Tips for Feeding Your Baby Only the Best

Thursday, June 28, 2007 - 12:11pm

By Allison Stevens, MS, RD

What you feed your baby can set a foundation for a lifetime of healthful eating. For the first 4-6 months of life, breast milk (or if unable to breastfeed, formula) is the best and only thing you should feed your baby. However, once it is time to begin introducing food into your child's diet, deciding what to feed him can be daunting.

Food throughout a baby's first year

At around 4-6 months, you can begin complementing breast milk or formula with rice cereal, vegetables, and fruits. When you first begin adding foods to your infant's diet, the vegetables, and fruits should be seedless, cooked, peeled, and pureed. You can prepare at home or buy jars of baby food. Between 8-12 months of age, you can begin adding in mashed and diced foods. At around age one, a child will start to grab for food, a sign that you should begin to allow your child to try feeding herself small chunks of food. This will help in the development of hand-eye coordination. The rest of this article outlines tips to make sure you are feeding your baby only the best:

Introduce colorful fruit and vegetables to your infant's diet

Including fruits and vegetables into a baby's diet early on can help your child build a preference for these healthful foods. Eating a variety of colors is just as important for your baby as it is for you. Make sure the foods you offer your child represent all colors of the rainbow: green avocados and spinach, orange squash and mangos, yellow bananas, blueberries, etc. This ensures your baby receives a variety of vitamins and minerals that each color offers.

For further information on the color and the health benefits of fruit and vegetables see the following articles from TheDietChannel: Eat A Rainbow, Part 1: Health Benefits of Red Foods, Part 2 (green foods), Part 3 (yellow/orange foods) and Part 4 (blue/purple foods).

Assessing the liklihood of infant allergy: introduce new foods one at a time

Only introduce one new food at a time, waiting at least 2-3 days in between new foods. This helps your baby grow accustom to that food and can also help in pinpointing any food allergies.

Introducing new foods: try and try again

Introducing new foods to a resistant child can be frustrating. While you don't want to force a child to eat anything, you also don't want to stop offering a food altogether. It often takes a child several times of trying a food to decide he likes it. Be a good role model: If other family members are eating (and enjoying) a food at the dinner table, the child is more likely to do the same.

Portion control for infants: start with small amounts

Babies have little tummies and do not require very much food at one time. For example, an average serving of vegetables or fruit for a baby is 1-3 tablespoons. Babies are good about listening to their hunger cues and will let you know when they are full.

Safety guidelines when introducing new foods to your baby

When feeding your baby, safety must always come first. You want to avoid feeding your baby, or toddler, foods that may present a choking hazard such as the following:

  • Chips
  • Popcorn
  • Tough meats
  • Raw celery
  • Raisins
  • Whole grapes
  • Chunky peanut butter
  • Gum
  • Hard or gooey candy.

Some foods will need to be cooked until they are soft and cut up into small enough pieces, so that they are not a choking hazard to your little one.

Avoid feeding your baby honey, which may contain bacterial spores that may cause a fatal food-borne illness in infants. Also avoid feeding a baby food high in sugars and corn syrups, as the calories from these ingredients will replace more nutrient-rich foods. Foods with a high incidence of allergy such as eggs, milk, wheat, soy, nuts, and fish are best introduced after age one.

Although feeding your child can seem daunting at first and may prove frustrating at times, teaching your child healthy eating habits and to enjoy food and meal times can help ensure a happy and healthy future!