Feeding

Phase 1: Feeding Guidelines

Always follow a recommended diet from your pediatrician to supply a fully balanced diet to meet your baby’s nutritional requirements. Many doctors recommend beginning solids at 6 months. You can use a little common sense to determine the right time for your baby.

Typical signs that indicate your baby is ready for solids include:

  • The ability to sit without help.
  • Active interest in food that others are eating; watches people eat.
  • Does not use tongue to push solids or spoon out of mouth.
  • The ability to signal she wants to be fed or has had enough to eat.

When starting your child on solid foods, it is a good idea to introduce one food at time in order to trace the development of food allergies. You should wait 2 to 7 days between new foods to be sure your baby is not allergic. Signs of food allergies can include stomachache, diarrhea, skin rash, wheezing and vomiting.

General Guidelines

  • Consult with your pediatrician or health care provider if you have any questions concerning the introduction of solid foods.
  • Breast milk and/or fortified formula should be continued until the first birthday. Cow’s milk should not be introduced until baby is at least 1 year of age.
  • Always check with your doctor or health care provider if you think your baby is not eating enough of the right foods.
  • Use a high chair or infant specific chair when feeding your baby. If your baby is sitting is upright, he is less likely to choke.
  • Never leave your baby unattended when eating. If possible, feed baby with the family. This will get your child on a regular feeding schedule and enjoying a familiar routine.
  • Be conscious of serving sizes and do not serve too much. A good rule of thumb for portion size is 1 tablespoon for every year of age.
  • Do not get discouraged. Children’s appetites and tastes are finicky and change throughout development.

Starting Solids

  • When your baby is ready to begin solids, introduce vegetables first to encourage the acceptance of these flavors before introducing the sweeter tastes of fruits.
  • Start with 1 tablespoon of a mild tasting vegetable like avocado or sweet potato. Gradually increase the quantity.
  • Be patient. When introducing a new fruit or vegetable give your baby at least eight chances before you give up that food. Children often need to try a food several times before they will accept it.
  • Try offering new foods when your child is hungry to avoid rejection.
  • A soft spoon and plastic dish will make mealtime easier for your baby.
  • Stir food well after heating to avoid hot spots. Touch-test the food’s temperature before feeding to your baby.
  • Watch for signs that your baby is finished eating like turning his head away or not opening his mouth. When your baby signals the meal is over, it’s over. Do not encourage overeating.

Next Steps

  • Once your baby has adjusted to pureed baby food and is showing signs of readiness, you can vary the consistency of the food. Begin with small, soft lumps in the pureed baby food and then move to mashed, ground or chopped foods. Textured and lumpy foods help your baby develop oral skills and muscle tone.
  • Try adding new textures with pureed baby foods that your baby already enjoys.
  • Juice should be given after regular fruit has been introduced. Try waiting until 10 months of age. Juice intake should be limited to 4-6 ounces per day for children 1 to 6 years of age.
  • Around 8-12 months, add soft table foods and finger foods like dried toast, soft fruit pieces and cooked, chopped vegetables.
  • Around 8 months, your baby may need additional protein sources like meat and beans.
  • Mild spices like vanilla, garlic powder, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, mint, oregano, basil or lemon zest can add new flavors and interest to your child’s foods. Most pediatricians recommend waiting until your baby is at least 8 months of age to add spices.
  • Avoid hot dogs, peanut butter, nuts, popcorn and hard pieces of fruits and vegetables on which children can easily choke. These should not be given to children under 3 years of age.

Tips and Tricks

  • Create a relaxing environment with the family during meals. Establish regular family times or patterns for meals.
  • Remember, picky eating is a normal phase children usually outgrow. Offer a variety of foods and encourage your child to try at least a bite.
  • Continue to introduce and encourage your child to eat a variety of nutritious foods.
  • Try reintroducing rejected foods mixed with a favorite food to encourage acceptance.
  • Pay attention to your baby’s natural cues and needs. Let your child decide when she is finished eating.
  • Try not to overcook food. Overcooking can destroy a food’s flavor, texture, color and nutrient content.
  • Instead of salt and sugar, add spices to add new flavors and experiences to your baby’s food. Salt and sugar encourage bad eating habits and taste preferences. Added sugar also increases your child’s risk for cavities.
  • The less excitement you make over baby’s food the better. Encouraging baby with “yum” sounds is okay but you need to follow your baby’s cue and allow her to check out the meal for herself. Do not force food into your baby’s mouth. Wait for her to open her mouth to take the food.
  • Look for “Fresh from Florida” fruits and vegetables. Regional and seasonal items are often cheaper and fresher.
  • Keep mealtime as calm as possible – no television, only soothing music and soft conversation. Mealtime should never be a time of conflict over food or anything else.

