When you’re ready to introduce solid food, the goal is to increase food exposure so that by one year of age, your baby has eaten a wide variety of food and his or her dinner plate looks like yours: filled with the food everyone else is eating, with simple modifications in texture. In order to achieve this, you’ll want to follow these three rules.
1. Be mindful of the critical nutrients. Your baby is growing faster than he or she will at any other time of his life and this quick pace requires a nutrient-dense diet. Iron, zinc, vitamin D, and DHA are considered critical nutrients for normal brain and bone development, and without adequate amounts, may cause deficiencies, which may disturb cognition, learning, behavior, and bone and body growth. The foods you select to feed your baby should include high-nutrient first foods like pureed meat, iron-fortified grain-based cereals, cooked fish, and eggs. Vitamin D can be obtained from infant formula or a vitamin D supplement if you are breastfeeding.
2. Speed up the timing of introduction to new foods. If your baby is at a low risk for food allergies, you can introduce a new food every 1-2 days, as long as your baby isn’t showing signs of intolerance. While tradition would have you wait 3–5 days, this doesn\’t have a scientific basis and will hold your baby back from getting variety and exposure to a wide range of different foods. Think about it: if you waited every 3–5 days to introduce a new food, your baby would only be exposed to 6-10 new foods a month. If your baby is at a high risk for food allergy, go a little bit slower (2-3 days) and watch for allergic reaction.
3. Keep pureed food timely. By 8-9 months, you baby should be introduced to table food with the goal of eating an all-table-food, chopped diet by one year. Yet up to 45 percent of moms are still feeding their baby pureed food at 8 and 9 months, delaying the progression to a family food diet. Why is this a problem? Delaying the introduction of table foods may curtail oral motor development, which may slow the process of learning to eat and learning to speak.
Learning to eat solid foods is an important part of infancy. Moving along with food exposure allows your baby to taste and receive the important nutrients he or she needs for growth and development, especially if they are breast-fed. But getting in a lot of different nutrients isn’t the only thing — your baby’s mouth muscles have to learn how to eat, chew, and manipulate food, as this is integral piece to normal speech development.
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