Category Archives: Feeding children

Part III of Introducing Solids to Babies: What to Feed Your Infant

Baby eating plums.

Baby eating plums.


Now that you have determined your baby is ready for solids and you have decided how you want to feed your child, the all important question of what to feed them becomes relevant.

In the recent past, iron fortified rice cereal was often the recommended first food for babies.  This recommendation has started to come under question. Rice and other cereals are a heavily processed food with most of the nutrients stripped out.  Rice cereal, in particular, has recently been called into question due to the presence of arsenic in some rice (AAP, 2003).  There is also some question about a baby’s ability to digest grains due to a lack of pancreatic amylase, the enzyme needed to breakdown carbohydrates.  A baby doesn’t have full pancreatic amylase production until the age of 28 months (Dessinger, 2011).  However, breast milk is a rich source of alpha amylase, offering breastfed babies added digestive help (Lindberg, 1982).  This amylase is unique because it has a broad range for pH tolerances.  This broad range helps the amylase survive the low pH of the stomach and helps digest carbohydrates in the small intestine. Babies also have two other enzymes in their small intestines, sucrase-isomaltase and glucoamylase, which aid in the digestion of carbohydrates (Harrison, 2012).

One more factor to consider in the introduction of grains is the timing of adding them to your baby’s diet.  In 2012, Norris et al conducted a study looking at the relationship between the time of first gluten exposure to the development of celiac disease.  They found that babies fed barley, rye or wheat cereal in the first three months of life had a 5 fold increase in the development of celiac disease over children whose first exposure was between 4-6 months of age.  Children who were not exposed to gluten until the seventh month, had a marginally higher rate of celiac then those children exposed between four and six months.  A similar study looked at time of first wheat exposure and the development of a wheat allergy.  Pool et al  (2006) found similar results about the timing of first exposure.  Both of these studies point to a sweet spot of four to six months of age for first time gluten exposure to decrease the risk of celiac disease or wheat allergy.

Adding grains to your infant’s diet will need to be a personal choice.  If you do decide to introduce them at this time, do not make them the main component of your child’s meals. Vegetables, meat and fruits should be the main course with cereal as a small addition.  Remember an infant’s stomach is only as big as his/her fist.  Adjust your portion size accordingly.   Avoid processed baby cereal.  You can make your own cereal gruel with properly prepared, soaked and sprouted grains such as oats, spelt, rye or barley (Fallon, 2013).  Sally Fallon is an excellent resource for properly preparing grains.

Good first foods for babies include avocado, green beans, squash, egg yolks, carrots, pumpkin, banana, bone broth, sweet potato, shaved organic liver, and pureed meats.  Small amounts of unsweetened goat or sheep’s milk yogurt and fish eggs can also be good additions to an infant’s diet.  If at all possible these foods should be organic and/or grass fed.  Fruits and vegetables should be soft cooked and consist of only one ingredient.   Introduce only one new food every few days so if your child has an allergic reaction you can pinpoint the culprit (Sears, 2013).  If after a couple of days of eating a new food you see no reaction, then you can add another new food.  Signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • Hives or welts
  • Flushed skin or hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen tongue, face or cheeks
  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coughing or wheezing

Allergic reactions can escalate quickly.  If your child is having difficulty breathing, having severe diarrhea and/or vomiting or is experiencing swelling of the face or tongue, call 911 immediately.

Before sitting down to a meal of solid foods, allow your infant to breast-feed or bottle feed first so they are not starving when they sit down and become frustrated with getting the food to their mouths.  As your child becomes more adept at eating solids, you can continue to introduce new tastes, textures and smells. The goal is to get your child to eat the same food you are eating.   If your child refuses a food at first, reintroduce it at a later date.  It often takes a baby multiple exposures to a particular food or texture before he/she likes it (Satter, 2000). Now is not the time to restrict healthy fat.  Fat from fish, avocados, fish oil, breast milk and other healthy sources are necessary for brain development and vitamin absorption (Sears, 2013).