Introducing Solid Foods : Suggested Timeline

6 Months (or first solid foods)
Breast milk and/or iron-fortified formula
Iron fortified single grain infant cereals (rice, oatmeal, barley)
Ripe Avocados
Ripe Bananas
Sweet Potato
6-7 Months
Applesauce
Carrots
Green Beans
Mango
Papaya
Pears
Sweet Potato
White Potato
Yellow Squash
8-9 Months
Broccoli
Cantaloupe
Cauliflower
Collard Greens
Eggplant
Honeydew Melon
Peas
Okra
Spinach
Watermelon
Cottage cheese, soft cheese, yogurt
Pureed and well-cooked beans like lentils, black beans
Mashed and well-cooked meat, fish, tofu, cooked egg yolk
Finger foods like soft breads, peeled wedges of fruit, cooked vegetable pieces
10-12 Months
Beets
Blueberries (pureed, not whole berries)
Finely grated or mashed raw yellow squash, greens, sweet peppers
Strips of tender lean meats
Whole wheat breads, crackers, sugar-free cereals

Food

Phase 1: Food Preparation Guidelines

Before You Begin

  • It has been said many times before but we will say it again – ALWAYS wash your hands before you prepare any food, AND wash your hands and your baby’s hands before you begin the meal.
  • Make sure all equipment and the food preparation area are clean and sanitized.
  • Thoroughly rinse all fruits and vegetables before you begin preparation. Do not use detergent or bleach; it is not necessary and can leave residues on some fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash utensils and cutting board between different foods, especially between cutting raw and cooked foods

What You Will Need

  • Fork or masher
  • Sieve, strainer or ricer
  • Steam basket, microwave
  • Food mill, blender or food processor
  • Ice cube tray or other storage container

Making food for your child can be as easy as pureeing steamed, baked or microwaved food, or simply setting aside food cooked for the family before it is seasoned.

Making Baby Food

  • Steaming is one of the best ways to prepare foods to preserve vitamins and minerals. Place the food in a steam basket or colander above boiling water to cook. Save any leftover water to thin pureed foods if necessary.
  • Recipes found on this site recommend steaming vegetables, but do not be afraid to experiment with other cooking methods like microwaving or baking.
  • Use a fork or food mill to mash food to the proper consistency for your child’s age. If food is too thick, use a thinner such as leftover liquid from cooking, milk, broth or water. An 8-10-month-old baby can handle food the consistency of cottage cheese, but a 6-month-old will need food that has been pureed and strained to a fine, smooth consistency.
  • Use ice cube trays to freeze pureed foods. Fill each cube with puree, just as you would if you were making ice cubes. Each cube should contain 1 ounce of food. When the tray is filled, cover with plastic wrap. Once frozen, pop out the cubes, store in a sealed plastic container or bag and use within 3 months.

Freezing and Storing Baby Food

  • Always wash containers in hot, soapy water and let air dry.
  • Refrigerate or freeze foods immediately to avoid bacterial contamination.
  • Home-prepared baby food should be tightly covered and stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator for no longer than 2-3 days.
  • Use ice cube trays to freeze serving size portions and then transfer the frozen cubes to freezer bags or containers.
  • Be sure to label and date each bag or container and store in freezer no longer than 3 months. It is best to use food within 1 month.
  • As your baby grows you may want to increase your serving sizes and freeze the portions in 3-4 ounce freezer-safe plastic containers. Never freeze food in glass containers.
  • Ice crystals may develop on baby food cubes. This is normal and not cause for alarm. Excess liquid in the puree can rise and freeze at the top.
  • Do not refreeze a thawed food.

Thawing and Serving Baby Food Cubes

  • When you are ready, select the cube(s) from the freezer and thaw.
  • Baby food can be served cold, at room temperature or slightly warm. Do not serve hot food.
  • Please remember that allowing food to thaw on the kitchen counter is not recommended. This allows contaminants and bacteria to get into the food. Food should be thawed in the microwave, double boiler or refrigerator overnight.
  • You can warm food in a microwave on medium-high for 45 seconds. You can also place cubes in a small bowl and then place that in a larger bowl filled with hot water. This method will take about 10-15 minutes to thaw. Be sure to touch-test all foods before feeding your baby to make sure there are no hot spots.
  • If the food is too thick you can add breast milk, formula or a little water. If the food is too thin, you can add whole-wheat baby cereal, mashed banana or yogurt.
  • Serve food in a bowl or shallow dish. Throw away leftover food after the meal since saliva can spoil food.

