Starting Solids and Making Your Own Baby Food
I HAVE A 6 MONTH OLD. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE ON STARTING SOLIDS AND MAKING HOMEMADE BABY FOOD?
You have the right idea! It isn't recommended to begin introducing solids (including infant cereal) until your newborn is at least six months. To safely progress from breast milk or formula to solids, infants need to develop necessary motor skills (holding their head up, developing their gag reflex, etc), typically around six months. Also, introducing solids too early may increase the incidence of food allergies.
Introduce new foods one-at-a-time. You never want to introduce a number of different foods at once to your infant as they may have an allergic reaction. With any food you introduce, keep a record and offer only this as a new food for about 4-5 days. Watch for any type of allergic reaction- hives on the face, immediate coughing, or attempts to catch their breath. Contact your physician immediately if they should have severe reaction.
If your baby is showing all of the signs of being ready to handle food, breast milk or formula should begin being supplemented with iron fortified infant cereal. This is especially important in breast fed infants since around six months of age the level of iron begins to drop in your baby's body. You can easily mix breast milk or formula with powdered infant cereal to the consistency your child can handle. As baby's swallowing advances, begin reducing the amount of liquid mixed with cereal to create a thicker consistency.
Once your baby can handle thickened infant cereal with no problems, begin introducing other foods in pureed form. Iron absorption is enhanced by vitamin C, so make your next foods puréed vegetables and fruits. Serve new food mixed with your baby's cereal or alone. Make sure to steam, microwave or boil vegetables to ensure a soft texture for pureeing in a blender or single-serve coffee bean grinder (used only for making infant food!). If you need to thin consistency, add excess water from cooking (to replace any vitamins lost during cooking). If mixing with cereal, simply add additional breast milk or formula for a thinner consistency. Remove seeds of fruits and vegetables. Also, serve beets and spinach infrequently until 12 months because their natural components can interfere with the amount of oxygen carried in your infant's blood.
Upon the arrival of your baby's first few teeth, you can begin introducing foods with a lumpier texture. This includes roughly puréed vegetables, fruits and meats. Progress cautiously so you do not make too big of a jump in food consistency that could lead to choking. Zinc, just like iron, begins to subside early in infants. Adding soft, puréed meats (to purée- mix with water in a blender) will help your baby begin replacing their zinc levels. Cheese, yogurt and eggs can usually be introduced by the end of the first year.
Store batches of prepared food in the freezer. A quick storage idea is using covered ice cube trays to initially freeze foods. This way, there will only be about 1-2 tablespoons of puree to defrost versus wasting larger amounts. Keep frozen food labeled and stored for up to six weeks.