations are changing as well. In the past, parents have been told to start with infant rice cereal or oatmeal, followed by various colors of the vegetables, then fruits. Studies have shown that the order in which foods are introduced will not prevent a picky eater; variety in the offerings has the greatest impact.
Newer recommendations are to skip the cereals, particularly refined rice cereal which provides little nutritional value other than the iron it is fortified with. Instead, doctors are recommending parents start with meats. Yes, pureed meats or strips of chicken, beef, or pork for your 6 months old! Why this change? First, cereals were encouraged as a first food because they are less likely to cause allergies. But so are most meats! Secondly, infants need a little extra iron around 6 months to support their rapid growth and development. Meats are the best dietary source of iron for an infant (other than breastmilk) and they also provide zinc and protein.
Parents can also vary the types of grains offered to include barley and oatmeal, which also contain higher amounts of fiber than refined rice cereals. Starting with meats and then adding various fruits, vegetables, and grains will provide your infant with a variety of tastes and textures, as well as the nutrients needed to support proper growth.