Introduction to Solid Foods
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk as the only source of nutrition for the first six months of an infant’s life. Breast milk contains antibodies that support immune function as well as optimal nutrient ratios, including iron that change as the child grows. Of course, the mother should be sure to continue eating a nutritionally adequate diet. Solid food introduction can begin around six to eight months of age. Signs that suggest that an infant may be ready for solid foods include cutting teeth, more frequent feedings while still seeming to be hungry, able to sit up, swallowing food instead of pushing it out with the tongue, pushing food away and showing great interest in foods that the family is eating.
Some research suggests that foods given too early can result in food allergies or intolerances. Prior to six months of age the baby’s digestive tract is not mature enough to fully digest most foods. Foods should be introduced one at a time allowing a full week before a new food is added. In the week following the introduction it is important to look for signs of food reaction, such as:
- Rash around the mouth or anus Diarrhea or mucous in stools
- Watery eyes Constipation
- Hyperactivity or lethargy Skin reactions (rash, itching, redness)
- Runny or stuffy nose Allergic shiners (dark circles under eyes)
- Ear infections Persistent cough/wheezing
- Change in personality/academics
An allergic or intolerant reaction to food does not necessarily mean that your child will remain allergic or intolerant of that food. If any reactions occur in association to the introduction of a particular food, discontinue that food and reintroduce it again in 6 months.
The mother should always nurse the infant first before offering a solid food. Offer whole foods in as close to natural state as possible (i.e. fresh fruits, vegetables and grains and mashing or grating them to avoid choking and to make them more easily digestible). You may offer food from your own diet as long as it is a single food, not combined with other ingredients, in order to isolate allergic reactions. Offer sippy-cups with water around 6 months just to introduce the idea and to encourage intake of fluids. One or two meals daily is sufficient for 6-7 month old infants. At about 9 months you may let your baby attempt to feed him/herself as part of their exploration. Avoid offering fruit juice or high carbohydrate drinks like rice milk as they are low in nutritional value and high in sugar.
This is a general guideline and individual nutritional advice should be sought from your physician.
• Bove ND, Mary. An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants. Keats Publishing, CT. 1996.
• Dyson ND, Linda. Pediatric Topics.2001.
• Linton ND, Molly. Clinic Notes and Patient Handout. 1997.
• Mohrbacher, N. and Stock, J. The Breastfeeding Answer Book (revised). La Leche League International. Schaumburg, IL. 1997.
• Pressl, M. and Wall, G. Lactation Consultant Training Manual. Evergreen Hospital. 2000.
• Piscane, A. et al. “Iron Status in Breast-Fed Infants”. J Ped. 1995 Sep; 127 (3): 429-31.
• Walker, M. “A Fresh Look at the Risks of Artificial Infant Feeding”. Journal of Human Lactation. 1996. P. 9, 2, 97-107.
Revised 6/28/01 clinic/handouts/Introduction of Solid Foods