Tips

  • Add breast milk, formula or a little water to thin foods. Breast milk offers a familiar flavor that may encourage baby’s acceptance of new foods.
  • Do not add sugar or salt as you cook. Pure foods will help your baby develop healthy eating habits and keep your baby from developing a taste for salty and sugary foods.
  • Steam or microwave foods; boiling foods reduces nutrient content.
  • Make food in large quantities to conserve time and money. You will only need to prepare food once or twice a week.
  • Use fresh or frozen vegetables. Like fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables are flavorful and full of beneficial nutrients. Do not use canned vegetables; they are usually loaded with sodium and additives.

Plan weekly menus ahead of time to save money and time.

Healthy Habits

Phase 1: Healthy Habits

Lifelong taste preferences and eating habits are established in the first several years of life. Developing good habits early can eliminate health and obesity risks later in life. One of the first ways babies learn is through food. Babies are born with a strong preference for sweet tastes and a dislike for sour and bitter tastes. As they get older, these preferences change and children learn to like and dislike certain foods. You can teach your child healthy habits by feeding and offering a variety of nutritious foods, eating well yourself and maintaining a healthy living environment.

Remember these simple tips to create healthy habits:

  • Developing good habits takes time. It requires patience and effort to establish a daily routine and commitment.
  • Studies show that the earlier children are introduced to fruits and vegetables, the more likely they are to eat them later.
  • Be conscious of serving sizes and do not serve too much. A good rule of thumb for portion size is one tablespoon for every year of age.
  • Offer and eat a variety of nutritious foods. Stock the house and pantry with low calorie, nutritious foods. Save treats for something special; don’t keep them in plain sight or don’t buy them at all.
  • Limit snacks. Eating sporadically can eliminate the ability to sense hunger and lead to overeating. Teach yourself and your children to eat when hungry, not out of boredom or for emotional reasons.
  • Do not use food as a reward or to promote good behavior.
  • Do not encourage eating during other activities such as watching television or riding in the car, which can lead to overeating.
  • Eat at regular mealtimes with three meals and two snacks daily.
  • Eat as a family and make mealtime enjoyable. Family meals not only encourage better diets, they also reinforce family relationships.

Long-term advantages

  • You control what goes into your baby’s food. There are no extra additives, seasonings or preservatives.
  • The earlier healthy eating habits are introduced and reinforced, the more likely it will be for your child to make wise choices in the future.
  • Preparing homemade baby food can help the entire family make wiser food choices.
  • The groundwork you lay at this phase of your child’s life will make it easier at the next stage to continue healthy eating for the whole family.
  • When fresh vegetables and fruits are a part of your baby’s diet, it will be easy to make these items a regular part of family mealtime.

A Healthier Baby

  • Giving your baby food made from fresh fruits and vegetables increases the vitamins and nutrients in the diet. Canning and processing can eliminate these vitamins and nutrients.
  • Your baby will react to the stronger tastes, smells and colors of homemade foods. Cooking food at home can maximize the outstanding color, texture and taste of the food.
  • Serving homemade baby food to your baby can help her be more open to tasting new flavors, as she grows older.
  • Home-prepared baby food allows for a better variety of foods and a more balanced diet. As your baby grows, you can add herbs and seasonings and combine flavors to make mealtime stimulating.
  • Early and repeated exposure to a variety of foods like fruits and vegetables has been shown to increase children’s taste for them.

Time and Financial Savings

  • Today’s convenient storage containers and food processors make preparing baby food easier than ever.
  • Many family recipes have fresh fruit and vegetable ingredients that can be prepared just for baby before other ingredients are added.
  • Parents can spend more than $300 on processed food the during their infant’s first year of life. On average, home-prepared food costs around $55 for one year.
  • Grocery store weekly sale circulars often have a variety of fruits and vegetables on special that can be used in making your baby’s meals.
  • Buying seasonal vegetables and fruits can be more economical than buying items that are out of season.
  • Check out local co-ops and farmers’ markets. These can be a wonderful source of fresh and inexpensive fruits and vegetables.