Baby's first foods

The new rules for starting your little one on solids

When he’s ready for solids
At about six months, your baby is ready for solid food. Where should you start? For most families, the conventional choice of fortified, single-grain baby cereal still makes sense, says Daina Kalnins, a registered paediatric dietitian at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “It’s easy to prepare and it provides babies with the energy and iron they need.” But, she adds, you can just as easily offer iron-rich puréed meat as a first food. Iron is essential to good health, as it transports oxygen throughout the body. While bottle-fed babies should be getting iron from fortified formula, breastfed babies rely on stores of iron they were born with. When the supply begins to run out about six months after birth, it’s important to introduce dietary sources of the mineral.

Forget the old rules about serving vegetables before fruit. There’s no scientific evidence that a baby who tastes bananas before broccoli is doomed to develop a sweet tooth. Offer a wide variety of flavours, textures and colours, and see what baby likes best.

Spice it up!
Baby’s first foods should be soft, but they needn’t be bland. Seasoning puréed meats and vegetables with herbs and even some spices “exposes babies to stronger flavours,” says registered paediatric dietitian Daina Kalnins. Just steer clear of adding extra salt or sugar.

Homemade vegetable purées are easy to make — and some parents find purées more convenient than jarred because they can customize portion sizes to their baby’s preferences and developmental stage. These tips from Canada’s Baby Care Book will help you get started:

• Boil or steam your choice of vegetable until soft.
• Place in a food processor or use a hand blender to purée right in the pot, adding a few tablespoons of water if needed to thin the consistency.
• Purées will keep safely for up to two days in the refrigerator or for several months in the freezer.
• Freeze individual portions by spooning into the sections of an ice cube tray or into lidded cubes you can buy at baby supply stores for less than $15.

Don’t be surprised if more sweet-pea purée ends up on your baby than in his tummy. These early food experiences aren’t just about nutrition: They’re full-on sensory explorations.

“Feeding Loïc has taught me more patience,” says photographer Kathleen Finlay, who used a camera to capture her son’s early love affair with solids. “Forget about trying to feed him quickly: He wants to play with the food. He tries to grab the spoon out of our hands. Sometimes he ends up wearing the food in his hair and on his clothes — but mostly we get him to eat and we have lots of fun.”

So set up the high chair in a place that’s easy to wipe or mop clean, and let your baby dive in. This is great practice for the next stage in his culinary development. Between eight and 12 months, he’ll want to try feeding himself at least some of the time. So offer finger foods like bite-sized chunks of banana or soft-cooked vegetables, easy-to-chew cereals and crackers.

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