Foods to Avoid

  • Hot dogs, nuts, hard candies and other choking hazards.
  • Foods with added sugar.
  • Cow’s dairy before 1 year of age.  Sheep or goat’s milk unsweetened, cultured (like yogurt or kefir) dairy can be okay in moderation.
  • Honey before 1 year of age.
  • Common allergens such as nuts, wheat, citrus, corn and soy.
  • Peanuts, egg whites and shellfish are also common allergens so care should be exercised in their introduction.
  • Spinach and strawberries have been known to cause reactions in some infants.
  • Care should be used when introducing fish due to the concern with contamination from mercury.  White, small, middle swimming fish should be introduced first.

(For references see first article in the series.)

Photo by Sami Keinanen on Flickr under the Creative Commons license.

This post shared with Homespun Oasis and The Nourishing Gourmet.


Part II of Introducing Solids to Babies: Feeding Philosophies

Baby loving his meal.

Baby loving his meal.

Now that you have determined your child is developmentally ready to start solids, how do you actually introduce them?   Currently, there are two main philosophies around introducing solids to infants.  The first approach is the more traditional approach in which a parent spoon-feeds his or her infant pureed baby food.  This approach has some advantages in that it is quicker, less messy and offers the parent more control over how much and what the baby actually eats.  However, a new approach is quickly becoming popular.

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is an approach to feeding infants, which allows the baby to be in control of feeding themselves.  You offer your baby age appropriate foods that are soft-cooked and then cut or mashed into small manageable pieces. You choose what type of food to offer your baby and your baby chooses which ones to eat.  One of the main tenets of BLW is that your baby should be in control of what he is eating.  You should never actually feed him by putting food into his mouth. You can fill his tray with soft cooked broccoli spears, mashed banana pieces or a spoon loaded with cereal but he gets to navigate it to his mouth.   However, you do not simply load his tray and walk away.  Your baby must be supervised at all times.  If at all possible, have your baby join you at mealtime in an upright position either on your lap or in a high chair.    You can expect your baby, as well as the floor, to get VERY messy.  Many BLW parents advised putting a plastic shower curtain on the floor and letting your infant eat in only a diaper (Rapley, 2008).  The benefit of the BLW approach is your baby learns control and mastery over feeding himself.  He can choose to eat to satiety and learns it is okay to listen to his body about when to stop eating.  These opportunities can set up good life long habits around food for your child.

Think carefully about which approach you feel will work best for your family and your family’s temperament.  If you are a family who values control and cleanliness, then Baby Led Weaning may not be the best approach for you.  Once you decide which approach to feeding feels right for you and your baby, there are a wide variety of choices for first foods.

Photo by LB1860 on flickr under the Creative Commons license.

Article shared with Homespun Oasis and The Nourishing Gourmet.

When to Introduce Solid Foods to Your Infant

Baby enjoying an avocado.

Baby enjoying an avocado.

This is the first post in a series about starting your baby on solid foods.

Infancy is a time of rapid changes and growth for both the child and family.  Just when parents think they have their baby’s needs figured out, those needs or desires change.  One area, which causes parents a lot of angst, is feeding.    People have strong, deeply rooted opinions about how to feed infants and they frequently feel compelled to share them with new parents.  Ultimately, however, parents have to decide what is right for their own family and child.

Regardless of what you decide about when to start solids or what particular foods to begin with, it is important to think about your own relationship to food and what sort of relationship you would like your child to have.  You are your child’s first teacher and children are sponges.  They will hear the comments you speak and the body language you portray about particular foods and your own body.  These comments will shape your child’s thoughts and feelings about these issues.  Make sure you are giving them the messages you want them to receive!

This is also the time to think about what type of diet you would like your child to eat.  If you are interested in them eating a mostly whole foods diet, then this is not the time to introduce processed food into their lives.  Ellen Satter (2000) speaks about The Division of Responsibility in feeding children.  In this idea, the parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding and children are responsible for the how much and the whether of eating.   If you subscribe to this idea and you want to have your child eat a whole foods diet, serve only whole, real foods in your house.  Leave the processed foods on the grocery store shelves.

