Nutrition: What to consider when you start your baby on solid foods

Starting your infant on solid foods is a milestone
that can elicit a great deal of excitement. Yet all too
often, the anticipation can be followed by disappointment
as your child spits out your carefully prepared
offerings. Take heart: raising a healthy eater with an
adventurous palate is a process. Be optimistic; your
patience will pay off.

Keep in mind that each child is different and
siblings can behave completely independently from
each other. But one thing’s for sure: it’s best to wait
to begin solids until your baby is developmentally
ready. Otherwise, you can be sure your offerings will
end up anywhere but in their tummies.

When should you offer solid foods during the
meal? Is it better to feed them before their breast
milk or formula, afterwards or in between? There’s
no right or wrong answer. It depends on the child.

Despite these individual preferences, don’t
discount the important role you play in influencing
their likes and dislikes. Remember that older
infants, even nine- or ten-month-olds, can pick up
on your attitudes about what they’re eating. My granddaughter absolutely loved exotic options like
avocados and hearts of palm, but hated tomatoes,
and would vigorously spit them out if they got
mixed in with her other food.

At the same age, she loved to be carried through
my garden to see the flowers and vegetables growing.
One day when she was just under a year, she
picked a cherry tomato and I was afraid she might
pop it into her mouth and choke on it. So I made a
huge fuss about “Julia’s amazing tomato” and that
we needed to wash and cut it up. I really talked it
up! When she finally put a quarter into her mouth,
I was stunned when I heard her say, “Mmmmm.”
Now, she squeals with delight whenever she sees
tomatoes.

Since then, I have suggested to parents that they
involve their youngsters with the foods that they
have previously rejected. Even a 10-month-old can
“help” to prepare broccoli or kidney beans while
sitting in their high chair. It just may take a little
creativity on your part to persuade them just how
important their assistance is.

The basics

Start with iron

The Canadian Paediatric Society
recommends starting with an
iron-rich food such as iron-fortified
cereal. Stick to a single grain variety
so you can determine if there are any
intolerances or allergies. Offer one
new food at a time for three or four
consecutive days. This can also help
pinpoint any adverse reactions. Recently
revised guidelines from Health
Canada also recommend starting
with protein rich foods such as meat
and eggs.

Sweet eats

Babies love the sweet taste of fruit
and may reject various veggies, so
offer vegetables before introducing
fruits. This may help avoid the expectation
of all foods being sweet – even
breast milk tastes sweet. Your baby’s
individual preferences may make no
sense. Be patient and keep trying by
offering tastes of different foods.

Smooth talk

The textures of various foods can also
influence your baby’s preferences.
For one child, the smoothest of
purées may be required while
another may love a lumpier mix. In
the same way, some older infants
may prefer to be fed while others may
refuse to eat foods that they cannot
pick up and feed themselves.

Fat facts

Babies require fat for optimal brain
development so steer clear of
low-fat dairy products until your
child is two years of age.

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting
dietitian in private practice and author of The
Enlightened Eater’s Whole Foods Guide (Viking
Canada). Read Rosie’s take on healthy eats at
rosieschwartz.com.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May/June 2013.

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