Caring for Kids…at Billings Clinic

Introducing Foods

Getting ready to introduce foods to your baby can be a little overwhelming at first.  So many questions: when to start, is my baby ready, what foods can he/she have, are they going to choke, are they going to be allergic?  The list goes on and on.  I found that with my first baby I was very excited and nervous about foods.  It does get a little easier as you get more comfortable with the process.

Research has found that there is an optimal time to introduce food to babies.  If you start too early or too late there could be negative impacts on their health.  The optimal time is between 4 and 6 months of life.  Until then, the only nutrition that is needed is breast milk or formula.  It is never a good idea to put cereal in a baby bottle as a way to have them start to eat.  It is more developmentally appropriate to start with cereal from a spoon. 

So what kinds of foods are good to start feeding your baby?  A great first food is rice, oatmeal, or mixed grain baby cereal.  These are dried products that are mixed with breast milk or formula to a thin consistency and fed to your baby with a spoon.  Usually start with just once a day until your baby is doing well with the spoon and not spitting it all back out at you or choking and gagging on it. 

Once your baby is doing well with the cereal, then introduction to other foods can begin.  Store bought or home made baby foods are both great.  I was a super busy mom and so we did store bought baby foods.  Either way, it is mostly a fruit or a veggie with some water, they don’t need any kind of salt or sugar added.  Introduction of a one new fruit or veggie every 3-5 days will allow you some time to see if your baby is going to have an allergic reaction to the food.

Speaking of allergic reactions, aren’t their foods your baby should not have??  Yes, but the list keeps getting shorter and shorter.  One food no infant under 1 year of age should have is honey.  There is a risk of botulism toxin in honey and can cause your baby to become very sick.  The other food is whole milk or any kind of cow’s milk.  Babies should be drinking breast milk or formula for their milk, not cow’s milk at least until 1 year of age.  The rest of the foods are fair game…as long as they are soft and not a choking hazard.  The thought on peanut butter is that there is no decreased risk of peanut allergy if you avoid them in the first year of life.  Now, if you have a strong family history of bad food allergies, I would probably be very cautious.  Also, don’t try new foods while you are camping out in the boonies.

Once your baby has reached 6 months old, he/she should be eating 3 meals a day.  These meals should occur in a highchair and it is good to make it part of a regular sit-down meal as a whole family.  The food is mostly just practice eating as there are not many calories in ground up fruits and veggies, so they will still need their breast milk or formula.  Most babies will drink less from their bottle after their meal or nurse a little less, which is okay.  Also at 6 months the use of a sippy cup or straw cup is recommended and offering at meal times works great as they tend to be pretty messy at first. 

Be a healthy eating role model for your kids.  As a family, try to eat more natural foods and less processed foods.  Try to eat more things that grew on a tree or in the ground and fewer foods that came from a factory.

The key things to remember as you are introducing foods are progression, choices, variety, and perseverance.

I survived introducing foods to two infants but now I have a 7 year old who is a great eater and a 5 year old who is a picky eater.  Maybe another blog about what to do with picky eaters….more to come.

Leslie Poling, MD

I am a board certified pediatrician at Billings Clinic, a Montana native, and a working mother of two. My children are a great source of enjoyment in my life as well as entertainment. It is common for me to share some of my parenting tips and funny stories about my kids with my patients. As a family we enjoy the outdoors here in Montana. We spend weekends camping, playing soccer and baseball, hunting, fishing, skiing, and just spending time together. I want this blog to be a source of medical information, but also a place to come and learn more about some of the pediatricians that work here at Billings Clinic. Enjoy!

1 comment on “Introducing Foods
  1. Jennifer Junkert says:

    Excellent advise, our baby is up to 2 oatmeal servings a day and 4.5 mo

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