When to Start Solid Foods

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommend that children be fed either breast milk or an appropriate infant formula for the first six months of their life.  Up until this age, infants can receive all their necessary nutrients from these sources.  At about six months, a breast fed baby’s iron stores begin to become inadequate for their needs.  Supplementation either through food or an iron vitamin drop may become necessary. These needs should be discussed with your child’s pediatrician. (Pre-term babies may require iron supplementation earlier because they did not receive as much iron in utero.)

Even once solids are introduced, breast milk or formula should be the main source of an infant’s calories.  Think of the introduction of solids as an opportunity to expose your child to various tastes and textures, not as the main source of his/her calories.

Current thinking is to start solid foods not based on an arbitrary age but rather to wait until your individual child is physically ready to begin.  When your child begins to show signs of readiness for solid food is the best time to start.  Most babies begin to show those signs somewhere between 5-7 months.  However, premature infants or developmentally delayed children may take longer to show signs of readiness (Satter, 2000).  Don’t try to force solid foods on your infant.  The introduction of solids will be much less stressful for both of you if you allow your child to dictate the pace.  Some of the signs that your baby is ready to experiment with solid foods include:

  1. Your baby can sit up alone or with support.
  2. Your baby mouths his fingers or toys.
  3. Your baby seems interested in the food you are eating.
  4. Your baby reaches for your food.
  5. Your baby opens his mouth when food is coming.
  6. Your baby has lost the tongue thrust response, meaning he no longer uses his tongue to push food back out of his mouth.

If you decide to try solid foods and your child shows little interest or seems agitated by the process, pull back.  Give it a few more days or a week and then try again.  Eventually, your child will be ready.

Resources Used for the Article Series

AAP (2013). AAP Offers Advice for Parents Concerned About Arsenic in Food. Retreived April 2, 2014, from

Dessinger, H. (2011). Nourished Baby. e book, na: na.

Eat To Live II coursework at Wellspring School for Healing Arts, March 1-2, 2004.

Flaws, B. (1996). Keeping your child healthy with Chinese medicine: A parent’s guide to the care and prevention of common childhood diseases. Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press.

Harrison, C. C. (2012, January 20). Healthy Baby Beans | Family Nutrition by Dietitian and Mother of Two! Retrieved April 1, 2014, from

Lindberg, T., & Skude G. (1982). Amylase in Milk. Pediatrics, 70, 235-238.

Morell, S. F., & Cowan, T. S. (2013). The nourishing traditions book of baby & child care. Washington, DC: New Trends Publishing.

Na (2009). Starting Solids. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from

Norris, J. M., Barriga K., Hoffenberg, E. J., Taki, L., Miao, D., Haas, J. E., . . . Emery, L. M. (2005). Risk of Celiac Disease Autoimmunity and Timing of Gluten Introduction in the Diet of Infants at Increased Risk of Disease. Jama-journal of The American Medical Association. doi:10.1001/jama.293.19.2343

Planck, N. (2009). Real food for mother and baby: The fertility diet, eating for two, and baby’s first foods. New York: Bloomsbury USA.

Poole, J. A., Barriga, K., Leung, D. Y., Hoffman, M., Eisenbarth, G. S., Rewers, M., & Norris, J. M. (2006). Timing of Initial Exposure to Cereal Grains and the Risk of Wheat Allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 117, 2175-82. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2005.12.174

Rapley, G., & Murkett, T. (2008). Baby-led weaning: Helping your baby to love good food. London: Vermilion.

Satter, E. (2000). Child of mine: Feeding with love and good sense. Palo Alto, Calif: Bull Pub.

Sears, W., Sears, M., Sears, R. W., & Sears, J. M. (2013). The baby book: Everything you need to know about your baby from birth to age two. New York: Little, Brown, and Company.

Photo by Mark Evans of Flickr.  See more of his beautiful work here.

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