Until you actually have a baby, how to feed one seems pretty easy, right? Breast milk or formula, followed by some pureed fruits and veggies, then on to real food.
But once you actually have a baby sitting in a high chair and waiting to be served, you realize the nuances are vast. You want to do the right, healthy, and safe thing, but realize it can be daunting. Is fish OK? What about ice? How much juice is too much, and — wait — is juice acceptable at all? Will my baby enjoy strong tastes, or should I wait to flavor food with things like garlic?
Here are 10 common, if not so obvious, questions and answers about how to feed your baby:
Should I spice up my baby’s food? 1 of 10Your baby's first foods needn't be as bland as rice cereal, plain pasta, or pureed peas. Start them off as adventurous eaters and chances are they won't grow up as picky as some of their peers.
Spices like rosemary, paprika, cumin, parsley and even garlic can liven up chicken, pasta, potatoes, vegetable medleys, and rice. Mild peppers like poblano are OK, too.
Keep in mind that breastfed babies already enjoy the same cuisines as their moms, so allowing them to keep experiencing new and varied tastes will help keep their tastebuds on their toes.
What foods should I avoid in my babys first year because of allergy concerns? 2 of 10The school of thought is somewhat mixed on this, but in 2008 the American Academy of Pediatrics said there's no evidence that shows delaying foods until a baby's first year will prevent allergies. Check with your pediatrician first, but it just might be OK for your baby to try eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish or shellfish after 4 to 6 months of age but before you light that first birthday candle.
As with the introduction of all new foods, be sure to wait three days before serving another new food so you can be sure to identify the source of any potential allergic reactions.
And please note: If your baby has eczema, is showing signs of allergies, or you have a family history of food allergies, definitely check with your doctor first.
When can I start feeding my baby fish? 3 of 10Most babies (other than those who show signs of allergies or have skin conditions like eczema) can start eating fish as early as 6 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Be sure any fish you serve is deboned and cooked throughout. It's also wise to mince or puree it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also advises that babies avoid eating fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel due to their high mercury levels.
Recommended fish include light tuna, shrimp, catfish, and salmon, all of which don't live long enough to harbor high levels of mercury.
Does it really make a difference if I serve my baby organic food? 4 of 10All parents want to give their babies the best possible start in life. So does that mean organic food is always best, and always healthier?
As it turns out, organic food isn't necessarily any healthier than non-organic food. What matters most is how nutritious the food is — the amount of saturated fat in, say, chicken nuggets will probably be the same whether it's organic or non-organic.
When it comes to produce, organic fruits and veggies will be free of pesticides and hormones, but in some food, it really doesn't matter at all. Foods like asparagus, bananas and avocados contain very little pesticides to begin with. When it comes to produce like apples, lettuce and strawberries, however, going organic can mean avoiding larger amounts of harmful chemicals. Check out Babble's Organic Buying Guide for more helpful information.
How will I know when my baby is ready for more than just breast milk or formula? 5 of 10The World Health Organization recommends starting babies on solid foods when they turn 6 months, but many babies begin eating iron-fortified cereals (mixed with breast milk or formula) like rice, barley, or oatmeal between 4 and 6 months.
Cues that a baby is ready to move on to something solid include: able to sit with support, demonstrates good head and neck control, leans forward towards food with an open mouth, brings hand to mouth and chews, handles objects with the palm of the hand, and has lost tongue-thrust reflex and doesn't automatically push solids out of the mouth with the tongue.
Is it OK to give my baby fruit or vegetable juice? 6 of 10Unless your pediatrician tells you otherwise, there's no need to give your baby juice of any kind in the first year, and especially not before 4- to 6-months-old. If you decide to give your baby some juice, offer no more than 4 ounces daily to to ensure the baby doesn't get filled up before eating more nutritious foods, including breast milk or formula.
Also keep in mind that many juices contain sorbitol, which is a nondigestible kind of sugar (which can lead to diarrhea). Too much juice can also cause tooth decay.
How often should my baby eat solid foods? 7 of 10Once a day is how often babies between 4- and 6-months-old should be eating solid food. When your baby hits the 6 or 7 month mark, you can increase solid feedings to twice a day. Eight-month-old babies can start eating solid food three times a day, and the food they eat should include iron-fortified cereal, fruit, vegetables, and some protein, like small amounts of chicken, beef, tofu, or lentils.
Is there an ideal time to switch from a bottle to a sippy cup? 8 of 10Babies will switch from a bottles to sippy cups at different times. Some as young as 6-months-old can handle the transition; others won't start until they're 9-months-old. You'll know your baby might be ready when more liquid stays inside the mouth instead of leaking out onto a bib or shirt. Handles on a bottle will also help a baby make the switch.
How crazy do I have to go with cutting up food into small pieces? 9 of 10Go crazy, baby. Never underestimate how easily a baby can choke on food. Cutting food like grapes, chicken or other meats, into small, bite-size pieces will greatly reduce the risk of choking. Be sure to sit with your baby while eating these kind of solid foods, even if they have successfully eaten and swallowed them previously.
Can I give my baby ice? How about raisins? 10 of 10While it may be tempting to give a teething baby ice (think of the relief against those sore gums!), ice is a major choking hazard. Crunching on ice can also damage teeth by wearing down the enamel. However, you can always put a piece of ice in a mesh feeder so they can still get the cold benefit without the risk of swallowing anything too larger. Or, try a teething ring that has been refrigerated.
As for raisins, contrary to popular belief, the American Academy of Pediatrics said they are not a choking hazard and can be introduced somewhere between 7 and 9 months. Just make sure your baby eats them one at a time. You can also offer dried cranberries, blueberries, and currants. Other dried fruits such as dates, prunes, apricots and cherries are fine, too, just as long as they are chopped up into tiny pieces. Keep in mind that dried fruits should be served sparingly — and alongside other food instead of alone as a snack — as the sugar in them can promote tooth decay.
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