Good Beginnings: Baby’s First Foods

On any given day, thousands of health care providers are discussing with thousands of parents what and how their infants should eat.

Food is one of life’s necessities, and infants have to eat just like the rest of us.

By now, the consensus is that breastfeeding is best for newborns in all but a few instances.

Breast milk has nearly all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months of life.

But vitamin D is not found in large enough amounts in breast milk for a baby’s needs.

In traditional societies, a baby manufactures vitamin D in his skin when his mother carries him outside with her when she forages for roots and berries during the day.

For reasons of climate and culture, that is not done in modern societies. So, starting at two weeks of age, breastfed babies need vitamin D supplement drops daily.

By one month of age, babies who drink formula are usually taking 2-4 ounces 6-8 times a day.

In another month, they average about 5-6 ounces 5-6 times a day. By 3-5 months of age, they take 6-7 ounces 5-6 times a day.

Infant formulas have vitamin D already in them.

Solid foods are started at 4 months of age for formula-fed infants and 4-6 months of age for breastfed infants.

Waiting until at least 4 months of age for solids reduces the risk of developing food allergies and allows for the tongue-pushing reflex used early in nursing to diminish.

Traditionally, single-grain infant cereals were recommended as a first solid food (especially rice cereal).

There is no scientific reason to start with grain, fruits, vegetables or even meats first.

But infant cereals have some advantages as a first food because they come in a powder that can be mixed to desired consistency using a familiar flavor (breast milk or formula).

There is no scientific advantage to starting vegetables before fruits or vice versa.

Meats can actually complement breastfeeding quite well from a nutrient standpoint.

These foods can be purchased as baby food or made at home using fresh ingredients (that are pureed).

A typical starting serving is a tablespoon given to the baby with an infant spoon.

A new food should be given for about three days in a row to look for signs of food allergy (rash, hives, diarrhea or vomiting).

Once a baby can sit up well, grab food and bring it to her mouth, finger foods can be given.

Examples include crackers, Cheerios, small pieces of soft banana or soft cheese. Just watch for choking.